A Curmudgeon at the Movies
OK. You can’t tell my wife, Muri, this but I really like movies. I like to let her think that we go to the moves because she enjoys them so much but it’s not true. However, I am harder on movies than she is. Sometimes, when my Inner Curmudgeon is on the prowl, I can be a pain-in-the-ass about movies, a real wet blanket as we are walking out of the theater. The truth is I am almost always a little disappointed in those hyped-up films that we just have to see and often pleasantly surprised by those we see because there was nothing else around. At this time of year in particular, it is difficult to keep my Inner Curmudgeon in check as we’re sitting in the theater. The reason is, of course, is that this is the film awards season, and as much as I enjoy films, given a choice between watching movie types drool all over each other on an awards show and leprosy, I’ll gladly choose the latter. For some reason, success in telling stories on the screen or pretending to be people you aren’t seems to convince film makers that they are experts in everything from politics to science to philosophy and nowhere do they display their hubris more than at the award shows. When Muri is watching the award shows, which she loves, I am not allowed to be in the room … for my own sake and hers. So, that said, I actually like it when my opinions about the year’s films diverge from the Academy’s (yes, movie people, yours is an opinion, too, not some sort of divine insight). And I wonder if I’m slipping a bit when we agree.
Last night we saw the heavily-hyped American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, a sniper credited with 160 kills during the Iraq war. A typical Clint Eastwood depiction of war, it showed the what most viewers would call the heroism of American soldiers amidst the horrors. How any sentient being could see the film as glorifying the Iraq war is beyond me, but that’s what certain media outlets are saying. In spite of the fact that Hollywood has made millions making movies about war, glorifying war is a mortal sin in Hollywood’s Inner Circle, so much so that Eastwood felt it necessary to say that it is indeed an anti-war film. Probably won’t get you Best Picture, Clint. I’m betting on Birdman or Boyhood, both of which are exactly the kind of film that make Hollywood … and critics … orgasmic. Let’s start with Birdman, the story of an actor known only for playing a super-hero, Birdman, trying to legitimize his career by producing a Broadway play starring himself. It is such a wink-wink theater inside joke that it’s hard for me to believe that the Academy will be able to resist it. My Inner Curmudgeon and I thought it was pretentious and boring, exactly the kind of film it makes us proud to dislike. Then there’s Boyhood, a film made with the same cast over a period of 12 years, so that you actually get to see the same actors age as the story goes on. It is a very interesting idea. If only Richard Linklater had taken the time to couple it with an interesting story line. Most Interesting Idea? Yes. Best Picture? My Inner Curmudgeon and I don’t think so but we don’t get to vote. Our choice? Whiplash, the story of a young jazz drummer falling under the spell of a nearly sadistic teacher, played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons. I admit, we’re biased, it was about music (and jazz, yet), but it was the most riveting film of the year. That’s our opinion … we just don’t get to give out little gold statues to go with our opinions like the academy does.
What’s your favorite?