The current set of reviews of contemporary movies leading up to the Oscar event have left me feeling distracted and left out. I can only surmise that the recent spate of critics are unable to fathom the nature of motion pictures or are just stupid.
Perhaps the people criticizing movies these days are simply too young to appreciate the content of films about historical happenings or have been too mentally deranged by an addiction to violent video games. I can never remember the Oscar winners from one year to the next so this exercise is just self indulgence. Here is my take on what I think were great and not so great experiences at the movies.
In no particular order:
- The Ides of March – classic political chicanery with a great cast including Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and a team of superb players. An excellent portrayal of back room politics – ***
- Margin Call – Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and others who did well by a strong script that points the finger at the economic meltdown in recent times – ***
- Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy – If you saw the original with Alex Guinness you will find this version even better. Nicely paced with understated roles played by Gary Oldman and Colin Firth – ***
- My Week with Marilyn – A brilliant performance by Michelle Williams to bring the strengths, weaknesses and vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe to the screen. Based on a memoir by a 3rd director (Colin Clark) on a shoot with Lawrence Olivier (well played by Kenneth Branagh) who went on to become a force in the film industry. Eddie Redmayne plays Clark, you may have seen him in the TV series, Pillars of the Earth. – ****
- Moneyball – Although I’m not a big fan of Brad Pitt, he and Jonah Hill tell us an inside story about baseball that has revolutionized the game. Their low key but powerful performances provide some extraordinary insights about the game I love best – ***
- The Descendants – Currently the top box office hit for reasons I will never figure out. George Clooney sleepwalks through this sloppily written, implausible scenario and it’s enough to make you want to ask for your money back. Avoid unless you have insomnia – *
- Bridesmaids – This should have been totally silly fun. Instead, for me, it was cringe-making. Apparently, it was supposed to show us that girls could be just as gross and stupid as frat boys. Don’t waste your time or money.
- J. Edgar – The critics really missed on this deft piece of work in a great collaboration between DiCaprio and Eastwood. If you were too young to understand the venal wickedness of J.Edgar Hoover and the grip he had on US leaders that was a match for the Kremlin, you may not get this movie. Hoover was a weak and insecure individual who managed to parlay his paranoid power into the creation of the FBI and held on to the reins for nearly 50 years – ***
- Starbuck – My personal favourite for 2011. Patrick Huard — you may remember him from another good movie, Bon Cop, Bad Cop — and I think his character could qualify for a diagnosis of ARND. He is a high functioning but hopelessly immature grown man who should be making more of his life than he is. The premise of the movie may seem rather far fetched but this production pulls it off with grace and panache. It is a truly feel-good experience -****
- The Artist – I’m old enough to remember Saturday afternoon cliffhanger serials at my neighbourhood theatre. Home projection movies, long before the days of video or webcams, were silent movie treats. This homage to the silent era is totally charming and will transport you to what we like to pretend was a simpler, happier time – ****
- Iron Lady – Who could have imagined anyone creating a sympathetic portrayal of Maggie Thatcher? Brilliantly written, directed and edited, Streep and Broadbent provide one of the more powerful team performances yet. If Meryl doesn’t get the Oscar for her dominating presence in this film we’ll know that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts is a total sham (but maybe we already knew that!) – ****