Monday, March 21, 2011

The Lost Weekend

If you're trying to get your movie nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but you're at a loss for titles, here's a suggestion: name it a name. That's right- a simple, first & last name title is a thing of value to the Academy, and I did the counting tonight to prove it. 17 films with name-names have been nominated for the award since they started handing these things out: Alice Adams(1935), David Copperfield (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), Kitty Foyle(1940), Mildred Pierce (1945), Johnny Belinda(1948), Julius Caesar (1953), Elmer Gantry(1960), Tom Jones(1963), Mary Poppins (1964), Barry Lyndon (1975), Annie Hall(1977), Norma Rae (1979), Forrest Gump (1994), Jerry Maguire (1996), Erin Brockovich (2000) and number 17,tonight's feature, Michael Clayton (2007). I'm sensing a pattern here.
Clayton starts with a bang, lets up, and then has you figuring out what might possibly be going on for the better part of two hours in a long series of cryptic conversations and dramatic stares into mirrors and out car windows. Still, for all that mental work you have to do to actually enjoy the film, it ends with a pretty subdued catharsis. It's Erin Brockovich-meets-Jason Bourne without the do-good joy or the gritty action, but let me be clear: it's not a bad movie. It just isn't an explosion...the matte, emotionless format that Tony Gilroy shapes always feels like it's building to something, like it's holding back a bull that's just about ready to burst out of its stall and stampede...only we get to the end, and it turns out that the bull was just a lamb all along. And that's not a bad thing, because lambs are good too, they just aren't bulls. Which is a little disappointing to someone who came to see the bullfight.
But I have to hand it to George Clooney; he really made this movie. Suave, tough, smart, caring- there's few dimensions Clooney doesn't develop in his performance, except maybe fearfulness....Michael Clayton doesn't do fear. Clooney gives Clayton just enough smooth awesomeness to make us love him while keeping the character grounded in reality, so we can hope that someone this cool might really exist out there. Love it.
And Tilda Swinton is scary good. She's got fragile evil in the bag, delivering to us a villain that doesn't look the part- one that we almost feel sorry for, all wrapped up in a neat little bow. I'd say she totally deserved the Best Supporting Actress Oscar she won for this part.
So anyway, my final verdict is this: good, but not explosive. That makes this picture so real. But my question is this: do we really go to the movies for reality? Or do we go to get swept up in larger-than-life stories that only Hollywood magic can create?

Return of the King: Jackson is back!

In other news, production has FINALLY begun on the long-awaited Tolkien project The Hobbit, helmed by Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson. The two-part epic will surely grab much more attention as it picks up momentum, since it will be serving as a prequel to Jackson's wildly successful Rings trilogy. Personally, I could not get enough of LOTR...collectively, the three serve as one of my favorite movies of all time. The only fantasy film ever to snag a Best Picture Oscar, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) is still regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. Basically, the bar has been set pretty high for the latest installment in the franchise (if it can even be considered that), and Jackson should be feeling that pressure all the way in Wellington, New Zealand where the shooting is taking place. Unfortunately for us, we will have to wait until late 2012 to see the first flick hit theatres (and til late 2013 for part two).

Now this has absolutely nothing to do with the BPC and is therefore very unnecessary, but seeing as I went to the theatres for the first time in a long time this weekend, I thought I'd share some thoughts.
It's not often that you can get me to pay ten bucks to go see a movie when a DVD is five to own or one to rent, and the extra expense is just to see it on a much bigger screen with louder people sitting around you. Let me save you some time and money by advising against my latest expenditure: Limitless.
It was a good idea. Really, it could've been an OK film had it been done well. But relative newcomer Neil Burger sort of strangles this one in the crib with tedious narration and an effects overload. Luckily, Robert De Niro is awesome (if not aging) no matter what he does, and Bradley Cooper is extremely attractive (and has a lot of potential, if you ask me) that in itself may warrant a Red Box rental later on down the road. Maybe. Just exercise caution when approaching a half-baked movie like may end up losing some IQ points.

Anyway, that's all I've got to show for this whole weekend. I'd call that another lost weekend for sure. When will I ever learn my lesson: stop trying to sleep at night, stop having a job, stop doing schoolwork, stop having friends, and watch more movies! I'm starting to feel like I'm drowning in a project that I can't possibly hope to finish...

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