Some thoughts on movies

With the change in seasons comes the apparent change in priorities, with my precious, few available minutes (or lol hours) being dedicated to something other than sports.  This isn’t always the case in the winter, mind you, but the Pelicans and Kansas State have been highly accommodating by finding special ways to lose at the game of basketball.  There are few things more pathetic than losing basketball, and since I have become an authority on the subject by surviving the Jim Wooldridge/Tom Asbury era at K-State, I already feel fully qualified and don’t need to spend a whole lot more time dedicated to it.

Also, Mardi Gras is over and done with.  So it’s movie time, especially with the Oscars right around the corner.

I thought I’d share some general thoughts about some of the flicks I’ve seen recently, while also teasing that I might be debuting a podcast on the subject in the coming weeks.  It’s something I’ve toyed around with doing for some time, and since I’d like to keep the blog from going completely nihilist thanks to my hatred of basketball mismanagement, I thought, hey, let me produce some content that might actually make me smile, not want to flush my own head down a toilet.

Alright, let’s get to it.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I could probably devote a lot of words to this, because I am highly passionate about Star Wars to begin with, but also because it’s such a fascinating movie.  On the one hand, it’s obviously lovingly created with a ton of highly skilled people bringing their considerable talents to bear on the project.  It has soul.  I love (most of) the new characters, the acting in general is fantastic, and the quiet moments along with most of the action beats succeed quite nicely.  On the other hand, it’s a slavish attempt to make prequel bashers and fans of the original movie in particular as happy as clams, and it certainly loses points for originality.  J.J. movies tend to leave me cold upon original exposure, only for me to warm to them with subsequent viewings, and such is the case with this one.  My experience with this movie has actually most closely resembled my experience with “Attack of the Clones,” it being a movie that grabbed me in some ways, had an emotional, fun core, and inspired me to see it in the theaters a couple of times.  “Clones” is much more ambitious but also fails in more spectacular ways, and in many respects the films couldn’t be more different in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.  But I love both movies as members of the saga, and going on gut feeling, I reacted to both films similarly. Thus I am inclined at present to rank them alongside one another just above “The Phantom Menace” (though I think I’d have TFA above AOTC for now as it’s “technically” stronger).
  • Mad Max: Fury Road — Good lord, this an absolutely gorgeous, manic film.  I mean, I can clearly see the vision, and it is executed to perfection, so I understand the Oscar buzz.  It should win every technical award it is up for.  That said, it’s a little shallow, some of the imagery is a little disturbing for my tastes (Dave = sensitive flower), and I’m really going to need to digest this one for a while before I’m able to call it brilliant or simply good.  Since I like to compare and contrast, and I like to do it via emotional response, let me say that this film left me feeling as I did upon first viewing “Watchmen.”  Beautiful and disturbing. Again, time will tell for me if this film should be considered “Watchmen”‘s superior.
  • Bridge of Spies — Oh it’s definitely Oscar bait, but that doesn’t make it bad or good.  I personally enjoyed it a great deal, more than I did “Mad Max.” The performances here stand out, as does the gorgeous cinematography.  What I come around to with this movie in particular and is a kind of barometer for me with film in general is how did it make me feel?  Am I watching the film and transported in such a way that I feel what the characters are feeling, identifying with them in a significant way?  I felt this here several times, including most viscerally when the Tom Hanks character is experiencing two contrasting train rides, the work he does battling for his client against long odds, and also when he’s encountered in East Berlin and “encouraged” to give up his coat.  The little moments add up to a great sum here, and it deserves any acclaim it gets (though I still consider it a long shot for many awards Sunday).
  • The Martian — I’ve seen Matt Damon at the center of the criticism for the white Oscars, and in his particular case, that’s probably a bit unwarranted. I don’t believe there are many actors in the game today who could carry this kind of movie, and while that doesn’t make him the best actor of the year, it does at least for me make him a worthy nominee.  His performance here is pretty special.
  • The Big Short — Like “Bridge of Spies,” I would be fine with this movie winning every award it is up for.  It’s a touch conniving in its approach, as the audience is made to feel like the smartest group of people in the room … and thusly flattered, we are predisposed to like the movie that much more.  But that’s a small quibble, as it’s such an enjoyable ride.  Ultimately the decision to narrate was a good one, and this might honestly be Steve Carrell’s best performance of his career.  I don’t see how anyone couldn’t absolutely adore his character (watch the clip above … and it gets better from there).
  • Spectre — If you don’t have anything nice to say … Um, I believe it would behoove everyone to reboot the Bond series asap and pretend this never existed.

There are others, but I’m running a smidgeon long I think.  I’ll only add that it’s been an enjoyable several weeks, as I love film, and there is some definite value out there right now for one’s entertainment dollar.

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