28 December 2011

A cultural note

Given that it's about the end of the year.

I have seen exactly two movies from this year that I liked at all, and only one of them was even approaching a good-to-great level.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That's it. Largely because Rooney was playing a compelling character. Daniel Craig often disappeared in the film because of her. The score was excellent and feel of the film was pretty cold, which was, I assume, what they were going for. I approve the intro with the Zeppelin cover also.

Adjustment Bureau was interesting, but not particularly great as a film or deep as a thought experiment. I think it made far too much of the "fate written by some one else" and not enough of the "fate written by genetics" argument. Binding the "I want to determine my own fate" and "my genetics will limit some of my choices" is a much harsher line to cross than "god/fate/some external power attempts to limit my choices". Maybe it's not as interesting a movie, but I find the whole "god/fate" metaphysical construct to give us purpose and meaning from some external source incredibly tedious and so this sitting through an entire movie just to get the to the punchline that those things ultimately don't matter.

The X-Men prequel was noteworthy for being a prequel that was not terrible. But it doesn't stand up very well on re-watching it as well as, say, the second X-Men movie might. I think it lacks some of the humor of the former version. Or it was too obviously trying to be funny when it was "funny" and maybe too obviously about gay rights when it could have been otherwise. A comic book about a bunch of mutants, to be fair, has obvious useful parallels, and I am sympathetic to a vision of tolerance and acceptance for all kinds of people that are currently rejected by societies around the globe. But setting it in the 60s and completely ignoring things like Jim Crow?, seemed a bit too much of a stretch there. The second and first movies could get away with this because tolerance, while not extensive and expanded as much as it could be, is vastly better off than in the 60s. And so when setting the film in the modern era, gay rights are the primary civil rights issue, or if not "the", then certainly among the most pressing. Not so throughout human history. It comes off a bit off putting and sloppy as a result, too callous or unconcerned.

I found the Apes decent, and certainly our treatment of animals is a topic worth examining. But I don't think it stepped out enough from humanity to do so. All it did was anthropomorphize an ape so it might as well have been a kids movie with talking insects or fish.

Otherwise, this was a year of disappointing popcorn fare. To be fair, last year wasn't that impressive either. But I at least really liked Black Swan and Inception. And parts of Social Network or Kings Speech were interesting.

PS. I'm not bothering to note the Transformers movie or Captain America/Thor. All were typical summer blockbuster fare and raised no great philosophical or social questions. But were fun to watch things exploding in and/or for killing Nazis. The favored American pastime of nostalgia for both, with a little god worship thrown in. Note also, I'd say both Captain America and Thor were the same movie plot (guy meets girl, becomes superman, has to sacrifice his love life to save planet) and thus didn't have as good a tie in with any social or political issues as the first Iron Man film did (as tenuous as that one was to begin with). That makes them entertaining films, but kind of absurd if any thought goes into it beyond the comic book mentality necessary to want to go see them in the first place.

PPS. I haven't seen Tree of Life (though I might skip it, it sounds like every other Malick movie and probably not as good as Thin Red Line), Melancholia, or Moneyball yet. I expect these to be more interesting but none of them are/were big screen material.
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