It happens every year around this time. As December 31st approaches and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences begin thinking about what they will nominate, we get more of what has come to be known as Oscar bait – those movies specifically designed to elicit a generosity of the awards-giving spirit. Not all of the Academy Award-winners will be Oscar bait, but a fair number of the nominees will fall into the category. These are pictures that feature characters or stories calculated in such a way to unfairly manipulate the viewer, so if you’re the type who avoids such tom-foolery, you have to be on your toes in the late fall/early winter. The Imitation Game should trip a lot of your sensors – high-profile portrayal of a tortured genius, war film, distributed by The Weinstein Company – but is it really just bait? Or does the film earn its gravitas?
Why is it that comedy sequels so often re-tread the same ground as their predecessors? Dumb and Dumber To, The Hangover Part II, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. And sure, 22 Jump Street hangs a lantern on this idea by doing it so blatantly, but that doesn’t automatically excuse just how similar the two movies are. This phenomenon is called “comedy sequel-itis,” and with Horrible Bosses 2 it is safe to say that another one has bitten the dust.
Like any red-blooded American, I love to work so that I can pay my taxes and be an upstanding member of society. The only thing I like more than working for my money is not working for my money, and my employers at the unnamed high school have made that a possibility this weekend. A five day weekend is hard to argue with, so I won’t even try. Paid holidays get two thumbs up from me – the maximum amount of recommendation that I can possibly give.
At this point we are well-entrenched in The Holiday Season – though there are plenty of irrational religious nuts who would balk at the fact that I didn’t just call it “the Christmas season.” This means there are Santa exhibitions set up in malls and Christmas songs in every store, but there is still a big hurdle to leap in the lead-up to Jesus Christ’s two-thousand and fourteenth birthday. We don’t go straight there after Halloween. We have to contend with Thanksgiving first.
Certain aspects of the school experience remain exciting whether you are a student or not. Field trips, for example, are fun no matter what. Likewise you are not likely to run into many education professionals who will complain about days off from school – I imagine it must be very exciting to work in a district where snow days are a thing. One piece of the education experience that does not continue to please on the other side of the desk, however, are assemblies. And boy did we get treated to a doozy of an assembly at the unnamed high school where I work.
We are less than a month away from the release of Inherent Vice and I am only on the second film in my Paul Thomas Anderson retrospective. My prospects for completing the project are not looking great, but I shall continue on anyway. The good news is that Boogie Nights is the last PTA movie that I had not seen previously, so I have now watched each of his films at least once. Boogie Nights was released only one year after Hard Eight, Anderson’s debut, but his artistic progression is so great that you might be forgiven for guessing something more like ten years had passed.
Once a year, the regular bro movie night becomes a bro sleepover. The stars align, simultaneous lunar and solar eclipses occur, and MacGruber is watched and quoted endlessly.
2012’s The Hunger Games can be seen as patient zero when considering the current epidemic of dystopian young adult novel adaptations (Divergent, The Giver, The Maze Runner), and while it has established the cinematic language for these types of films, it’s taking its cues as a franchise from other sources. Like the Harry Potter series and “The Twilight Saga” (ugh, what a name) before it, Lionsgate has opted to split the final book in Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, Mockingjay, into two films. And thus we have The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. A film with everything you could ever want: letters, a numeral, a colon, and a dash.
Actors try to reinvent themselves all of the time, often to mixed results. After a disastrous fall from grace, Robert Downey, Jr. reinvented himself as a sarcastic action star. He’s now making hundred of millions of dollars as a man in a robot suit. After years of a successful comedy career, Jim Carrey tried to reinvent himself as a dramatic lead. He recently scraped the bottom of the comedy barrel and returned to a 20-year-old role in Dumb and Dumber To. This perception shift is difficult to pull off, but it is essential to producing an eclectic body of work. In Foxcatcher, the new film from director Bennett Miller and co-writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, two pre-categorized performers look to shed their respective classifications, and both performers are exceedingly successful in this endeavor.
I just don’t have it in me tonight everybody. We all go through highs and lows, and I’m going through a bit of a low right now – for reasons I don’t fully understand.