(Last updated Aug. 17, 2017. Originally published June 12, 2016.)
I had the chance to watch “Captain America: Civil War” fairly recently and I have ruminated on it a bit.
This probably reads fairly silly to some of the deeper thinkers out there, but it is what it is I suppose. I’m not going to make a convincing enough argument in this space that anyone should ascribe a whole ton of deep meaning to these kinds of movies, but for whatever’s it worth, they generally make me think a bit. It’s probably fair to say that some blockbusters are dumber than others, and for some, the style of fare that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) churns out (and at 2-3 movies a year, it is by now accurate to call it a churn) just doesn’t do it for them. It’s clearly turned into a significant money maker for the mouse, and the time commitment to consume them all, let alone the repetitive nature of the films are all good reasons to stay away.
That said, I enjoy them a great deal. I appreciate escapism for its own sake, as mentioned above I can take away some decent life lessons and social commentary from them, and perhaps most importantly, they are movies I can bond with my family over. When my son Nate tells me he wants to watch “Thor,” and I can watch it with him, that is an experience I treasure.
I thought I would re-rank these films in the interest of sparking a little debate OR encouraging people to check a couple of them out if they haven’t. Some of this stuff I would recommend above the rest, and I guess that is the point more than anything. Also, this is sort of fun.
A new Star Wars trailer is here! A new Star Wars trailer is here!
Ahem, excuse my delirium.
Honestly, when “The Last Jedi” trailer dropped recently, I was perhaps more intrigued than flabbergasted. As my better half stated, “There’s a lot to unpack there.” And there always is, which makes the release of any new Star Wars trailer always a fun occasion.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here analyzing the thing … pretty much any nerd with the ability to pause and an encyclopedic knowledge of Wookiepedia is going to do a better job of that than me anyway.
No, I’m falling back into my comfort zone of rankings.
Here, without further buildup, are my picks for the 10 best trailers (including teasers) in the history of Star Wars.
Let’s re-rank the Star Wars films, because … ha, ha, ha! Like I need a reason!
Actually, I even have one: “Rogue One” is making its home video debut right now (I like calling it “home video” to recall the awesome-sauce that was VHS tapes), so now is as good a time as any. I last performed this exercise when there were six films. Now there are eight. And no, I’m not counting the Ewok movies, the Clone Wars cartoon, the Holiday Special, or even that shoddy-looking fan film you think is better than TFA and everyone else just sort of sadly nods at you in abject pity.
One of the best things about Star Wars is how it is an incredible gateway drug. You think you’re sitting there, watching an innocuous fantasy film, and then they drop some nugget on you that gets your brain all worked up, and soon you have more questions than answers … and an insatiable desire to learn more.
“Rogue One” is the natural evolution of one of those threads, what the opening crawl in the first film was really all about. That the film mostly answers one’s questions satisfactorily is basically just the cherry on top … the journey of discovery (and the inspiration of new questions) is the true joy.
My wife and I recently got back to talking about “The Big Short,” which I will reiterate as being one of my favorite movies … well … ever. The context of the conversations has mostly been in regards to gift giving (not terribly relevant here) but also a little about how accurate/truthful the story seemed to be (definitely more relevant here).
So it was with great interest that I discovered this link today, a scoring of major Hollywood films that portray “true” stories … and how true to life the movies actually are.
2. You have the freedom to pass on your vegetables, but there are consequences.
That first lesson is central to the plot of “All the President’s Men,” which outlines in sometimes obsessive detail what the life of a journalist entails … both in the sexy appeal of breaking the rules to get the scoop, but also in the mundane minutia of calling, and typing, and research, and calling, and typing, and…
(You get the idea.)
Just as the mundane parts of being a journalist are the equivalent of eating one’s vegetables, I might argue that watching this film is much the same. There is payoff to breaking the rules … but only when you eat your veggies. And to understand cinema and its relationship to the political process (as well as journalism), this movie, a nominee for the 1976 Oscar for Best Picture, is simply required viewing (whether some might consider it dry or not).
Roger Ebert some years ago did a series of reviews of movies he had seen before, but decided to revisit given their general stature or importance to him. He called this series “Great Movies.”
On some subconscious level, I think this was the general area I was trying to slap this particular baseball (my podcast) into … find that sweet spot of the films that matter to people and try to get a solid double out of it. There’s no minimum requirement here in terms of Oscar nods or what have you, but I did want to find the films that people care about … and while doing this, I leave open the possibility that this could well morph into something else. My Ichiro-like metaphor is meant to be “doubly” apt in this way … the sweet spot is subject to change, and therefore so am I.
That said, “Star Wars” is in many ways the perfect fit for The Pursuit of Crappiness, a culturally relevant collection of films with wide critical and public acceptance. Moreover, there’s a lot to digest in these movies and several different directions a conversation can go.
To celebrate the blu ray and digital release of “The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in the series (eighth if you include the somewhat maligned “Clone Wars” animated feature), I got together a bigger group than normal to discuss the film (and eat delicious goodies put together by my wife, Cait). For this episode, I was joined by Twitter personality Alfredo Narvaez, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reporter Michelle Hunter, and Dash Rip Rock drummer Kyle Melancon — three big fans of the new film and of “Star Wars” in general.
“Spotlight” is an Oscar-winning film about journalism, about spiritualism, about the power of institutions, and about priests molesting children.
That least piece of the equation might be enough to turn people away, but I can tell you two things that might change your mind if you’ve been delaying seeing the movie:
1. This movie doesn’t actually show any of these acts, nor does it very much “hint” at them with visual tricks like closed doors, creepy touches, etc. The victims in the film are largely adults, dealing with the abuse that occurred years prior. In short, the content of the film is itself digestible.
2. The actors (mostly) keep their performances reserved, while the writing and direction are intelligent in their handling of such a sensitive topic. The characters here are not cartoons, nor is the film particularly “preachy” in its intentions. It’s more concerned with telling a story, and doing it respectfully.
That the film succeeds in these matters is to its credit and makes it a worthwhile winner of 2015’s best picture (and a movie I would recommend to anyone).
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the kind of spectacle that blows up your brain (figuratively) and leaves you an exhausted husk, ready for a nice relaxing stack of tax forms. There’s little patience left for stimuli in the wake of such a film … and this is why it might be easy to dismiss it as a vacuous joyride with little messaging of importance beneath the glossy, absurd exterior.
Indeed, the film is shot gloriously. The visuals are often striking, many times disturbing or graphic, and the pace of the film is completely manic. So it’s a difficult film to process, even on the most basic of “Did I like it?” levels.
On the other hand, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the environmental messaging is not obvious in retrospect, and I’m likewise not going to tell you that the themes invoking feminism are hidden purposefully. They’re right there, plain as day. But the visceral thrills certainly distract.
This is a movie that grows in importance the longer you think on it.