Movie Reviews postsSunday January 08, 2012
It's the End of the World as Lars von Trier Knows It and the National Society of Film Critics Feels Fine
I’m bummed that my favorite critics’ group, the National Society of Film Critics, chose one of my not-favorite films of 2011, Lar von Trier’s “Melancholia,” as its best picture of the year; but you could see it coming.
“Melancholia” is the favorite of a certain type of non-narrative-leaning critic with a touch of doom about them. Plus, despite lauding them on MSNBC.com in 2005, the NSFC and I haven’t agreed on much in the past 10 years. They went with “Capote” over “Brokeback Mountain” or “Munich”; “Pan’s Labyrinth” over “United 93”; “There Will Be Blood” over “No Country for Old Men”; “The Hurt Locker” over “Up” or “A Serious Man.”
I can see why “Melancholia.” I admit its five-minute overture is one of the most beautiful opens in movies. I just didn’t like the movie because: 1) I don’t believe in half its characters; 2) its two parts don’t add up to a whole; 3) its misanthropy seems adolescent; and 4) its hand-held camera made me literally nauseous. But I can understand why some misanthropic, form-over-content, iron-gutted critics would dig it. It’s right in their wheelhouse.
Giving me a reason for dying, with characters I can’t relate to, is easy. Giving me a reason for living, with characters I can relate to, is tough. I’ll go with “The Tree of Life,” their no. 2 pick, any day.
“Melancholia” star Kirsten Dunst, who was also named best actress by the NSFC.
2011 Cinema: Looking Back to When We Looked Ahead
Before we look back at the top 10 movies of 2011—or forward to all of that 2012 cinema that isn't spoiled yet by viewing—let’s look back to when we looked ahead: to what we thought might be good in 2011.
In this post last March, I listed off 18 films I was excited about for the upcoming year. They make up the movie posters that have been fading in and out in the upper left ever since.
Of those 18, I saw 12:
- Captain America
- Of Gods and Men
- The Housemaid
- In a Better World
- The Tree of Life
- Uncle Bonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
- Win Win
I still haven't seen six of them:
- The Conspirator
- Gainsbourg: vie heroique
- Le noms des gens
- One Day
Of the ones I saw, four or five will be among my top 10 movies of the year. That’s not bad. I was excited about “The Tree of Life” and it delivered. I was worried “Bridesmaids” would be ordinary, a la “Horrible Bosses,” but it wasn't. I hoped “Moneyball” would be more “Social Network” than “Blind Side” and it was.
By the time “The Conspirator,” “One Day,” and “Super” arrived with their lukewarm reviews I couldn’t be bothered. The best foreign language film, “In a Better World,” wasn’t, while the 2010 Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, “Uncle Bonmee,” which most critics loved, and which has wound up on top 10 lists, I found not only incomprehensible but tedious. It opened up nothing in me. I’d love to read a good review that explains why it’s meaningful.
And what did my early-warning-system blog miss? A lot: “Drive,” “Hugo,” “Margin Call,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Buck.” Among others. Which is the way we want it. The future should be surprising no matter how often, and how much, we try to preempt it.
Movie-Review Line of the Day
“As inconsequential and virtually indistinguishable sub-Judd Apatow white-boy comedies fueled by prison-rape gags and pants-pissing anxiety around black people go, ”Horrible Bosses“ is pretty solid entertainment.”
--Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com.
His full review here. My review here. We have pretty much the same take on the movie - right down to its inconsequentiality. “The bosses are ... three caricatures rather than three human beings,” I write. “Farrell and Aniston's horrible bosses never remotely resemble real people,” O'Hehir writes. Add it up and it's 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Movie Review of the Day: Richard Brody on Bridesmaids
“Sometimes, expectations can do one out of a good movie-going experience. In the magazine this week, David Denby reviews “Bridesmaids,” praising the comic prowess of its star and co-writer, Kristen Wiig, but adding that, here, 'she gives a largely realistic performance… Playing quietly, Wiig is a decent and likable actress, but, for fans of her wild side, she seems diminished, her face a little blank. We wait for her to break out.'
”I didn’t wait for her to break out; rather, I watched the movie, thinking, early on, that it was interesting to see Wiig try out a new comic persona—then, midway through the action, I utterly and literally forgot that I was watching Kristen Wiig, and had the sense that I was seeing some new actress, who was neither Wiig nor anyone else I had ever seen. The role and the performance are utterly transformative, and put Wiig instantly into a different cinematic category ...“
—Richard Brody, ”'Bridesmaids': Something Blue," on The New Yorker site
Movie Review of the Day: Anthony Lane on Thor
“Some Gods have all the luck. When the hero of 'Thor' plummets to Earth, from a far corner of the cosmos, in a storming thunderbolt, the first thing he sees upon waking is the face of Natalie Portman. Not a sheep, or a branch of Subway, or a rainy day in Pittsburgh but, I repeat, Natalie Portman. He must think he has died and gone straight back to Heaven ...
”Once Thor stirs, the film itself comes belatedly to life.The first twenty minutes or so have been spent in otherworlds, reachable only by intergalatic wormholes. One is Asgard, a haven of golden towers ruled by Thor's father, the one-eyed Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and closely modelled on the cover of every mid-seventies concept album you wished you'd never bought ...
“'Thor,' in fact, is the year’s most divided movie to date; everything that happens in the higher realms, vaguely derived from Nordic legend, is posturing nonsense, whereas the scenes down here are managed, for the most part, with dexterity and wit.“
Welcome to Earth.
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