The whirlwind of critics awards and other precursors is bound to leave any Oscar hound’s head spinning this week. I am personally loving the somewhat unlikely ambiguity of this season. While we may finally have a frontrunner in The Artist, it still feels slightly off to me, particularly since the film’s distribution is so miniscule. Not that Academy members are struggling to see it. But who knows? We’ll have to wait and see. I suppose the films I’m rooting for are Hugo, Moneyball, and this week’s very own Midnight in Paris.
At any rate, in the past few weeks I have caught up with a few other films in theaters, most notably The Muppets, which struck me as a beautifully directed film from Flight of the Conchords director Brett McKenzie. As good as the film is, I felt that it alarmingly suffered from a competent, but underwhelmig screenplay by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (of the wonderful Forgetting Sarah Marshall). While many are jumping to praise the script, I find myself distinctly hesitant due to the sheer lack of laughs the film brought me. And I felt like it had at least one too many endings. All in all it was a beautiful film, and one of the best directed of the year. But it fell slightly flat for me.
Enough rambling, this week’s DVDs…
Top 5 Releases:
5) Straw Dogs (2011)
I have never seen the original of this film, nor do I know much about it at all. That said, I find it mildy intriguing that such a main stream film shares its title with an ancient Chinese proverb. I’ve been told that the film does actually derive the title from this source, which is oddly sophisticated for what otherwise seems to be a run of the mill early ’70s thriller. The original featured Dustin Hoffman and was heavily controversial for its rape scene. However, even then it was overshadowed by Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and the new version will certainly spark no such controversy. The remake stars James Marsdan, Kate Bosworth, and Alexander Skarsgard. It is directed by Rod Lurie. Make of that what you will.
4) Warrior (2011)
Warrior is a true story fighting sports film with Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy. While the acting has earned some acclaim (particularly Nick Nolte), the film itself is falling flat as the Oscar contender that the studio may have anticipated it to be. Even with strong critical reception and a not bad box office performance, the film is failing in most expectations. I’ve heard only bad things about the film’s wan direction and even worse about what sounds like an incredibly awkward ending. I have, however, not seen the film myself, so I cannot actually judge other than to judge that I don’t particularly want to see the film.
3) The Tempest (2010)
I guess the studio thought that Julie Taymor’s CGI-induced bad acid trip interpretation of Shakespeare would in some way appeal to Christmas sales, seeing as its DVD release is almost a full year after its theatrical encounter. The Tempest was Shakespeare’s final work, and interestingly walks the line between tragedy and comedy in an even more ambiguous way than his earlier, seminal work Romeo and Juliet. It is a tremendous tale of love, power, and isolation with a dash of the supernatural. With Helen Mirren crossing genders for the role Prospero across from David Strathairn, and Alfred Molina and Russell Brand occupying smaller roles, the film’s casting seems impeccable to me. I can’t stomach Julie Taymor though. I hate Across the Universe, she got fired from that Spider-man outfit on braodway, and although everyone praises her work on The Lion King, she has yet to repeat that success on any level.
2) Burke and Hare (2011)
Burke and Hare were real life mass murders that get a Monty Python style take with John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) at the helm and Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, and Tom Wilkonsin on the screen. This sounds like a match made in heaven to me. As Alex lovingly put it, ” If Sweeney Todd were to join forces with Monty Python, I imagine the result would be somewhat similar.” Alas, by most accounts this prospect was left unfulfilled. Critical response was, for the msot part, quite low. I’m still game to give this one a shot though, seeing as I seem to disagree with the masses as to what makes good humor these days. Unfortunately, the trailer was not too promising, and I feel like John Landis, like his dear friend Ivan Reitman, has expired his ability to seem fresh.
1) Midnight in Paris (2011)
And now for something completely different… a film that is actually good! Not just good, but great. Certainly one of the best films of the year, even possibly the best. Woody Allen’s latest is a dizzying but glorious romp about a hack hollywood writer who is engaged to a beautiful bust shallow woman from a highly conservative family. They have no regards for art what-so-ever. His fiance’s family is in France on a business trip, so Gil (Owen Wilson, the writer) and Rachel (Rachel McAdams, the fiance) go along for liesure. For Gil, the trip is the opposite of business; it is the embodiment of a dream in every possible, even supernatural way. This film wears its heart on its sleave. I’ll give its critics that. But its so earnest and so obvious that I find it remarkable that no one has made this film before now (at least not to my knowledge). In a sweepingly profound effort, Woody Allen has crafted his finest feature since Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989. —Review Coming Soon!
I decided to donate a little extra effort to the top five commentary this week, seeing as I’m not particularly interested in most of those films anyway, the ones that didn’t make the list are even worse. Avoid sitting in front of the TV this week. It’s Christmas. If you want to watch a film with your family this break, head off to the theater where you’ll find Scorsese, Spielberg, Fincher, Reitman, or Cameron Crowe waiting for you.