Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Movies; The Good, the Bad and the Weird

So far this holiday season (Christmas, if you prefer), I've seen two movies for which I had high hopes: and one from which I expected little. Guess which was the best--by far?

I'm still up for "Jack Reacher" and the movie about turning 40 (which are still in town), but "Guilt Trip" didn't even reach the level of guilty pleasure, Quniton Tarantino's "Django Unchained" was a long wallow in the worst aspects of slavery (and our continuing guilt over it) and "Silver Linings Playbook" was the silver lining, a perfect delight.

I don't want to waste too much time on the bad ones, but speaking of waste: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan left with tepid lines throughout their hour and a half road trip as a Jewish mother and her coddled son was just too much. Nothing funny here from two fine comedians. Nothing. Barely a chuckle.

You've probably heard all you want to about "Django" and as with all Tarantono movies, you're either for him or again' him. I've never cared for his over the top violence--which becomes comic after a while, something we should never do with extreme violence of the head exploding kind. You can bitch all you want about movie violence having nothing to do with the gun culture of mass murder, but you'd be wrong. It has a lot to do with desensitizing us and Tarantino is the king of that numbing. He uses the word "Nigger" so often in "Django" that it loses its power and becomes something the frail of mind might consider acceptable.

"Silver Linings," on the other hand, is unexpected, delightful and even healing. As one who's had to deal with mental illness (alcoholism), I like it when art faces this massive problem frankly and without the soaring violins of sappy three-towel melodrama. This one's direct: two crazy as hell young people are trying to reconstitute their lives and have narrowed their field of help to each other. Flawed they are. Destructive they are. Batshit crazy they are. But they're appealing and there's hope in every frame of the movie.

This one--like her "Hunger Games" before it--belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, but Bradley Cooper emerges as a force, as well. They're the lead crazies and their families include Robert DeNiro and a lot of good character actors, all in fine roles. It's from the Weinstein boys and you've learned to count on them. Good movie.

Up next: "Lay Miz" and I'm not sure I'm looking forward to this. The previous two movie iterations were outstanding and neither needed music to succeed (neither did Victor Hugo's book).


  1. The whole theory about movies desensitizing people to gun violence is pathetic. Correlation does not equal causation. In places in the world with less violence they still watch the same movies and play the same video games.

  2. As a person who advocates for mental health, I had mixed feelings about Silver Linings. I thought the acting was astounding, and the writing was fantastic, so I stayed because as a film buff, I was completely impressed, as far as craft goes. But as for the message, I'm frustrated with Hollywood in general and wish that some of these characters, when they use "labels," would have more redeeming qualities and were more multi-faceted. In this film, the whole focus was on illness and disfunction, and I see how it all gelled. But I would like to see some different portayals of those with difficulties...more hope.

  3. sort of reminded me of a modern version of "Benny and Joon"

  4. Christine: I'm with you 100 percent on this. Mentally ill people are so often portrayed as helpless victims, hopeless and pitiful. Some of the smartest, bravest and funniest people I've ever known have been those who have dealt head-on with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression and myriad other ailments that had them labeled as moral deviants at one time. They are role models and should be portrayed as such.

  5. Dusty: I don't know why it is so difficult for people who love movies to admit than maybe they have some impact on society.

  6. Impact on society? Maybe. I won't admit that shootings are in any way influenced by movies because the evidence doesn't support it. Has their been a school shooting in canada recently? Don't they watch the same films and play the same games as the US? Sure they do. That also goes for any other country with less violence than ours.