It’s awards season and as usual I have a lot of feelings. I think it’s a pretty common observation that TV shows are currently in a “golden age” of entertainment, and movies have become “too safe” and there is the seemingly never-ending stream of remakes. On TV great stories are being adapted (Game of Thrones, Dexter), original and edgy stories being created and used as social commentary (Breaking Bad, Newsroom) and some shows are just plain fun, sexy and dirty (Californication, Girls). I’ve definitely had that impression for a while and few movies are able to really thrill me and make me long for the movie theater.
I have a few actors that I am still willing to sit through anything for and I will see their movies without questions. I love actors that just sparkle on the screen, who the camera loves in a way that make them seem out of this world beautiful. The classical actresses all had that; Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor. Watching them is like watching art and it goes beyond their acting ability. Somehow their personality, beauty and talent merge into this creation we call movie stars. Angelina Jolie remains my undefeated queen, but there are so many others I just love to watch, too.
But for all of that to happen there has to be solid characters first, and that starts with writing. I’ve spent my whole life being in love with and emulating awesome characters, and I don’t know if it is because I’m getting older (and more jaded. Pushing 30!) but I feel the really great characters are few and far between these days. Movies don’t grab a hold of me the way they used to. Remakes don’t do it for me. I am greedy and I want new stories with fresh, wonderful characters. I don’t want two dimensional super heroes and their girlfriends. I still want glamor and beauty, but more than anything I want truth. I watch movies because I want a two hour slice of the human condition. Which, of course, is endless.
I still haven’t given up on Hollywood. I still love to watch award shows like it was my high school reunion with people I actually like. And every year there is a couple of movies that surprise me, dazzle me, and take over my imagination. In no particular order my top three movies of 2012 were:
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
I normally don’t care for Steve Carell (I find him too erratic) but this movie did for him what Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind did for Jim Carry, it humanized him. I actually consider this movie the Eternal Sunshine’s sibling and that is HIGH praise in my book. Keira is one of my favorite actresses to look at but I’m bored watching her do period films when she is SO GOOD as a contemporary twenty-something. Still, I wasn’t even sure she would be right for this role. So I went in with very little faith and I was proven WRONG! I love when that happens. I loved this movie with all my heart. It IS the human condition. The whole time I was asking myself what I would do if the world was ending in seven days, so it’s a super enjoyable film AND an introspective session all in one. I love it.
I went to see this because the guys who wrote it also wrote The Matrix. That’s all I knew. I had no idea what it was about. And for a good half an hour into it, I still had no idea what was going on. How often does that happen? I mean, trailers today give away so much I always feel like I’ve seen all the good moments before the movie starts so I was like, ok, let’s do this, Cloud Atlas, I will judge you only on your presentation alone.
Mind. Blown. It’s about five different stories from five different eras of human civilization, and each is like its own little movie. They are distinct and very well directed. It takes a long time before you start to connect them all (movie is almost 3 hours) but when the realization hits, it hits hard. It’s a magnificent film. And the human condition is so painfully present when shown so masterfully in the past, present and future, all at once.
Life of Pi
Again, I hadn’t read the book. I usually read most books that are buzzed about but this escaped me. Didn’t have too high expectations other than I worried about the scene when the ship sinks and all the animals drown, because animals being helpless and scared has me sobbing in .2 seconds. That scene is in the trailer so I didn’t spoil anything! But I was excited too because tigers are my favorite animal and the cinematography looks amazing in the trailer, too. The acting was great, the animals dying was sad and the cinematography blew me away. Ang Lee is a master at his craft. But I didn’t expect to bond so deeply with the tiger and feel everything Pi is going through. I cried more than once. The human condition focused on survival and projecting our feelings onto animals… I haven’t seen a movie so poignant in a long time. I loved it.
I also saw Silver Lining Playbook last night. I had such high hopes it would give me so many feelings, but mainly I felt my feet were cold and I had to go get some socks to put on. But a lot of other people liked it and it gave them feelings, and that’s all that matters.