Films of 2012 Vs. Flicks of 2013: The Current State of The Movies
Is the flame starting to flicker?
2012: The Movies Beckon
For years, my husband and I seldom went to the movies. There just didn’t seem to be a motion picture that was enticing enough to pull us from our comfy chairs and propel us towards a local theater. (You know, those large, modern venues that house a myriad of minuscule tiny theaters and offer gold-plated prices for popcorn and colas so large they’d never make it into New York.) We prided ourselves on the fact that we were so discriminating as far as quality motion pictures was concerned that we deigned to attend only one or two films a year. (We did visit one of those Modern Venues to see Hunger Games, which, we were pleased to discover, was eerily true to the novel we both had enjoyed reading. I must add, however, that we saw that movie on a midweek afternoon, when there were only eight other people in the theater.) Last year, however, all that changed when a new, local arts center offered something of a retro choice: this unique arts venue houses only two theaters under one roof, a welcome change from the cinema conglomerates that replaced neighborhood movie theaters years ago. Not only that, the arts center theaters offer the utmost in comfort and feature (mostly) quality films. Who could ask for more? So we decided to give it a try on a prime time Saturday night.
The first movie we saw at the new arts venue was Argo. We enjoyed that experience so much that we returned a few weeks later, again on a Saturday evening, for a showing of Silver Linings Playbook. As much as Argo had entertained us, Silver Linings blew us away. “Perhaps modern cinema isn’t as bad as we thought,” we ventured. After all, we had not only sat through two movies; we’d even enjoyed them without a glance at our watches, the true test of a flick’s Entertainment Quotient. An added bonus: we had not been forced to wait in long lines for tickets or hock a piece of jewelry in order to purchase a tub of popcorn.
Since we seemed to be on a roll with Positive Experiences At the Cinema, we decided to test the waters back at one of the multifaceted Movie Houses of 2013. Despite our aversion to waiting in a long line outside in the cold, we braved the elements and the outrageous price of movie snacks to go and see the much-touted Lincoln. Our expectations were high, particularly since both of us we are American History buffs. The movie did not let us down. We were particularly impressed with Daniel Day-Lewis’s ability to be Abraham Lincoln. Day-Lewis is as close as it gets to a Theatrical Chameleon, an actor who is able to morph into whatever character he portrays.
What do you think?
In which movie did Bradley Cooper give a stronger performance?
And the Oscar Goes To....
When the 2012 Academy Awards rolled around, we tuned in with baited breath; well, maybe not so much baited, but we certainly watched with far more enthusiasm than we’d felt in, say, thirty years. After all, we had seen most of the movies that had been nominated for the “big” awards. Not only that, we had been so pleased with them that we weren’t quite sure how we would have chosen to bestow the honors. There probably should have been a category for Best Theatrical Chameleon so that someone other than Daniel Day Lewis (Bradley Cooper, perhaps?) would have had a shot at Best Actor. Other than that, we were generally pleased with the choices the Academy made and were pleased that this year, at least, we had been able to make legitimate guesses as to the winners.
A few weeks after we saw Lincoln, we returned to the same theater to view Side Effects. Though the acting was on target.... Rooney Mara is particularly good at playing people who don’t smile.... the verdict is still out as to our assessment of the film. The first half of the movie was confusing and/or misleading. Upon reflection, it became clear that the misleading nature of at least half the movie was purposeful. The premise certainly was clever, but the thriller came just a tad short of Hitchcock quality. It was entertaining, though, and did pass the no-glancing-at-the-watch test.
Bradley Cooper Who?
Then The Place Beyond the Pines was released, and we were pleased to learn that it was playing at the arts center theater. The TV movie trailers that were flashing on our TV screen continued to assure us that this was “Bradley Cooper’s best performance ever.” We were hooked. We just had to see how Cooper could possibly have done more in this role than he’d done in Silver Linings Playbook . I guess we should have taken the trailer for what most movie trailers are: advertisements. Anyway, the Place Beyond the Pines was entertaining but certainly not to the extent that Playbook took the viewer’s- at least this viewer’s- breath away. As far as the Bradley Cooper trailer is concerned... His performance as the police officer in The Place Beyond the Pines didn’t even come close to his rendition of the tormented-but-charming bipolar character he played in Silver Linings Playbook. Yes, The Place Beyond the Pines was entertaining, the plot was cleverly crafted, and the acting was good... not great, but good nonetheless. We weren’t ready to give up yet on The Movies, that fundamentally American form of entertainment that has hypnotized audiences since before we were born. (In other words, for a long time.)
Clues To the State of The Cinema
So... next we went to see The Iceman. The brief synopsis/review that appeared in our local newspaper was encouraging. The other factor that sealed the deal was the fact that the movie ran less than two hours. (Both of us have a problem with sitting in one place for too long. Chalk it up to age, fear of boredom, or a combination of both.) The movie was playing at only one local theater, which made the choice of a theater a no-brainer. Our first clue as to the State of the Modern Theater came as we searched for a box office....you know, a place set aside to purchase tickets. The box office at this particular theater at one time preceded the entrance to the lobby, but the ticket booth seemed to have disappeared. Only after a confused search did we realize that the ticket booth and the concession stand were one and the same: we purchased our tickets from the young man who sold the popcorn. Hmmm. Clue #1?
As we entered the dark cave that was the theater where The Iceman would appear, we had no trouble finding choice seats. There were only four other people in the theater. We were just a few minutes early for the movie, but somehow there was plenty of time for a few commercials plus a plea- complete with a screen filled with noisy, popping corn- to turn off all cell phones. We had somehow forgotten that the “show times” listed in movie ads usually included plenty of time for other things, such as commercials and previews. As more people (about 20 total- clue #2?) wandered into the theater , we were treated to previews of three or four upcoming films, all of which we vowed not to see. The first of these was for the highly-touted flick featuring the father-son duo whose name recognition alone would attract a cadre of viewers. The previews included scary scenes of a futuristic (1,000 years hence) USA devoid of humans, clips of the famed father-son duo who seemed to be in constant danger after landing there, and scenes featuring apes. (I’m not certain if they were friend or foe, but from the looks of it, there didn’t seem to be too many friendly types on the planet.) I’m sure there’s more to the movie- the special effects alone seemed impressive- but I doubt if we’ll learn exactly how much more there is to the movie.
The next preview was for a comedy about two “older” men ( keep in mind that the term “older” is a relative term) who compete with a cadre of “youngsters” (early twenty-somethings?) for a job at Google. At least this one was relevant to our technology-oriented society. Had we been keeping track of clues as to the current state of The Moves (and obviously, I did end up doing just that), the third preview would have screamed CLUE #3. The premise of that one, as the trailer screeched, was: Imagine a world where, for 12 hours a year, law enforcement took a holiday. That was clue enough in itself, but the preview that follow sealed the deal. Not only would we not be making plans to see that movie; I was poised on the edge of my seat, ready to leave the theater immediately after being exposed to the preview. (You can probably understand, then, why I can’t remember the fourth preview.)
Somehow, I was able to hang on until The Iceman (finally) began. Despite the fact that the plot- based on a true story- revolved around a paid assassin who killed more than 100 people during the course of his career, the movie was tastefully done. The focus was on the personality- or lack thereof- of the main character, Joseph Kuklinski, and on the incredible fact that his wife and children knew nothing of his dark side. In fact, there seemed to be less violence throughout that entire movie than there was in the previews for the one that featured twelve hours of lawlessness. (One of the reviews for that movie did mention that it was intended as a satire on the current state of affairs in the USA. I should hope, though, that there would be far more creative, less violent ways to do that type of satire.)
So What, Exactly, Is The Verdict?
After the appalling choice of current movies that appeared in the trailers preceding The Iceman, we were in no hurry to return to the theater. Any theater. Two of our favorite kids, however, had other ideas. They just had to see Monsters University. So off we went. We began to get some bad vibes when the previews were followed by a very short, artsy feature called The Blue Umbrella. Brief summary: The setting is a very rainy day in a big city. The main characters are umbrellas. Really. Umbrellas. The plot involves a blue umbrella falling in love with a red umbrella. Despite tremendous odds (wind, rain, traffic, etc.), love prevails, and the two umbrellas, along with their human owners, end up together. I'm sure there are all kinds of lessons inherit in this little film (in addition to the obvious), particularly since it served as a prelude to the G-rated main feature. All I can say is, it did beat the trailers that appeared when we went to see The Iceman. Of course, it wouldn't have taken much to do that.
Fortunately, The Blue Umbrella was short. Once Monsters University had begun, it didn't take long to convince us that not all current movies are designed as precursors to or sequels of The Apocalypse. It's a shame, though, that many of the current movies that do offer messages of encouragement are designed for children... as if encouragement and hope are something of a fairy tale.