I was having lunch with a friend yesterday when the topic of my favorite movies of 2008 came up. She had read my Top 10 list in this week’s CityBeat and complained about the fact that I presented them in alphabetical order instead of ranking them from 1 to 10.
I tried to explain my reasons for doing so — something pretentious about how ranking art devalues it and the fact that the order could change based on my mood on any given day — but she wasn’t hearing it.
George Clooney's The Ides of March opens today. Given the avalanche of local press its already received (mostly by the endlessly smitten Enquirer, but also via hordes of social-media geeks), need much more be said about the behind-the-scenes aspects of Clooney's political thriller? (If you answered “yes” to that question, read my interview with Ides of March actor Max Minghella here.)
The burning question now is whether The Ides of March is any good.
Contemporary movie trailers suck. Not only are they — like most of the movies they pimp — typically lowest-common-denominator dumb but they also mislead viewers about a given movie’s true nature in an attempt to entice the broadest possible audience. (For example, check out the stupid, disjointed Inglourious Basterds’ trailer, which tried to sell Quentin Tarantino’s arty, longwinded, multilingual revenge epic as a straightforward Brad Pitt-centered World War II action flick.)
I try to stay away from movie trailers as much as possible — either because they rarely give you an accurate idea of what a movie is truly about or because they reveal the entire thing in two minutes. (On the other hand, I suppose I'd rather spend a few minutes with something like Tron: Legacy or The Tourist than sit through two mind-numbing hours.)
An example of the first reason is on display in the difference between the theatrical trailer version of No Strings Attached (which is set to open wide Jan. 21) and its much racier red band version.
This time I was struck by how different Jaws is compared to the sleek, sequel-laden, CGI-driven summer fare of today. Watching a drunken Quint (a thoroughly convincing Robert Shaw) stomp aroundJaws' grimy, pathetic boat — which is a character unto itself — is welcome aesthetic shift from the alienating pixelated mayhem of Thor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Captain America and the like.
Versatile special-effects maestro Shane Mahan knows his summer blockbusters — he's worked with everyone from Steven Spielberg and James Cameron to Tim Burton and Jon Favreau.
"They are the best communicators, and I think they’re also the best visionaries,” Mahan says.
Mahan is something of a visionary himself.
The New York Times published a story Aug. 21 that attempted to dissect why so many established movie stars have failed generate their once-golden numbers at the box office this summer.
Among those mentioned were Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), Eddie Murphy (Imagine That), Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost) and Tom Hanks (Angels and Demons).
Nowhere has that sentiment been more obvious than at the multiplex, where a smattering of offerings have been pretty solid (Bridesmaids, Fast Five, Kung Fu Panda 2, Super 8, X-Men: First Class) and a smorgasbord have been solidly (if not heinously) flawed (Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Green Lantern, The Hangover Part II, Larry Crowne, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, to the pinpoint the most obvious culprits).
We didn’t need the Academy Awards to tell us that Kathryn Bigelow is a really good director — she’s been that for more than 30 years.