A Real Hero by College feat. Electric Youth – And as I was prepared to leave it for dead, WD Weekend Movie Review has reared its ugly head. Although I haven’t (and won’t) see all the Best Picture nominated films (read: You’re gonna really have to sell me on a silent movie and whatever Hugo/War Horse are for me to devote my limited movie time.), I have seen several lately that I believe merit comment. So consider this my pre-Oscar, Oscar critique.
First, a review of the rating system first set forth in WD VII N10 (exemplars in parenthesis):
HAL (Home Alone Level) 5 stars, objectively timeless classics (The Godfather, Shawshank, Empire Strikes Back, Point Break).
RDW (Run, Don’t Walk to see this film) 4 stars, really, really good (A Few Good Men, Inception, Rushmore, Royal Tennenbaums)
WYT (Worth Your Time) 3 stars, pretty good (All other Wes Anderson movies)
WPBSS (Watched PBS Simultaneously) 2 stars, barely enough to hold my interest over Antiques Roadshow (Anything with Sandra Bullock, Most Pixar movies (N.B. Not counting Toy Story, a definite HAL))
SIL (Shakespeare In Love) 0-1 stars (Shakespeare in Love).
I picked four movies from 2011 for no other reason than they were the four I had the most to say about (and I really liked a couple of them). There are still several 2011 movies I want to see (esp: Tree of Life, Dragon Tattoo, and The Muppets (I said it)) so this is far from definitive (like it was ever going to be).
First a few cast-offs with no (little) analysis:
50/50 – WYT (I’m getting a little fed up with Seth Rogan. And the hyphenated name guy does sad/despondent a little too well. But it did have Yellow Ledbetter over the closing credits); Midnight in Paris – WYT/RDW (If you like Woody Allen (and the older I get, the more I do) this is RDW. If you don’t or have no opinion, WYT); Ides of March – WYT (I hate politics, with a passion, and I even found this a bit cynical. But I love Clooney and I’m getting a crush on Little Goose (more below)) Bridesmaids – RDW (funny, funny, funny).
The Help – WYT – I’m a sucker for movies based on books I’ve read (N.B. Strangely, wife has the exact opposite sensibility and hates watching films based on books she’s read. Clearly, she’s far more respectful of the truest maxim of all maxims “The book is always better”). I’m becoming a sucker for period pieces. I’m a sucker for “see we can all get along if we put our different races behind us and accomplish something great” movies (e.g. Remember the Titans, Die Hard With a Vengeance, and Ghost). The Help had it all. Then I read an actual black person’s take on it and it made me feel like shit.
Moneyball – RDW – Let’s see: Book I’ve read, check. Baseball, check. Dorky baseball statistics, check. Pitt, check, Jonah Hill, check. However, there were so many ways this movie shouldn’t have worked, but it fell victim to none of them. The casting was great. The dialog was scripted perfectly. It took a difficult story about a complex sport and paced it well, gave it some drama, even some redemption. But more, it tackled an esoteric subject in an entertaining way without dumbing it down (well, without dumbing it down much). And you finally empathized with Pitt instead of just being in awe (Fight Club, Se7en, Sleepers) of him. He lived Billy Beane, a complex and lovable jerk. He won’t win best actor, but he prolly should.
The Descendants – WYT – I gave this movie every chance. And honestly, it deserves a higher rating. But about 3/4 of the way through it felt like I had been seated a perfectly made table, linens, china, silver, merlot and those sculpted pats of butter, and my appetite was fully wetted. Then the meal wasn’t the best (even my loose and ubiquitous definition of “best”) thing I’d ever eaten . Everything was there to make it work (Clooney where he can’t get by simply by being the coolest motherfucker on the planet but has to make you feel (which he does expertly in this film); Alexander Payne, whose sense of humor and the human condition is near to my heart and who is phenomenal cutting scenes where the film’s setting is a vital character; and the pathos of the material they had to work with), but in the end, I just felt…….maybe unsatisfied is the word. I’d prolly built it up too much, but it felt like it could have been more. Just a little more, then it would have been great. Maybe even truly great. But it didn’t quite get there.
Drive – RDW – This is the best film I’ve seen all year. Certainly the best since The Social Network and it’s maybe better than that. But I loved it for reasons that don’t typically entice me. Mainly its aesthetics. They reminded me of the reasons I (we) love movies. It was an escape, perfectly paced, engrossing, the nameless hero (Little Goose, you earned yourself a massive fan.) Brian Cranston (Walter White, Breaking Bad review to come) was perfectly cast. Albert Brooks was sublime, maybe the best he’s ever been. Even the little English girl with the dimples, who normally I find horibly annoying, worked. The soundtrack, (which this song is from) once you realize the filmmaker is being serious and not ironic, is its own character, like the Greek chorus. Music sculpted to be film’s heartbeat and it was a beat that propelled a simple tale about the nameless stranger going to bat for the innocent family against insurmountable odds. And that what is truly great about this film. When at times it seems as if we have to 3D, CGI, jump around in time, go to third-level dreamscapes and fear preternaturally evil villains to be entertained, Drive never tried to be more than it was. What is was was beautiful and simple. You knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. It’s all real and unironic, even the satin jacket with the scorpion on the back. It’s entertainment. The best movie of the year. Watch it. Enjoy.