Wow. As I write this we are mere hours away from the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. As we age, our subjective experience of time feels faster, relative to the total amount of time that we have consciously witnessed. Despite this, I have found a way to make time slow down, though I don’t necessarily recommend my method.
When I started this blog 363 days ago, my first post was my top ten movies of 2013. We’re at the end of another year, and I have seen more movies than ever before (according to my letterboxd summary I’ve watched over 1,000 hours of film – yikes!), so it’s about time for another roundup of the state of cinema.
There are few directors as prolific as one Mr. Clint Eastwood. Eastwood has become famous for his rapid shooting schedules, and his limited number of takes. It is difficult to say whether this is the best approach, as the method has already yielded the pretty lackluster Jersey Boys in 2014. But the good thing about Eastwood’s rapid filmmaking technique is that there is always another one around the corner. In this particular case, Eastwood’s end-of-year film is American Sniper, an adaptation of the memoir by the late Chris Kyle, the military man referred to in the title. Does American Sniper fare any better than the story of Frankie Valli and his crooning buddies?
Just two months ago I remarked on the ubiquity of World War II-as-setting in cinema. That was in my review of Fury, starring Brad Pitt. Well, now Brad’s wife Angelina Jolie is getting in on the action with her latest directorial effort: Unbroken, about the life of Olympic athlete and prisoner of war Louie Zamperini. Jolie is probably known more for her acting career than her directing, but she hopes to change that with Unbroken, a film that has been screaming “awards bait” at the top of its lungs since the first trailer dropped a while back.
Up until very recently it was not uncommon to hear the phrase “racism is dead in America.” It was never true – even with a black man in the Oval Office – but that fallacy is looking more and more ridiculous in light of the numerous murders of unarmed young black men across the country in the last several months. Segregation and lynchings may be relics of a tragic and infuriating part of our still-recent history, but racial tensions clearly remain an issue in the United States. Ava DuVernay’s Selma, about the 1965 protest march from Selma to Montgomery, could not be coming out at a more appropriate time. Perhaps a look into the past can yield a more considerate future.
Wow. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. We’re all aware of the long, strange trip The Interview has taken on its journey to release; pushed back from its original October release date to Christmas Day, only to be cancelled indefinitely in the wake of threats of terrorism, and then rescheduled again at about 300 theaters across the country a week or so later. It is still unclear what the exact motive was behind the actions of hacker group Guardians of Peace, though the government and popular opinion count North Korea as the source of the problems for film studio Sony. Conspiracy theories declaring Sony themselves the culprit belong in the same garbage bin as 9/11 truthers and those still waiting to see Obama’s birth certificate, but Sony should be thanking whoever did do the deed, as it only raised interest in the latest ridiuclous comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
It’s hard to say how many stage musicals get adapted to the screen on average each year, but 2014 seems to have produced more than usual. The last year has produced both Jersey Boys and Annie – a pair of pretty terrible movies, regardless of how appreciated or beloved the source material may be. The stage-to-screen transition is a difficult one to pull off where musicals are concerned, but that would never stop a studio from trying. Disney is the latest company to attempt such an undertaking, choosing Rob Marshall (Chicago) to usher Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods to the screen.
Ahh, Christmas Eve. While all of the gentiles sip their eggnog and wait for Santa Claus to shimmy down their chimney, the Jewish people have a different tradition. We call tonight “Nittel Nacht,” though most people have probably never heard of such a thing (in all honesty, I just learned about it myself). In the Middle Ages, when times weren’t so good for our people (the more things change…), many towns and provinces forbade Jews from appearing in public on Christmas Eve. Good thing too, as the alternative could lead to violence against the “Christ-killers.” Thus the day became a sort of holiday-of-necessity for the chosen people. The Rabbis declared studying Torah and having sex illegal on that day, but encouraged secular reading and game-playing instead. We are lucky to live in an age where widespread persecution of Jews is no longer so popular, but it would be a shame to forget the weight that such a day used to carry.
As my primary movie-going companion and I entered the theater to watch the new Annie update, I found myself asking a question that had no yet occurred to me: “why am I seeing this?” I have no connection to the original version, and despite my appreciation for musical theater, I’m hardly a completist. It’s a simple question, with a simple answer: compulsion. In my undertaking of this blog project, I have found myself watching plenty of bad movies for no reason other than to write about them. That’s one thing I cannot wait to leave behind in the new year. Hopefully this time next year I won’t be going to whatever is the Annie of 2015, but most likely I will.
It’s time again for another Doug Benson Movie Interruption at Cinefamily in Los Angeles. For those who are unfamiliar, movie interruptions consist of Benson, a standup comedian/podcast kingpin, and his funny friends making jokes over a movie MST3K-style. Usually Doug chooses recent blockbusters (such as Thor: The Dark World) or recent critical failures (such as Maleficent), but lately he has been tackling movies with a better reputation, hence tonight’s interrupting of the Shane Black-written, Renny Harlin-directed 90’s artifact The Long Kiss Goodnight.