Okay, lame title for a blog post, but these aren’t exactly reviews, and I didn’t want to mislead anyone. I’m running shy of time on winter break, after all, and I have to limit my frivolous commentary. I also wanted to do some self-reflection, though, and keep a bit of a record of things that inspired, moved, or entertained me in 2013. In include both rentals and theater releases. Tomorrow will be books. New Year’s Eve will be news stories. In short, my next three blog posts will be for me, and not so much for you the reader, but thanks for reading anyway!
Movies discussed: Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained, Warm Bodies, The World’s End, Stand Up Guys, and Ender’s Game.
1. Cloud Atlas
I read this book early in 2013. Greg Hamann, President of Linn-Benton Community College where I’m an adjunct instructor, had written a blog post about the movie in late 2012 that was quite moving, so I had high expectations. The book was incredible and made my list of favorite books of all time, but I had my doubts about how well it would translate to the screen. Not only did it translate, but it translated to an entirely new and different level of inspiration for a story that had already inspired me once. Why? Because I believe that everything is connected. That belief is the foundation of the way I try to live my life and make decisions and interact with others. Both book and movie expressed something that I feel to the core, but could never put into words. And it came with a healthy dose of social commentary without hitting me over the head with it—always a huge plus in my book.
2. Django Unchained
I could just say “Because Terentino,” but that wouldn’t really be accurate for me. I don’t like all of Terentino’s movies. One thing I do know, though, is that when I like them, I really, really like them. This was no exception. The acting was superb, and Terentino didn’t ever cross the fine line between necessary for the story and gratuitous as he sometimes does. More than that, though, Terentino wrote an incredible screenplay that manages to capture white privilege in a historical context without ever making the slaves appear as less than. It really doesn’t get much more difficult than that and this film is proof of Terentino’s incredible talent.
3. Warm Bodies
Okay, so not really a thinker, but it was an a highly entertaining mesh of the classic Romeo & Juliet tale as well as an original twist on the classic zombie story, both of which were needed in movies, in my opinion. Zombie flicks have become ubiquitous, but most lack any originality at all. That this one was so entertaining to me when I really don’t like zombie films (the only other two that I really enjoyed were Zombieland and Sean of the Dead) says something—probably something about me rather than about films, but there it is.
4. The World’s End (spoilers)
Did I mention that I loved Sean of the Dead? I also saw Hot Fuzz for the first time this year because I listened to an interview that called this a trilogy. Mostly, I think I love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a comedic pair, but I also love the not-so-subtle satirical commentary on the human condition that is ever-present in these three films. The World’s End isn’t my favorite of the three (that goes to Sean of the Dead) due largely to its slow start, but it has some elements of storytelling that I absolutely love. First and foremost, every character has a story and has qualities that make us empathize with them—from the realtor that overcame poor body image to the car salesman standing up to his childhood bully (in a manner of speaking) to the protagonist—a stereotypical loser who can’t give up adolescence for adulthood but somehow manages to stand for something really important.
5. Stand Up Guys
Honestly, this one surprised me. I’m not big on mob movies, but I was intrigued by the particular dynamic in the trailer and gave it a go. The film didn’t do well in the theaters and didn’t get great reviews, but I loved it for many of the same reasons I loved The World’s End. The characters in this one are arguably more “bad,” but still demonstrate that we all go through the same phases of life, that we all get old, that we all have regrets, but that we’re all also capable of warmth and love.
The Movie Triumph of the Year
What I see as the movie triumph is the year is actually the film that wasn’t watched: Ender’s Game. I’ve heard all of the reason that it was okay to go see it: separate the art from the artist, he’d already made his money on it, blah blah blah. These are excuses, plain and simple.
I read Ender’s Game before I knew who and what Card was. I don’t argue the merits of the story. It was a tremendous work of literature, and I was actually pretty disappointed to have to boycott the film because I think the chosen actors and director could do the story justice.
But I do know who and what Card is now. I do know how he spends his money. If enough people were to see the film, it would send a message to other producers that people are willing to separate the art from the artist and are willing to spend their money there. It would open the door for those producers to make more Card films—to give him more money to engage in the oppressive acts in which he engages, including his consistent support of NOM. His views on homosexuality also cross a very specific line for me; he dehumanizes LGBT people in ways that have a profound impact on their quality of life.
Do I read books by people with whom I disagree on political or philosophical grounds? Yes. But I don’t spend my money where I know it’s going to be used to fund repression and oppression which is the case with Card.
The movie did well its first weekend. But then…well, according to Yareah’s article on the biggest film flops of the year, it fell $25m short of grossing enough in the box office to break even with its budget. Boycotts work.