There are numerous reasons to lament the way cinema is heading — inflated ticket prices, needless 3D, the death of film projection, all leading to all sorts of problems that affect the quality of Hollywood’s output.
But let’s put that aside for now and focus on the positive changes. One of the great advantages of the advent of streaming video is that it makes small, little-seen movies as readily available as blockbusters. There are many films I would likely never have gotten around to if doing so weren’t so simple as clicking a button — The Arbor and Poetry are prime examples. These are the movies that benefit from being available when you’re “in the mood” for a rambling Korean film about an old woman taking poetry classes, or a pseudo-documentary about a foul-mouthed playwright. (Which, admittedly, is not always.) It’s less of an investment to begin a film with the option of turning it off and selecting another if it doesn’t captivate you. (Though I dislike this practice as a rule; many great films aren’t so obviously great within the first five minutes.)
Though so many of us take the Oscars very seriously (guilty as charged), really, it’s just a game. It’s no different than the Super Bowl, except there are about five teams playing in every “quarter” and it’s actually quite embarrassing to be wearing the same outfit as anyone else. No jerseys on the red carpet.
Naturally, I was on Team Shame until it was not-too-shockingly nominated for nothing. That happens a lot in sports — your team doesn’t make it to the playoffs. Whatever. You pick another horse and bet on that one instead. (I’m almost done mixing sports metaphors, I swear.)
Ah, 2011. You were a strange bird.
Is it me, or were movies more united by theme this year than is usual? Nostalgia was the big one, with several titles capitalizing not just on our nostalgia of a past era, but of movies from a past era — from silent films to Spielberg blockbusters and everything in between. People have been in an awfully romantic mood of late — perhaps because the recession made the present so unappealing. Cinema has always been about escapism, and this year more than ever, it’s taking us backward rather than forward.
(Films discussed in this post: Trespass, Boy Wonder, A Separation, Passion Play, Tuesday After Christmas, The Trip, The Double, The Beaver.)This is my 100th post in this blog, and coincidentally, this post also marks 100 reviews of 2011 films. As you’ll see, I’ve saved some of the most obscure for last.
Every year there are hundreds of films that fly off the radar. There are a number of different levels of visibility for a movie; some, you’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to miss hearing about, which covers most major studio releases. Then there are the indies that the majority of mainstream viewers won’t have heard about, but most film-savvy people will — we’re talking the Take Shelters, Martha Marcy May Marlenes, and Bellflowers of this world. There are a couple levels even below that, too — the ones only the really film-savvy will have seen or heard of, like The Arbor and Poetry. And then it keeps going, to films that were screened at festivals but not picked up for distribution, or shot and never released, until it’s a film that only you have heard of, because you made it up in your own mind.
(Films discussed in this post: Jane Eyre, Restless, Albert Nobbs.)Best Actress is one of few categories this year in which there is much suspense about who the winner will be. This year’s Academy Award nominations went primarily for established actresses in material that received mixed reviews — The Iron Lady, My Week With Marilyn, The Help, and Albert Nobbs are all Oscar grab movies that underwhelmed the majority of critics overall, featuring performances from esteemed actresses that trumped the actual quality of the films. (Ingenue Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander, at least, was an exception to this rule — though there is a consensus that she, too, was the best thing about that movie.)
(Films discussed in this post: I Don’t Know How She Does It, The Arbor, Colombiana, The Iron Lady.)
In 2011, there were plenty of movies about scheming, boozing bad girls like the out-of-control flock of Bridesmaids or the self-destructive prom queen in Young Adult (see my post on “The Chicks”). Fun, right?
To counterbalance this, though, we also need that are properly progressive in feminist terms — the medicine to Bridesmaids & co’s spoonful of sugar. Which I’m all for, in theory.
In practice, however, 2011’s lineup of silver screen glass ceiling-breakers left something to be desired.
(Films discussed in this post: Margaret, Putty Hill, The Myth Of The American Sleepover, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, A Better Life.)
“It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.“
(Films discussed in this post: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Rango, Submarine.)
Is Oscar gay?
I think so. ‘Cause sorry, ladies — the Academy sure loves boys.
(Plus, he’s so shiny!)
(Films discussed in this post: A Dangerous Method, 50/50, Cedar Rapids, Margin Call, The Perfect Host, The Guard, The Ides Of March, Horrible Bosses, Warrior.)
In my post on “The Chicks,” I reflected on the ups and downs for females in film last year, from the ribald shenanigans of Bridesmaids to the slightly-less-ribald racial politics of The Help.
Ladies first. Now here come the guys.