Monday, January 26, 2009

girl on film: "buzz" season

For the past year I've been in a serious movie void. Now that I'm back in "finding Meghan" mode, I've been trying to get back to one of my favorite places -- the movie theatre.

Yeah it's expensive, and yes DVD technology and online streaming make it easy to catch up at home, but I am definitely in the group that will argue that there's nothing like watching a film on the "big screen" and sharing that experience with others.

I previously mentioned my experience at the Milwaukee Film screening of American Movie, but in addition to seeing "classic" flicks, I caught up on three "buzz" movies last weekend and tonight.

First, I saw the "it" movie of the season Slumdog Millionaire at the Downer Theatre. The cards were stacked against me liking this.

A) I should've seen it before my big trip to India
B) I should've seen it before all the hype
C) I should've seen it not knowing Danny Boyle's potential to make good movies, like Trainspotting
D) I should've seen it not being a complete film geek who's grown extremely disdainful of contrived love stories ever since she watched Titanic multiple times as a teen.

I mean, the movie wasn't horrible, but it wasn't mind-blowingly good. It was overly predictable. The destined lovers were also 18 YEARS OLD, which made me want to puke a little. Yeah, the hardships of India were accurately portrayed, but I can see a much grittier version in Salaam Bombay! or a host of documentaries, including the standout Born Into Brothels. But mainstream movies aren't made for me, they're made for the idiots who buy the extra large popcorn with refills.

Next, I saw Milk at the Oriental Theatre. I didn't think the film cut too much new ground as far as biopics went, but of course being Sean Penn, the acting was phenomenal. The focus on the gay rights movement was really interesting, as was the implication that the antagonist, well-played by Josh Brolin was possibly a closeted self-loather. Overall I liked it better than Slumdog, because it didn't underestimate me as a filmgoer as much, but at the same time it didn't blow my mind.

After the Oscar Best Picture nominations came out this week, I began to hope that Benjamin Button, The Reader and Frost/Nixon are worth it. Apart from The Reader though, I hadn't really heard phenomenal things. I wondered, can a good movie even get attention these days?

Then I saw The Wrestler tonight at the Oriental. And now I'm PISSED.

Yes this movie is getting "mainstream" attention for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei's acting, and rightfully so, but there's more to it then that. Milk and Slumdog should both be bumped from the nominations list for this sorely overlooked film. This movie did not underestimate its audience AT ALL. It RESPECTED the audience. It actually developed characters, versus just giving a nice sketch of them. They were human. Like other Darren Aronofsky movies there was a scene that made me squirm, then curl up, then cover my eyes (not just think "oh that kid's covered in poop, eeew" or "oh will those adorable children (who've we've already seen as healthy adults) escape that bad man with the acid"). Most of all (gasp!) there were LOTS of questions left unanswered. It all didn't miraculously come together all happy (or sad) at the end. It ended in the perfect spot that an intelligent movie should end.

It made me love movies again.

And it made me hate what passes for "movies."


  1. I completely agree with your take on those movies, especially The Wrestler. No other movie locked me into the characters like it did. The whole thing just felt real and gritty.

    I hated Benjamin Button, thought Slumdog was solid, but not nearly what it's being talked up as.

    Which scene made you squirm more? The deli slicer or the staple gun? I think I'm going with deli slicer.

  2. UH OH. WE are that guy that buys the super-chubby sized (free refills!) popcorn and giant-ass soda. Sorry.

    Tell me you saw Gran Torino. I might hold off on Slumdog until my Blockbuster subscription can catch up with it, but I do want to see Milk and Frost/Nixon in the theatres (probably the $3 theatre). Also, now I'm intrigued by The Wrestler. Hmmm...


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