Before I get to the films my wife and I watched as we continued our Oscar summer (which I first talked about here), I want to go off on a tangent… about Dave Matthews Band. This has no real point and doesn’t relate at all, it is just a tangent.
Here we go… A few weeks ago my wife and I saw DMB in concert, it was her first time seeing them in concert, it was my fourth. It feels like every time I go to see Dave, it is to remind myself why I don’t like seeing him in concert. Oh, I am not talking about him or his band (they are great and I will always be a fan; I own every CD), but I just really dislike the audience that follow him.
See, my wife and I came to see Dave and his band perform, but I couldn’t say that was true for a majority of the people around me.
For them it was a party with drinking, drugs, loud talking and laughter. The fact that a band was on stage giving their all didn’t even register with them. Seriously, it all felt so disrespectful for the band that they supposedly love. And let me clarify, this wasn’t just in our section of the audience, this was everywhere. Heck, the “party” atmosphere started before the band even entered the stage.
I get the whole tribal thrill of following a band like many of these people do, feeling part of a community, but I came to hear a show, see an artist I love, I didn’t come to bump into old friends or play the bongos (yes, someone had the bongos near us).
I’m sure in a few years, I’ll attempt to see Dave again and I will be reminded of this all over again. It’s what I do, but I am disappointed. And I’ve spent my days since seeing the concert listening to my CDs (including some of my live CDs) wondering about what could have been… All of the shows can’t be that bad, right? Argh, I’m doing it again.
Like I said, this was a tangent and has nothing to do with the point of this post. It was just frustrating, and I had to get it off my chest.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, Oscar movies, round two! Enjoy!
The Wolf of Wall Street. I feel guilty for liking this film. I feel guilty for laughing at some points. And I feel guilty that I cared about the characters (any of them) by the end of the story. Yup, for me at the end of the movie, I was just a big messy pile of guilt. It is definitely not a film I would recommend to everyone (out loud), but it is a masterfully made film (we all know Scorsese is a genius). Leonardo DiCaprio is definitely one of the greatest actors of his generation. It is almost shocking he didn’t win the Oscar for this performance. What I would love to know though is how the other people depicted in the film felt about it. I was able to read one such article by one of the federal agents in it, but his reaction was not too surprising. How about the others? No one could be happy by how they came off in it.
The Apartment. After seeing how women were depicted and treated by businessmen in The Wolf of Wall Street (they were products really, to be bought and sold and shared), I thought it best to revisit this classic by Billy Wilder. The Apartment tells the other side of the story, the flip side, what happens to the women who are strung around by the married men who are only out for a laugh. Sadly, the film is definitely getting dated in parts (like the joke of Jack Lemmon trying to find something to watch on TV, and only cowboy films are on the four stations), but it is still a great film if not just for the chemistry of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. If you have never seen this film, I highly recommend it… or any film by Billy Wilder. Just a masterful filmmaker who could really do anything.
The Kids Are All Right. Sometimes a film can come out at the right time, and I can’t think of another reason to explain the praise and love The Kids Are All Right got. I dig the basis of what the film is about, but so much of it felt off, and I left the film not really liking any of the characters from it. (Yup, not even the kids, but really they are all written as stereotypes. Almost everyone is a stereotype.) There is a certain level of accepted cruelty behind the film that just rubs me the way. Is there love as well? Sure, but at the accepted expense of others. Affairs, unfair firing (that we are supposed to laugh at later), and a very harsh dismissal of the sperm donor by the entire family (yes, he had the affair as well, but he didn’t start it; in many ways, she led him on and got away with it). I just walked away really annoyed. It’ll be interesting to see how others feel about the film when more time has passed…. Seriously, she named her son Laser?
The Help. I like historical fiction as a genre, and while I liked The Help (the acting is phenomenal), it felt a little off-putting to me to create a historical fiction around that moment in history. Let me clarify, this is a historical fiction tale that presents the writing of a book that supposedly made an impact on the Civil Right Movement. But that book didn’t exist! It is fake, the entire story is, none of this happened. So are we diminishing the actual work and hard facts of that history with tales like this? I wouldn’t go that far, I’m just saying it made me feel a little awkward. Like there was a line, and this film delicately played along it. So yeah, I had tears and dug the ending when the book is finally released (and you watch its impact), I just spent days afterwards trying to figure out how I really feel about fictionalizing this period in history and presenting something as a contributing factor for change… that wasn’t.
Another Year. It is really easy to pretend that this film is about nothing. Honestly, in many ways Another Year is about nothing, but that is the genius behind it. There are so many things that separate us demographically from each other (wealth, race, gender, education, etc.), but how about happiness? That is what this film is at the heart of it, the clash of those happy and those unhappy. How do happy people look at those that are unhappy, and how do the unhappy look at those happy (and themselves)? Big questions. I can see a film like this rubbing a lot of people the wrong way (too much a mirror). We as an audience want to see characters on screen (and in stories) rise up, make their lives better, but that is not reality. People go on, they accept good and bad situations. They just are, and life doesn’t make those movie leaps. This film tackles a really interesting cultural divide, and gives no options for fixing it; merely, pointing a spotlight on it.
Topsy-Turvy. Mike Leigh made Another Year, and I wanted to see another film by him. And I’ve been waiting for years for an excuse to see Topsy-Turvy. It is an almost three-hour opus on the relationship of Gilbert and Sullivan and the creation of their opera The Mikado. I spent a lot of my childhood backstage of my local theater and this film could not have been more fascinating for me. Mike Leigh doesn’t really direct like normal filmmakers. He is not about quick scenes and cuts, he is about capturing moments. He will, for example, give you fifteen minutes of a rehearsal of a scene (and you watch the actors change how they read their lines at each runthrough), or play out an entire moment on the stage. This might be my favorite film I have seen so far for the Oscar summer. It definitely will not be for everyone (as I said, it is almost three-hours long about an opera), but if you love the theater and wonder about the history around it, this is a great film to pick up.
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