Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Some thoughts on movies, 2013

Much like I did last year, I gave myself the goal of seeing 52 movies released this year by December 31st. We've already way passed the halfway mark, and once again I am running behind. I'm in better shape than I was at this time last year, but will have to average two new movies a week for a few weeks before the year ends in order to reach my goal.

The good thing about where I am so far this year, is that I've been pretty picky about the movies I've paid to see in a theater. I haven't hated anything I shelled out my money to see. I have been to some free screenings that I'm glad were free though, because I probably would have been wanting my money back if I'd paid anything to see them. Specifically, The Internship was a very long form commercial for Google, and The Lone Ranger was kind of a mess - better than my waaaaaaaaaaaay lowered expectations, but still a mess.

It's too early to declare my favorites of the year, but I have enjoyed several of the movies I've seen so far, for different reasons. But you know what I've noticed? I don't know if age has jaded me or perhaps I've become even more observant/obsessive as I've gotten older, but it's become harder to enjoy movies unconditionally. Nearly always, there is one thing than ends up kind of bugging me while watching the movie, and that one thing often times bugs me even more after I've had time to think about it. Like the fact that in 2013, the majority of movies still fail the Bechdel test. Or that despite the changing demographics of the U.S., it still feels like most movies are still about and for young white men. I fear I may be becoming a curmudgeon!

One of my favorite movies so far this year was The Spectacular Now, which feeds into my above comment, since it is focused around a young white man. I think I really like it because it reminded me of the teen movies I loved when I actually was an adolescent. It is heartfelt and earnest but still funny and relatable. I've seen a lot of positive reviews for The Spectacular Now, and I agree that it's well acted, with great performances by the leads and a small but powerful part by Kyle Chandler, that is quite a departure from my beloved Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I really liked the movie, and if I had seen it for the first time in my late teens or early 20s, I'm pretty sure it would sit right alongside Say Anything in my list of favorite teen romances - even without the strength of Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes on the soundtrack.

But here is the thing - maybe because I am watching it with the eyes of someone who is closer in age to the parents than the kids who are the leads, maybe because I can imagine seeing this movie as a teen and loving it, maybe because I have very personal reasons for being super sensitive to the subject  - but I had a really big problem with all the drinking and driving in the movie. The lead character, Sutter, is fun and popular and outgoing - and has a flask on him at all times. There are several scenes of him spiking his big cup of soda, and drinking from said cup while driving around town. He's basically a functioning alcoholic, who happens to be senior in high school. I also wished we'd gotten more of the backstory/development of the female characters in the movie, since I found myself wanting to know more about them than about Sutter. His mother, his sister, his love interests...I would have loved a peek into their lives separate and apart from their relationship to him.

I don't want to be spoilery about what happens in the movie, (which is based on a book) because I did really like it, and I want to encourage others to see it. Particularly if you, like me, have a soft spot for John Hughes 80s teen movies, or the aforementioned Say Anything. I'm glad that the movie didn't get all after school special with an over-the-top lesson regarding drinking and driving, but I also wish it didn't make it seem like it was mostly OK either. I guess what I'm saying is - it really bugged me, but it was true to that character, and it's not like he wins a race while drunk or anything, there are some consequences to his actions. But I hope kids don't see it and start to think that driving around town while buzzed would be a fun time. But bottom line: see it, and then tell me if I'm being overly sensitive.

Thankfully fall is around the corner, and there are a ton of movies coming out in the next couple of months I want to see - some I didn't even know about until reading my Entertainment Weekly Fall Movie Preview issue this week. Like the fact that one of my favorite YA books, The Book Thief, has been made into a movie that comes out this year. Why had I not been made aware of that sooner? If it is anywhere near as powerful as the book was, I'm going to have to go into the theater with a whole box of tissues.

But you know what I feel woefully ill-informed of? Good foreign language movies to keep my eye out for. Anyone have any recommendations? I do enjoy reading my way through a movie, and I haven't in a quite awhile. I need to be prepared for awards season - so I can blab on and on about who and what got snubbed, like the movie fan/snob and curmudgeon-in-training I am. :)

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