3rd Quarter Movie Wrap-Up
I forgot about this, bros. Perhaps because I haven’t seen a lot of the good stuff yet. Here’s what I’ve liked since the last time I wrote one of these.
1. Crazy, Stupid Love- While the reviews were positive enough when the film was released, it seems as if Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s late-summer dramedy is benignly fading away from people’s memory. Some folks have even bidden it good riddance. To me, this is a shame, as it’s a poignant ensemble piece that takes real chances, especially in its third act curveball. While I’ll admit that the ending is cloying, every character is drawn with surprising empathy—redeemed, defamed, and redeemed again—and the picture has the good sense to let the most important moments happen in silence. It’s not perfect; perhaps it’s overstuffed. But with its knot of plot and committed performances, it’s undeniably alive. If I’m the only person to fall for it, so be it.
2. Contagion- With terrifying realism, Contagion charts out the global freakout of a modern pandemic. But its greatest strength is the way the execution of the filmmaking supplements the message. We bounce from country to country and star to star with impunity, as lacking in boundaries as the virus, and the spare economy of Steven Soderbergh’s Red camera cuts through each scene as effectively as it can, multiplying the fear with each scene. While Soderbergh can’t help but play with time—we start on day two and end on day one of the disease—Contagion unfolds with alarming precision. The film feels clinical and removed, but that stance only underscores the dehumanization of its second half, its unflinching portrait of what happens when our basest instincts take over.
3. The Ides of March- This is classic movie-making on a grand, intriguing scale, casting a dirty game for one man’s soul against a vicious presidential run. Evan Rachel Wood, who has quite a streak going, shines with wounded ambivalence, but the real star is the tenacious, unflagging structure of the script. Based on the play Farragut North, it does come off as stagey—but in the best way possible. There are individual moments here with enough conflict and depth that, even if you don’t like the final product, you will experience two or three tense, layered scenes able to stand alone. While I may not always agree with his politics or ride along with his interests, I love that George Clooney, now on his fourth directing effort, shoots the exact, assured film he wants to, all expectations be damned.
4. Page One: Inside the New York Times- More than just a competent documentary that weaves several disparate storylines, Page One serves as a push-comes-to-shove document of the decline and fall of modern journalism. There is not a single moment when the stakes at hand do not feel vital and dangerous, and the whole film is infused with a sort of dreadful hopelessness, no matter how doggedly its subjects try to convince us that everything can be turned around.
5. Submarine- There’s a moment in Submarine, the Welsh bildingsroman, in which our protagonist describes his mother’s dreary job at a place that “makes you provide your own cake on your birthday,” and, sure enough, we get a breakneck cut-away to his mother pathetically presenting a homemade cake to her boss. The shot lasts one second. If you think this fact comes into play later or serves as anything more than idiosyncratic detail, you’d be wrong. The film is actually 90% idiosyncratic detail, delivered with dynamism and doomed elan. At its worst, it feels like it’s made by someone who watched a bunch of Wes Anderson movies with the sound turned off; at its best, it reaches the fully-realized, lived-in quality that makes those efforts so memorable.