January 11, 2012 – Dust off the tiara and bring out the feather boa or the tux. Sunday night officially kicks off movie award season with the Golden Globes.
Once upon a time I waited all year long for award season to begin, enjoying the fanfare almost as much as the holidays that precede it. These days I don’t get to the movies as often as I used to, which takes away some of the thrill, but at the very least movie award programming – the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Oscars and the Independent Spirit awards – helps get me through a long dreary winter with my sanity intact.
Over the holiday break, in the midst of the madness, I refueled my movie passion and managed to see five movies – four on the big screen and one on pay per view.
It began with a visit to the theater to see “The Descendants”, George Clooney’s latest vehicle that’s generating a lot of award buzz for him and newcomer Shailene Woodley. I may be the odd girl out, but I’m normally not a Clooney fan even though some women may consider that a cardinal sin. However, I applaud his understated performance as the ordinary guy next store trying to keep it together for his kids after his wife is fatally injured in a boating accident. Based on the novel of the same name, the film played out like an indie, and not the typical Hollywood smash hit expected with Clooney. It entertained with funny, sad, angry and sometimes tender dialogue between the characters, and definitely ranks as one of my favorites for 2011.
Next up was “Young Adult” with Charlize Theron, who donned her ordinary look in this movie, yet still looked stunning playing a recently divorced, washed-up drunk who writes novels for young adults. Theron’s character literally loses herself in the novels she writes, which focus on the lives of popular high school characters. She hasn’t progressed a day beyond high school age herself mentally even though she’s nearly 40, which is why she tries to win back her high school boyfriend. Diablo Cody, of “Juno” fame wrote the screenplay, and I liked the movie but not nearly as much as “Juno” or “The Descendants” for that matter. Still, it was a relatively enjoyable way to spend a winter afternoon.
M guilty pleasure of the week was “New Years Eve”, and I don’t mind admitting that even though critics panned it. I took a chance that I would find something redeeming in a little mindless entertainment, but all I could come up with was that Robert DeNiro was in it. It’s not that I hated director Gary Marshall’s ensemble cast of troubled folks who try to get it all together by midnight to start the year off right – and they do – but was so similar to Valentine’s Day, another ensemble piece by Marshall that came out a few years ago. If I re-watched that on cable, I could have saved the $10. Still, as chick flicks go, it was acceptable.
That same night I rented “Midnight in Paris” and loved this fantasy-style movie most of all. Typically when a movie involves time travel it’s laden with sci-fi special effects and wormhole explanations that are beyond comprehension, but they do not come into play in this charming story. The movie stars Owen Wilson as the starry-eyed wannabe novelist and Rachel McAdams as his snooty fiancé who are vacationing in Paris while her parents are there on a business trip. However, the time travel aspects were artistically handled Woody Allen style, so no explanation was needed, just a little bit of imagination. The movie would have been perfect if it weren’t for Allen’s blatant political statement. McAdams’ character and her family were portrayed as the cold, unfeeling wealthy business owners and tea party supporters who worship the mighty dollar, while Wilson played the artist with the kind heart, the gentler Democrat, who cares about people. Movies often portray the political parties this way, which gets old, and this type of message is harder to overlook in an election year.
Finally, to end the holiday movie marathon, I saw “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. This hardboiled thriller and remake of a recent Swedish film wasn’t political in nature – thankfully – and remained true to its novel roots. I’m proud that director David Fincher didn’t Americanize his film as so many American directors do. It is still set in Sweden and stars Daniel Craig (my new crush) and Roony Mara as an unlikely investigative team trying to solve a 40-year-old kidnapping/murder/disappearance of a wealthy business owner’s niece. It was nothing like I expected, and it had me glued for the nearly three hours it played out on screen. Caution: there are two scenes so graphically violent that I could have done without, yet it is a major part of the story so I understand why they were included. I look forward to the other two books of this trilogy also being made into films because I care about these characters and they left me wanting more. The movie has a clear ending, but it does leave some issues hanging in the balance that will most likely be addressed.
So, I didn’t do too badly. Now when I watch the Golden Globes on Sunday night, at least I’ll have some clue about what’s hot in the world of film.