Archive for March, 2016

Oscar Movies: Belated

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Like anyone who cares about emotional depth and aesthetic achievement (to say nothing of racial diversity) in film, the Oscars don’t mean much to me. But, by prolonging the in-theater runs of certain movies I’ve been meaning to see but haven’t yet gotten around to, they do make life more pleasurable. In other words, we just saw Spotlight, yay!

Here’s what we got to in February/March:

1) The Big Short. I’ve done some reading/listening to podcasts about the mortgage crisis, so I had what I considered to be a fairly good understanding of what happened. But nothing brought it together for me the way this movie did, and with such a compelling, propulsive story, too. My favorite thing about the movie was Steve Carell’s hilariously intense performance; is he ever not good? (Nope. He’s always good*.) I also found Ryan Gosling impressively unrecognizable (for a moment, I thought he was Ryan Reynolds), and nobody does Method like Christian Bale**.

What I didn’t like were the condescending interruptions to explain the financial technicalities. I thought, first, that the writers could have found a way to get the exposition into the action (that’s your job, yo), and second, that having a conventionally beautiful naked woman in a bubble bath as one of your explainers is at best forgetting to include quite a few members of your audience and at worst insulting to women. Was there not a single person on McKay’s team who could have said something to him about that? There should have been at least one person. It’s not a good idea to make a film without somebody on your team’s representing, like, 50% of the human race.

*Remind me to write, at some point, of the miracle that is comedians who act. I have noticed that almost unfailingly, comedians are fantastic actors, just stunningly good, whereas actors are almost always NOT successful comedians.

**Fine, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

2) Brooklyn. Gorgeous and wonderfully emotional, especially for anyone who left a childhood home (with a mother who wanted her to stay) and traveled far away to make a new life. Basically, I sobbed through the entire thing. Loved Saoirse Ronan’s face in this movie. SO quietly expressive.

3) Spotlight. Intelligently told and smartly acted. Fascinating throughout. There were moments when I thought that Mark Ruffalo’s jutting lower jaw was going to bite off some of the scenery, but I got used to it after a while. As John pointed out, Michael Keaton was the real achievement here; his performance was so subtle and accomplished that the movie star disappeared into the character. And Rachel McAdams was a delight, too. So much fun to see a woman in a professional role, doing her work and being treated just like . . . oh, you know, a man. Oh—and Liev Schreiber! Liev Schreiber! Liev Schreiber!

Re: the sexual abuse scandals (plural, plural, plural) in the Catholic Church. What I said to John was, “I remember when all of this started coming out, in the early 2000′s. And there was this huge degree of shock, and Catholics were totally rocked by it. But my experience of this had been that everyone had always known about it, right? It was even a trope, the pedophile priest. There were jokes in campy movies about it. I don’t understand why it was so surprising.” But this movie makes it clear: People knew but they didn’t know. People thought that there was a priest here and there who was abusing kids but that he was removed from the system. What nobody knew was that there were, for example, 246 priests in Boston alone who had been accused and over 1000 victims in Boston alone who would come forward—and that abuse would come to light in hundreds of other cities around the world. In other words, it was (and is) a massive, systemic problem that went up to and was covered up by the highest levels.

And, you know, WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. Now I get it.