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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Dir: David Fincher
David Fincher has inspired cult like devotion in every serious fan of film, except for me. Right, give me a cookie or whatever, cross stitch my name on a pillow, I have the internet based syndrome of being a special snowflake when it comes to my tastes. That is, of course, true to an extent. Fincher makes good movies, sometimes he makes borderline great ones but of late he’s become a name that film students can drop into a conversation to make people who only casually go to the movies gape at them in wonder. I imagine this must have been what it was like for Godard in the 60s.
Fincher knows how to make a good movie. He released one last year, one that I thought I would hate and ended up falling totally in love with: The Social Network. What an excellent film that was! He’s made other excellent films too: remember Zodiac? Hot damn that’s a long, slow burn of a film but man if it isn’t satisfying, like a seven course meal but printed and projected in front of you for nearly three hours. Fight Club? Well that’s a time capsule movie if there ever was one, from a point in all of our lives when we thought Chuck Palahniuk might have something important to say. He’s made some great movies. This isn’t one of them, and it isn’t because no one bought the director a color wheel for Christmas like I begged the internet to. Nope, it was the story itself that was troublesome. Everything else could have been solved through an act of bravery that wouldn’t become Fincher in the least: actually leaving something on the cutting room floor.
The blues and the yellows (and in this one a delightful gray color) that have become a Fincher trademark suit the overall tone of the film. That tone is one of intense boredom and disinterest by pretty much everyone involved (except, wonderfully, from Stellan Skarsgard). For a film that’s based on a global bestseller (which I haven’t read) it makes me really lose faith in the collective taste of…well…the world. This is entertaining? This isn’t entertainment, it’s lazy. The whole affair was horribly lazy and that made the film’s pacing (a languishing two and a half hours) seem even more drawn out and for ridiculous reasons. Why, well because narratively the characters must be built from the ground up…and then the absolute laziest thing in the world happens.
Mikael Blomkvist is involved in some kind of journalism scandal, very white collar, very intriguing and empowering. Very…respectable. Lisbeth Salander on the other hand, like all women who need to be broken because the story demands it, is raped. When she fights back from her rape it is brutal, to be sure. If one squints at that, it’s empowering in a burning bed sort of way. From a story telling standpoint, it’s a shortcut, and it’s downright depressing. This is the way we have to understand a strong woman, through tragedy, through a systematic breaking down of a character. Women have to be beaten to rise up, men merely have to be found out. Blomkvist gets redemption through work, Salander gets revenge through violence. The fundamental difference between the way these two characters get shown as broken to the audience is offensive. For my money a more in your face kind of female character is Melissa McCarthy’s unapologetic Megan in Bridesmaids who is comfortable in her sexuality enough to hit on someone. There is nothing threatening about Salander: if anything she is standard. We can accept a victim as our hero, but break her first.
Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth is underwhelming. Yeah, I said it. For some reason after spending maybe 15 minutes being featured in last year’s The Social Network she has been anointed the great hope for young actresses. It is beyond me to figure out why. Daniel Craig as Blomkvist has a few shining moments of being not tiresome, but none of those happen when he’s sharing the screen with Mara. Their lack of chemistry even as partners is astounding. It might be the only truly jaw dropping thing about this movie. Skarsgard takes visible pleasure in flexing some of his more Hopkins-as-Hannibal-Lector acting muscles and for the time he was on screen he was the only saving grace of the film.
In all honesty, treatment of the characters aside, this film’s cardinal sin was that it was boring and poorly paced. Some lesser sins? The intrusive score that should have been done by The Chemical Brothers rather than Atticus and Reznor doing their best Chemical Brothers impression and the ridiculous opening credits that only served to remind the audience that once David Fincher directed Fight Club and wasn’t that pretty cool?
See it if you want, I can’t stop you. I couldn’t even stop myself. But know this first: this is a standard crime movie being marketed as something remarkable. The only thing remarkable is how we’ve all been fooled into thinking this is okay.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Dir: David Fincher

David Fincher has inspired cult like devotion in every serious fan of film, except for me. Right, give me a cookie or whatever, cross stitch my name on a pillow, I have the internet based syndrome of being a special snowflake when it comes to my tastes. That is, of course, true to an extent. Fincher makes good movies, sometimes he makes borderline great ones but of late he’s become a name that film students can drop into a conversation to make people who only casually go to the movies gape at them in wonder. I imagine this must have been what it was like for Godard in the 60s.

Fincher knows how to make a good movie. He released one last year, one that I thought I would hate and ended up falling totally in love with: The Social Network. What an excellent film that was! He’s made other excellent films too: remember Zodiac? Hot damn that’s a long, slow burn of a film but man if it isn’t satisfying, like a seven course meal but printed and projected in front of you for nearly three hours. Fight Club? Well that’s a time capsule movie if there ever was one, from a point in all of our lives when we thought Chuck Palahniuk might have something important to say. He’s made some great movies. This isn’t one of them, and it isn’t because no one bought the director a color wheel for Christmas like I begged the internet to. Nope, it was the story itself that was troublesome. Everything else could have been solved through an act of bravery that wouldn’t become Fincher in the least: actually leaving something on the cutting room floor.

The blues and the yellows (and in this one a delightful gray color) that have become a Fincher trademark suit the overall tone of the film. That tone is one of intense boredom and disinterest by pretty much everyone involved (except, wonderfully, from Stellan Skarsgard). For a film that’s based on a global bestseller (which I haven’t read) it makes me really lose faith in the collective taste of…well…the world. This is entertaining? This isn’t entertainment, it’s lazy. The whole affair was horribly lazy and that made the film’s pacing (a languishing two and a half hours) seem even more drawn out and for ridiculous reasons. Why, well because narratively the characters must be built from the ground up…and then the absolute laziest thing in the world happens.

Mikael Blomkvist is involved in some kind of journalism scandal, very white collar, very intriguing and empowering. Very…respectable. Lisbeth Salander on the other hand, like all women who need to be broken because the story demands it, is raped. When she fights back from her rape it is brutal, to be sure. If one squints at that, it’s empowering in a burning bed sort of way. From a story telling standpoint, it’s a shortcut, and it’s downright depressing. This is the way we have to understand a strong woman, through tragedy, through a systematic breaking down of a character. Women have to be beaten to rise up, men merely have to be found out. Blomkvist gets redemption through work, Salander gets revenge through violence. The fundamental difference between the way these two characters get shown as broken to the audience is offensive. For my money a more in your face kind of female character is Melissa McCarthy’s unapologetic Megan in Bridesmaids who is comfortable in her sexuality enough to hit on someone. There is nothing threatening about Salander: if anything she is standard. We can accept a victim as our hero, but break her first.

Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth is underwhelming. Yeah, I said it. For some reason after spending maybe 15 minutes being featured in last year’s The Social Network she has been anointed the great hope for young actresses. It is beyond me to figure out why. Daniel Craig as Blomkvist has a few shining moments of being not tiresome, but none of those happen when he’s sharing the screen with Mara. Their lack of chemistry even as partners is astounding. It might be the only truly jaw dropping thing about this movie. Skarsgard takes visible pleasure in flexing some of his more Hopkins-as-Hannibal-Lector acting muscles and for the time he was on screen he was the only saving grace of the film.

In all honesty, treatment of the characters aside, this film’s cardinal sin was that it was boring and poorly paced. Some lesser sins? The intrusive score that should have been done by The Chemical Brothers rather than Atticus and Reznor doing their best Chemical Brothers impression and the ridiculous opening credits that only served to remind the audience that once David Fincher directed Fight Club and wasn’t that pretty cool?

See it if you want, I can’t stop you. I couldn’t even stop myself. But know this first: this is a standard crime movie being marketed as something remarkable. The only thing remarkable is how we’ve all been fooled into thinking this is okay.

We bought a domain name!

Forgive the cheap reference, I could not resist.

The fact of the matter is that as of the first of the year, my blah blahs will be moving from their home on tumblr to Wordpress, a platform that I think will be better to facilitate some discussion between myself and anyone who is reading. Also their tagging feature is a little more reliable, and embedded media is less of a pain. All in all, I think it’s the best move.

So! I hope you’ll follow me from here to matineetomidnight.com, my new home in 2012. Also I love you and I hope you’ll stay.

We Bought A Zoo
Dir: Cameron Crowe
I admire a lot of things about the movies, but I think the most admirable quality a movie can have is dedication. People ask me why I go to see movies that are terrible on purpose: it’s because a lot of the time there is a moment maybe midway through the film where you can see the actors, everyone involved really, commit to the fact that they’re making a terrible movie. Look at Anthony Hopkins in The Rite, or anything else he’s been in since Red Dragon, he commits. This movie didn’t commit to anything, not even mediocrity (though it stumbles there anyway). I would have had a lot more respect for it as a film if it went ahead and committed to either being a zany movie with a cast of one note characters (“Put a monkey on Patrick Fugit’s shoulder. That’s what his character does.” -Cameron Crowe, probably.) or a family drama about getting over the death of a loved one. This movie tries to be both and manages neither. To put it politely, it’s a mess.
Matt Damon bless him, tries his best with face acting in this movie but would have done well to consult Ben Affleck about how that’s supposed to look. Damon’s best roles are when he gets to be stoic: Jason Bourne, the dude from The Good Shepard (a film I will defend tooth and nail okay, one of Mattie’s better performances), Linus in the Ocean’s films. This movie he had to do things like cry and relate to other human beings without shooting them and the whole affair comes apart at the seams, especially towards the end. He’s good with the kids, you can tell he’s drawing a lot on his own experiences as a father when you watch him with the little girl. But all of the relatability in the world can’t save a character when he’s drowning under the confusion of the plot.
It’s impossible to tell you something you don’t already know about this movie. It’s being touted as heartwarming, so you know it ends well. It’s rated PG so there’s nothing violent or sexy (Matt Damon in jeans, cable knit sweaters, and glasses at 41 is still violently sexy, but I digress). So when I tell you there is a fantasy sequence in which Benjamin (never Ben, always Benjamin) imagines his dead wife and children playing in a field while he sits at his PAINFULLY LOVINGLY PHOTOGRAPHED iMac and cries your reaction would be…? To cry? To laugh? I did the latter because I heard people doing the former and I’m heartless and I’m sorry.
My heart has been warmed a few times at the movies, more than a few times I’m not ashamed to admit. I’m not impervious to feeling. It’s just that the weirder things on screen hit me right between the ribs. I find realism heartwarming. I found The Descendants to be tremendously heartwarming because it was realistic in the core relationship: between the husband and the dying wife. The wife in this film already being dead and everyone being in a period of mourning during the course of the action forces the audience to only see the relationship through the good times, not when things became rough. Pedestals to me are not heartwarming, they’re convenient plot devices to automatically endear the young precocious characters to the audience. It’s the same problem I had with Super 8. Kill a parent, love a character? It’s cheap and it’s insulting.
To paint myself as even more horrendous of a human being this Christmas, this film was based on a true story. So yeah, Benjamin Mee’s wife did die. But did she die in a gauzy meadow, and did he stare at his iMac at a terrible, J.J. Abrams-esque photo of her with a big lens flare right over her eye and cry? I’m willing to bet not. The artistic license taken in this movie I cannot comment on because I didn’t read the book. What I can tell you is that the soundtrack deserved a better movie (Cat Stevens in general always deserves better unless you’re Harold and Maude). Most of the actors involved deserved a better movie, and at Christmas you, dear reader, deserve a better movie. Save it for DVD, take a drink every time someone says the title, and enjoy yourself. 

We Bought A Zoo

Dir: Cameron Crowe

I admire a lot of things about the movies, but I think the most admirable quality a movie can have is dedication. People ask me why I go to see movies that are terrible on purpose: it’s because a lot of the time there is a moment maybe midway through the film where you can see the actors, everyone involved really, commit to the fact that they’re making a terrible movie. Look at Anthony Hopkins in The Rite, or anything else he’s been in since Red Dragon, he commits. This movie didn’t commit to anything, not even mediocrity (though it stumbles there anyway). I would have had a lot more respect for it as a film if it went ahead and committed to either being a zany movie with a cast of one note characters (“Put a monkey on Patrick Fugit’s shoulder. That’s what his character does.” -Cameron Crowe, probably.) or a family drama about getting over the death of a loved one. This movie tries to be both and manages neither. To put it politely, it’s a mess.

Matt Damon bless him, tries his best with face acting in this movie but would have done well to consult Ben Affleck about how that’s supposed to look. Damon’s best roles are when he gets to be stoic: Jason Bourne, the dude from The Good Shepard (a film I will defend tooth and nail okay, one of Mattie’s better performances), Linus in the Ocean’s films. This movie he had to do things like cry and relate to other human beings without shooting them and the whole affair comes apart at the seams, especially towards the end. He’s good with the kids, you can tell he’s drawing a lot on his own experiences as a father when you watch him with the little girl. But all of the relatability in the world can’t save a character when he’s drowning under the confusion of the plot.

It’s impossible to tell you something you don’t already know about this movie. It’s being touted as heartwarming, so you know it ends well. It’s rated PG so there’s nothing violent or sexy (Matt Damon in jeans, cable knit sweaters, and glasses at 41 is still violently sexy, but I digress). So when I tell you there is a fantasy sequence in which Benjamin (never Ben, always Benjamin) imagines his dead wife and children playing in a field while he sits at his PAINFULLY LOVINGLY PHOTOGRAPHED iMac and cries your reaction would be…? To cry? To laugh? I did the latter because I heard people doing the former and I’m heartless and I’m sorry.

My heart has been warmed a few times at the movies, more than a few times I’m not ashamed to admit. I’m not impervious to feeling. It’s just that the weirder things on screen hit me right between the ribs. I find realism heartwarming. I found The Descendants to be tremendously heartwarming because it was realistic in the core relationship: between the husband and the dying wife. The wife in this film already being dead and everyone being in a period of mourning during the course of the action forces the audience to only see the relationship through the good times, not when things became rough. Pedestals to me are not heartwarming, they’re convenient plot devices to automatically endear the young precocious characters to the audience. It’s the same problem I had with Super 8. Kill a parent, love a character? It’s cheap and it’s insulting.

To paint myself as even more horrendous of a human being this Christmas, this film was based on a true story. So yeah, Benjamin Mee’s wife did die. But did she die in a gauzy meadow, and did he stare at his iMac at a terrible, J.J. Abrams-esque photo of her with a big lens flare right over her eye and cry? I’m willing to bet not. The artistic license taken in this movie I cannot comment on because I didn’t read the book. What I can tell you is that the soundtrack deserved a better movie (Cat Stevens in general always deserves better unless you’re Harold and Maude). Most of the actors involved deserved a better movie, and at Christmas you, dear reader, deserve a better movie. Save it for DVD, take a drink every time someone says the title, and enjoy yourself. 

Young Adult
Dir: Jason Reitman
Mavis Gary is not a likable character. She’s bonkers, mean spirited, thoughtless, self centered, and above all else selfish. She doesn’t care who she hurts or who likes her or doesn’t. One gets the sense that the world could be on fire around her and as long as she wasn’t burning, she wouldn’t care. Nope, Mavis Gary is entirely unlikable.
I really liked Mavis Gary. I liked her as the hero of this story precisely because of how unapologetic she is. When the story has kicked her around enough that she shows emotion it’s uncomfortable, out of character, borderline awkward. The fact that she’s so obstinate, so believing in her self worth appealed to me on a really visceral level. I think it’s because…in some weird way…I identified with her.
That’s a horrible conclusion to come to. I don’t see a lot of myself in Mavis, let me be clear. Frankly, most of the reason why I don’t see it is because Charlize Theron is absurdly gorgeous and I’m…well I don’t look like her, let’s be diplomatic and say none of us really look like her (some bear less of a resemblance than others). What I do understand is wanting something so badly that maybe the stars are in your eyes a little bit too much and signals get misread.
I don’t think any of us, myself included, have been as delusional as Mavis is. But there is a point that I think anyone who has been in an unrequited situation can point at and say “Yes, that’s exactly it. Yes.” Buddy (played by Patrick Wilson, who should get back to Broadway but with this has redeemed himself for Insidious) pays Mavis a compliment. It’s something simple, something like, “Well, it’s his loss.” Her entire demeanor changes. She smiles, becomes softer somehow. This is a testament to Theron’s likability that she can convey that universal validation of getting a compliment from a boy you like through so unlikable a conduit.
There is no way to gracefully segue into a new paragraph about someone I so unilaterally love as Patton Oswalt so I’m just going to jump in. That man can make me cry laughing and, let’s be perfectly honest, I pepper my day to day speech with his wit so I can weed out cool people who get references and gain friends (fans?) who think I’m TERRIBLY funny if they don’t realize I’m quoting. But. BUT! He is also the film’s emotional center as Matt, a man who has had genuinely bad luck and is doing the best he can. He counters Mavis’s charmed life and road to absolute destruction. He’s the film’s heart, and an absolute joy to watch. This isn’t just my bias talking. I’m sure other people who don’t think he’s funny love him too. He’s just a lovable dude.
Diablo Cody writes her first script filled with words that people actually might say in a real life situation! It’s…astounding, and really quite good. If this is the style that she’s going to move forward in, then perhaps I might have to tone down my across the board hatred of her writing. Reitman is an unobtrusive director (I’m proud to say I’ve seen all of his feature films!) and remains so here. The use of diegetic music-especially over the opening credits-is wonderful and worthy of special attention.
I can’t half ass this recommendation: I think this movie is pretty important. Everything really came together, and in my (not so esteemed anywhere outside of the internet, and probably not even there very much) opinion, it’s one of the best movies of the year.

Young Adult

Dir: Jason Reitman

Mavis Gary is not a likable character. She’s bonkers, mean spirited, thoughtless, self centered, and above all else selfish. She doesn’t care who she hurts or who likes her or doesn’t. One gets the sense that the world could be on fire around her and as long as she wasn’t burning, she wouldn’t care. Nope, Mavis Gary is entirely unlikable.

I really liked Mavis Gary. I liked her as the hero of this story precisely because of how unapologetic she is. When the story has kicked her around enough that she shows emotion it’s uncomfortable, out of character, borderline awkward. The fact that she’s so obstinate, so believing in her self worth appealed to me on a really visceral level. I think it’s because…in some weird way…I identified with her.

That’s a horrible conclusion to come to. I don’t see a lot of myself in Mavis, let me be clear. Frankly, most of the reason why I don’t see it is because Charlize Theron is absurdly gorgeous and I’m…well I don’t look like her, let’s be diplomatic and say none of us really look like her (some bear less of a resemblance than others). What I do understand is wanting something so badly that maybe the stars are in your eyes a little bit too much and signals get misread.

I don’t think any of us, myself included, have been as delusional as Mavis is. But there is a point that I think anyone who has been in an unrequited situation can point at and say “Yes, that’s exactly it. Yes.” Buddy (played by Patrick Wilson, who should get back to Broadway but with this has redeemed himself for Insidious) pays Mavis a compliment. It’s something simple, something like, “Well, it’s his loss.” Her entire demeanor changes. She smiles, becomes softer somehow. This is a testament to Theron’s likability that she can convey that universal validation of getting a compliment from a boy you like through so unlikable a conduit.

There is no way to gracefully segue into a new paragraph about someone I so unilaterally love as Patton Oswalt so I’m just going to jump in. That man can make me cry laughing and, let’s be perfectly honest, I pepper my day to day speech with his wit so I can weed out cool people who get references and gain friends (fans?) who think I’m TERRIBLY funny if they don’t realize I’m quoting. But. BUT! He is also the film’s emotional center as Matt, a man who has had genuinely bad luck and is doing the best he can. He counters Mavis’s charmed life and road to absolute destruction. He’s the film’s heart, and an absolute joy to watch. This isn’t just my bias talking. I’m sure other people who don’t think he’s funny love him too. He’s just a lovable dude.

Diablo Cody writes her first script filled with words that people actually might say in a real life situation! It’s…astounding, and really quite good. If this is the style that she’s going to move forward in, then perhaps I might have to tone down my across the board hatred of her writing. Reitman is an unobtrusive director (I’m proud to say I’ve seen all of his feature films!) and remains so here. The use of diegetic music-especially over the opening credits-is wonderful and worthy of special attention.

I can’t half ass this recommendation: I think this movie is pretty important. Everything really came together, and in my (not so esteemed anywhere outside of the internet, and probably not even there very much) opinion, it’s one of the best movies of the year.

The Descendants
Dir: Alexander Payne
This is a film about family, about loss and grief and regret. It’s about the ties that bind and those that collapse completely. It’s about learning and love and happiness and the beautiful Hawaiian scenery and Beau Bridges taking roles that his brother was clearly too busy being in Tron to play. But, most especially, it is about the particular sadness and symbolism of an old man in knee socks and sandals in paradise.
We all know that the star of the movie is George Clooney and it was fantastic to see him so something with a role rather than walk through it (Ides of March, which I totally get because he was directing too) but Robert Forster steals the show as the father-in-law, totally devoted to his comatose daughter. And, you know I probably am putting too much thought into this costume choice. But there is something undeniable about this grief stricken man, ambling away from the table where the ever dashing George Clooney and his put together (even in anger and grief) older daughter played by Shailene Woodley sit with bare feet with his feet entirely covered up to his knees, and sandals over that to boot. This man doesn’t want to get his feet dirty. This man is sensible to the point of ridiculousness, and his willingness to believe the best about his daughter despite all signs pointing to the contrary became the emotional center of the film.
I think that’s where Payne’s brilliance comes through in this film. I should go back and rewatch Sideways, which I saw when I thought I knew everything about film (when I was 16) and I totally hated. I thought it was…I don’t know. I expected more. With this effort though we see a mature filmmaker working with mature actors who are able to find both the quiet sadness and absurdness in living and most especially, death and the process of dying. Death, despite happening off screen, is something that isn’t shied away from. No darkened corners or sad stringed music cues. Instead there is the double sided sadness and absurdity at play where Clooney’s Matt gets out every grievance with his wife: shouting, cursing, throwing a teddy bear…all cut with the non reactive reaction of his wife lying prone on a bed. Contrast that with his last conversation with her and the emotional punch of the film continues.
Finally, and I almost can’t believe this is something that I’m going to write about in all seriousness, but as someone who likes to pick apart almost everything about films I both love and loathe in equal measure (and have recently been called out as an asshole about it with, I think, a good deal of affection) I have to point it out. There are 3 clear acts to this film, with a curtain call before the credits. Two fades to black and a burn to white. A BURN TO WHITE. I really love burns to white, and they don’t happen often. A burn to white is a hopeful thing, and while this isn’t the best use of it I’ve ever seen (that honor goes to Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) it’s still incredibly effective and it warmed my heart to see it.
Thematically, the only movie that is going to come close to this (in sort of a Dante’s Peak/Volcano type of situation) will be We Bought A Zoo, but instead of realistic emotion it’s going to rely on saccharine sweetness and Matt Damon’s admittedly attractive earnest face and ZANY ANIMAL ADVENTURES. This has none of that. It’s a geuninely good movie with a pure intent: it makes you feel. Because of that, I don’t care about its chances for prestige too much. (Clooney is a lock for a Globe nomination I HAD TO SAY IT SORRY.) I just want you to see it, and feel too.
(Blogger’s note: I’m thankful for you, whoever is reading this. I’m thankful for you taking the time to read my words and my mind boggles that you want to. Whether you’ve been reading my writing since the start or just followed me I am forever grateful for your time. —SL)

The Descendants

Dir: Alexander Payne

This is a film about family, about loss and grief and regret. It’s about the ties that bind and those that collapse completely. It’s about learning and love and happiness and the beautiful Hawaiian scenery and Beau Bridges taking roles that his brother was clearly too busy being in Tron to play. But, most especially, it is about the particular sadness and symbolism of an old man in knee socks and sandals in paradise.

We all know that the star of the movie is George Clooney and it was fantastic to see him so something with a role rather than walk through it (Ides of March, which I totally get because he was directing too) but Robert Forster steals the show as the father-in-law, totally devoted to his comatose daughter. And, you know I probably am putting too much thought into this costume choice. But there is something undeniable about this grief stricken man, ambling away from the table where the ever dashing George Clooney and his put together (even in anger and grief) older daughter played by Shailene Woodley sit with bare feet with his feet entirely covered up to his knees, and sandals over that to boot. This man doesn’t want to get his feet dirty. This man is sensible to the point of ridiculousness, and his willingness to believe the best about his daughter despite all signs pointing to the contrary became the emotional center of the film.

I think that’s where Payne’s brilliance comes through in this film. I should go back and rewatch Sideways, which I saw when I thought I knew everything about film (when I was 16) and I totally hated. I thought it was…I don’t know. I expected more. With this effort though we see a mature filmmaker working with mature actors who are able to find both the quiet sadness and absurdness in living and most especially, death and the process of dying. Death, despite happening off screen, is something that isn’t shied away from. No darkened corners or sad stringed music cues. Instead there is the double sided sadness and absurdity at play where Clooney’s Matt gets out every grievance with his wife: shouting, cursing, throwing a teddy bear…all cut with the non reactive reaction of his wife lying prone on a bed. Contrast that with his last conversation with her and the emotional punch of the film continues.

Finally, and I almost can’t believe this is something that I’m going to write about in all seriousness, but as someone who likes to pick apart almost everything about films I both love and loathe in equal measure (and have recently been called out as an asshole about it with, I think, a good deal of affection) I have to point it out. There are 3 clear acts to this film, with a curtain call before the credits. Two fades to black and a burn to white. A BURN TO WHITE. I really love burns to white, and they don’t happen often. A burn to white is a hopeful thing, and while this isn’t the best use of it I’ve ever seen (that honor goes to Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) it’s still incredibly effective and it warmed my heart to see it.

Thematically, the only movie that is going to come close to this (in sort of a Dante’s Peak/Volcano type of situation) will be We Bought A Zoo, but instead of realistic emotion it’s going to rely on saccharine sweetness and Matt Damon’s admittedly attractive earnest face and ZANY ANIMAL ADVENTURES. This has none of that. It’s a geuninely good movie with a pure intent: it makes you feel. Because of that, I don’t care about its chances for prestige too much. (Clooney is a lock for a Globe nomination I HAD TO SAY IT SORRY.) I just want you to see it, and feel too.

(Blogger’s note: I’m thankful for you, whoever is reading this. I’m thankful for you taking the time to read my words and my mind boggles that you want to. Whether you’ve been reading my writing since the start or just followed me I am forever grateful for your time. —SL)

J. Edgar
Dir: Clint Eastwood
Listen up nerds, I’m about to drop some science on your film loving face.
J. Edgar is not a good movie, but J. Edgar is going to get nominated for a boatload of Oscars and then I’m going to set my face on fire.
I have never wanted to be wrong more in my life, as I like my face and would prefer not to have to set it aflame based on something I wrote months earlier. But the fact of the matter is that Clint Eastwood is a very, very old man who has a tremendous amount of goodwill behind him at the Academy. He’s a sentimental favorite very simply because no one knows how many more times they’re going to be able to nominate him. A morbid thought, but one that I’m willing to stand up for especially since many in the critical community considered the snubs for Gran Torino to be egregious. A best director nomination is imminent because of course it is, though if he got nominated for best score I would not complain. You know what I would complain about? Leonardo DiCaprio getting nominated for and subsequently winning an Academy Award for the role of J. Edgar Hoover.
Put away your pitchforks and snuff out your torches because it’s not like I have a hate boner for the man. In fact I think he’s getting better as he goes on. I may or may not think that he peaked in The Departed (I do), but he’s put in some solid work since then, namely Revolutionary Road. This was not one of his better efforts, and I can tell you exactly why: he is so focused on keeping that ridiculous speech affectation that the emotional intensity behind the lines is lost. His physicality is lost. Everything is lost because he’s trying so hard to act through his mouth that he forgets to act with everything else. Now, I’m not saying that J. Edgar Hoover’s voice isn’t important. He’s an iconic figure with an iconic voice. But I am also of the mindset that if an accent isn’t working, don’t fucking do an accent. Leo DiCaprio can do a lot of things well: he’s a great drug addict, morally ambigious cop, and mentally handicapped son of a morbidly obese lady. He can adequately pull of Shakespeare and be the slightly effeminate romantic lead. He cannot now, nor has he ever been, able to do voices. When asked, his whole performance goes by the wayside in deference to the voice and it took me right out of the whole picture.
Up against this non-performance, Armie Hammer comes out smelling like a rose, conveying the most subtle emotions through a quirk of his lips or a knowing look. Clyde’s love for Edgar is tangible from start to finish, and his performance was an anchor in an otherwise wildly uneven picture that could not even be saved by Dame Judi Dench and Naomi Watts, two actors of the highest calliber that were wildly wasted in this film. Talented character actors Stephen Root and Dennis O’Hare (MY BELOVED LARRY! MY SWEET KING OF LOUISIANA!) were pleasant surprises, but not anywhere near enough to keep my interest.
A dark, disappointing, confusingly edited mess of a film, I’d only recommend it if you have a strong background in knowing Hoover’s politics and personal life. I went in knowing nothing, and I left feeling like I know even less.

J. Edgar

Dir: Clint Eastwood

Listen up nerds, I’m about to drop some science on your film loving face.

J. Edgar is not a good movie, but J. Edgar is going to get nominated for a boatload of Oscars and then I’m going to set my face on fire.

I have never wanted to be wrong more in my life, as I like my face and would prefer not to have to set it aflame based on something I wrote months earlier. But the fact of the matter is that Clint Eastwood is a very, very old man who has a tremendous amount of goodwill behind him at the Academy. He’s a sentimental favorite very simply because no one knows how many more times they’re going to be able to nominate him. A morbid thought, but one that I’m willing to stand up for especially since many in the critical community considered the snubs for Gran Torino to be egregious. A best director nomination is imminent because of course it is, though if he got nominated for best score I would not complain. You know what I would complain about? Leonardo DiCaprio getting nominated for and subsequently winning an Academy Award for the role of J. Edgar Hoover.

Put away your pitchforks and snuff out your torches because it’s not like I have a hate boner for the man. In fact I think he’s getting better as he goes on. I may or may not think that he peaked in The Departed (I do), but he’s put in some solid work since then, namely Revolutionary Road. This was not one of his better efforts, and I can tell you exactly why: he is so focused on keeping that ridiculous speech affectation that the emotional intensity behind the lines is lost. His physicality is lost. Everything is lost because he’s trying so hard to act through his mouth that he forgets to act with everything else. Now, I’m not saying that J. Edgar Hoover’s voice isn’t important. He’s an iconic figure with an iconic voice. But I am also of the mindset that if an accent isn’t working, don’t fucking do an accent. Leo DiCaprio can do a lot of things well: he’s a great drug addict, morally ambigious cop, and mentally handicapped son of a morbidly obese lady. He can adequately pull of Shakespeare and be the slightly effeminate romantic lead. He cannot now, nor has he ever been, able to do voices. When asked, his whole performance goes by the wayside in deference to the voice and it took me right out of the whole picture.

Up against this non-performance, Armie Hammer comes out smelling like a rose, conveying the most subtle emotions through a quirk of his lips or a knowing look. Clyde’s love for Edgar is tangible from start to finish, and his performance was an anchor in an otherwise wildly uneven picture that could not even be saved by Dame Judi Dench and Naomi Watts, two actors of the highest calliber that were wildly wasted in this film. Talented character actors Stephen Root and Dennis O’Hare (MY BELOVED LARRY! MY SWEET KING OF LOUISIANA!) were pleasant surprises, but not anywhere near enough to keep my interest.

A dark, disappointing, confusingly edited mess of a film, I’d only recommend it if you have a strong background in knowing Hoover’s politics and personal life. I went in knowing nothing, and I left feeling like I know even less.

The Ides of March
Dir: George Clooney
The stars of The Ides of March are not on the poster.
That’s not trying to be a commentary about how the lighting and sound designers aren’t up there with their names above the title (though they both did excellent jobs, especially the lighting. Gorgeous.) I mean…well look at that poster. It’s Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. They’re in the movie of course but…they’re not the stars.
That is, of course, if you define stars like I do. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the stars of this film because their characters are the stars of this film. Without the pivotal actions of those two characters (Tom and Paul respectively), there would be only a standard film of political intrigue with substandard dialogue and downright intrusive direction. Giamatti and Hoffman elevate it to something a little bit better. They share only one scene about ten minutes into the film, and the small choices they made-and no doubt some directorial influence, I will give Clooney some credit there-make that one moment of interaction something special. Tom and Paul are the masterminds of the whole film, and only at the end does Gosling’s Stephen achieve that status.
It might seem that I’m being a bit harsh on Clooney, who pulls quadruple duty on this film (actor, director, writer and producer) and perhaps I am. I’ve only been wowed by him once as a director, 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I found Goodnight and Good Luck to be nearly unwatchable, though I don’t know if that was Clooney’s influence or just a problem with pacing and I have not seen Leatherheads. The Ides of March is a perfectly adequate movie all things considered and has some moments of near brilliance (the American flag set piece is particularly haunting). I would like to grab him by his ever handsome shoulders and shake him a bit, yelling, “WHY DO YOU HATE TWO SHOTS SO MUCH? WHY AM I NOW MORE INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH RYAN GOSLING’S NOSE THAN I AM MY OWN? WHY, YOU HANDSOME, TIMELESS GOOBER, WHY?” It’s a shame because some of the best framed shots are two shots and three shots. The one shot in close up becomes stale after awhile, and the editing around the fact that for the most part only one person is in a frame at a time became distracting almost immediately. All I could think of was how many hours of coverage he must of shot and how many feet of film it might of taken, if we still measured film in feet and not megabites.
I don’t think this film has much of an awards chance, sadly, because I did want to come out of it proclaiming that this movie should receive the fabled “all the awards.” Though I don’t think that this movie isn’t good enough to get nominations, I do think that it is a problem of timing. If this movie were released on the same exact day next year, I do think we’d be looking at a contender? Why? Because releasing an election movie during an election year makes for some compelling discussions. I get the rationale for releasing it when it was (two words: Ryan Gosling. A bunch more words: Since Blue Valentine was released, Ryan Gosling has averaged out to putting out a movie once about every 4 months. Think about it! Blue Valentine, Crazy Stupid Love, Drive, and now this. I hope he doesn’t suffer from Jude Law style overexposure, as I am already really excited for The Place Beyond the Pines) but I do think it would have had a bit of a warmer reception if the studio sat on it for a year.
All in all it’s a good movie though! I know I don’t sound like I enjoyed it but it was really quite compelling, if a bit predictable, and worthy of anyone’s time.

The Ides of March

Dir: George Clooney

The stars of The Ides of March are not on the poster.

That’s not trying to be a commentary about how the lighting and sound designers aren’t up there with their names above the title (though they both did excellent jobs, especially the lighting. Gorgeous.) I mean…well look at that poster. It’s Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. They’re in the movie of course but…they’re not the stars.

That is, of course, if you define stars like I do. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the stars of this film because their characters are the stars of this film. Without the pivotal actions of those two characters (Tom and Paul respectively), there would be only a standard film of political intrigue with substandard dialogue and downright intrusive direction. Giamatti and Hoffman elevate it to something a little bit better. They share only one scene about ten minutes into the film, and the small choices they made-and no doubt some directorial influence, I will give Clooney some credit there-make that one moment of interaction something special. Tom and Paul are the masterminds of the whole film, and only at the end does Gosling’s Stephen achieve that status.

It might seem that I’m being a bit harsh on Clooney, who pulls quadruple duty on this film (actor, director, writer and producer) and perhaps I am. I’ve only been wowed by him once as a director, 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I found Goodnight and Good Luck to be nearly unwatchable, though I don’t know if that was Clooney’s influence or just a problem with pacing and I have not seen Leatherheads. The Ides of March is a perfectly adequate movie all things considered and has some moments of near brilliance (the American flag set piece is particularly haunting). I would like to grab him by his ever handsome shoulders and shake him a bit, yelling, “WHY DO YOU HATE TWO SHOTS SO MUCH? WHY AM I NOW MORE INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH RYAN GOSLING’S NOSE THAN I AM MY OWN? WHY, YOU HANDSOME, TIMELESS GOOBER, WHY?” It’s a shame because some of the best framed shots are two shots and three shots. The one shot in close up becomes stale after awhile, and the editing around the fact that for the most part only one person is in a frame at a time became distracting almost immediately. All I could think of was how many hours of coverage he must of shot and how many feet of film it might of taken, if we still measured film in feet and not megabites.

I don’t think this film has much of an awards chance, sadly, because I did want to come out of it proclaiming that this movie should receive the fabled “all the awards.” Though I don’t think that this movie isn’t good enough to get nominations, I do think that it is a problem of timing. If this movie were released on the same exact day next year, I do think we’d be looking at a contender? Why? Because releasing an election movie during an election year makes for some compelling discussions. I get the rationale for releasing it when it was (two words: Ryan Gosling. A bunch more words: Since Blue Valentine was released, Ryan Gosling has averaged out to putting out a movie once about every 4 months. Think about it! Blue Valentine, Crazy Stupid Love, Drive, and now this. I hope he doesn’t suffer from Jude Law style overexposure, as I am already really excited for The Place Beyond the Pines) but I do think it would have had a bit of a warmer reception if the studio sat on it for a year.

All in all it’s a good movie though! I know I don’t sound like I enjoyed it but it was really quite compelling, if a bit predictable, and worthy of anyone’s time.

50/50
Dir: Jonathan Levine
This is not a movie about cancer. It shouldn’t be advertised as a movie about cancer. Cancer is a part of it of course but it’s not about the disease. It’s about the way people react to something and all the best movies are.
50/50 is one of the only truly great films I’ve seen this year. This isn’t because I have stars in my eyes about Seth Rogen (although he is what got my foot through the door because, let’s be fair, they’ve been advertising this movie as if it was the next Patch Adams which it isn’t). It’s because unlike most feel good films that drown the audience in artificial moments that are BEGGING for someone to shed a tear. These movies feed on the emotional reaction from the audience. Feel good movies want to make you sad.
50/50 does make you sad, at least it made me sad but there was also hope because, to put it frankly, we know the ending. The guy that this is based on is still alive so it stands to reason that the character makes it. And he does! But you know what, a movie like this isn’t about the end result, it’s about the journey that it takes to get there.
This is Seth Rogen’s second vanity project to be released this year. After a few years where Rogen was a little overexposed (and I say this as someone who would see a movie where it’s just a static camera on Seth Rogen as he silently reads a comic book, smokes pot and chuckles to himself called “That Dude From Freaks and Geeks Gets Stoned Quietly” and say it should be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award) I’m hoping this move makes us all forget The Green Hornet which was critically maligned everywhere except for like, this blog and Judd Apatow’s twitter. But I digress, Seth Rogen is still to be trusted. He can still pick a good project and be involved on the ground floor of thoroughly good films. Aside from second lead he picks up another producer’s credit for this film and it’s well deserved.
Looking at this movie I’m beginning to realize that we need a new awards category. Joseph Gordon Levitt carries the film from start to finish and gives a tremendously nuanced performance as Adam and I think at the very least a Golden Globe nomination might be in order but in what category? Is this a comedy with dramatic parts or a drama with really funny moments? Is the performance itself comedic or dramatic? Is there a happy middle ground where we can define this new, somewhat undefinable genre? I don’t have the answers but I know JGL deserves some recognition and there is no earthly reason why it shouldn’t be for this film. He had a difficult job. Any way in either direction and he becomes a parody: the cancer patient with a brave face or the sick man to be pitied. He wasn’t either.
Anna Kendrick is promising still, though her character made me feel like a slacker (24 years old and working on her doctorate? I’ll only have my masters by 24. What world does this film exist in? REALISM PEOPLE!) but if I’m being honest she is playing the same character type that she did in Up in the Air, which she was nominated for an Oscar for. I can’t imagine that she would be so rewarded for a part so small in comparison, but it is something to consider.
Oh no, have we reached that part of the year where every new movie I see is framed in its chances for an award?
Yes. Yes we have. Feels good to be back, doesn’t it?

50/50

Dir: Jonathan Levine

This is not a movie about cancer. It shouldn’t be advertised as a movie about cancer. Cancer is a part of it of course but it’s not about the disease. It’s about the way people react to something and all the best movies are.

50/50 is one of the only truly great films I’ve seen this year. This isn’t because I have stars in my eyes about Seth Rogen (although he is what got my foot through the door because, let’s be fair, they’ve been advertising this movie as if it was the next Patch Adams which it isn’t). It’s because unlike most feel good films that drown the audience in artificial moments that are BEGGING for someone to shed a tear. These movies feed on the emotional reaction from the audience. Feel good movies want to make you sad.

50/50 does make you sad, at least it made me sad but there was also hope because, to put it frankly, we know the ending. The guy that this is based on is still alive so it stands to reason that the character makes it. And he does! But you know what, a movie like this isn’t about the end result, it’s about the journey that it takes to get there.

This is Seth Rogen’s second vanity project to be released this year. After a few years where Rogen was a little overexposed (and I say this as someone who would see a movie where it’s just a static camera on Seth Rogen as he silently reads a comic book, smokes pot and chuckles to himself called “That Dude From Freaks and Geeks Gets Stoned Quietly” and say it should be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award) I’m hoping this move makes us all forget The Green Hornet which was critically maligned everywhere except for like, this blog and Judd Apatow’s twitter. But I digress, Seth Rogen is still to be trusted. He can still pick a good project and be involved on the ground floor of thoroughly good films. Aside from second lead he picks up another producer’s credit for this film and it’s well deserved.

Looking at this movie I’m beginning to realize that we need a new awards category. Joseph Gordon Levitt carries the film from start to finish and gives a tremendously nuanced performance as Adam and I think at the very least a Golden Globe nomination might be in order but in what category? Is this a comedy with dramatic parts or a drama with really funny moments? Is the performance itself comedic or dramatic? Is there a happy middle ground where we can define this new, somewhat undefinable genre? I don’t have the answers but I know JGL deserves some recognition and there is no earthly reason why it shouldn’t be for this film. He had a difficult job. Any way in either direction and he becomes a parody: the cancer patient with a brave face or the sick man to be pitied. He wasn’t either.

Anna Kendrick is promising still, though her character made me feel like a slacker (24 years old and working on her doctorate? I’ll only have my masters by 24. What world does this film exist in? REALISM PEOPLE!) but if I’m being honest she is playing the same character type that she did in Up in the Air, which she was nominated for an Oscar for. I can’t imagine that she would be so rewarded for a part so small in comparison, but it is something to consider.

Oh no, have we reached that part of the year where every new movie I see is framed in its chances for an award?

Yes. Yes we have. Feels good to be back, doesn’t it?

Our Idiot Brother
Dir: Jesse Peretz
We don’t exactly live in happy times.
Not to inundate you with more September 11th images (it’s probably the only week I can do that without bordering on bad taste) but remember right after 9/11 it was considered the death of irony? No one wanted to be disdainful of anything, everyone wanted to be entirely sincere. As I recall (I was only 13 at the time, bear with me), that lasted for roughly the remaining four months of 2001. Irony was reborn and being too cool for school, and indeed possibly too cool for 100% unironic happiness, became the norm.
Paul Rudd’s character Ned seems like a man unstuck in time from those last few blissfully irony free months. Free of cynicism and a hardcore idealist, Ned seems to be floating through life pretty well uninhibited till a stint in jail uproots him from his farm (ugh, sorry that pun was too easy and I will never do it again) and lands him right in the middle of the lives of his three sisters who cannot fathom how he lives the way he does. They call their lives “adult” but the way I see it, and indeed the way that Ned sees it, is that they are sort of miserable. But, being an idealist he never lets himself be bogged down with the lives of his sisters, living to his own moral code where all he wants is to get his dog back from his mean spirited ex-girlfriend.
At first Ned’s eternal happiness and borderline dopishness feels uncomfortable. Of course he should be worried about something! Anything! He’s a wanderer, unemployed and now officially an ex convict. But…if it doesn’t bother Ned, why should it bother us in the audience? Slowly, Ned’s sisters become absurd and Ned, Ned becomes the audience’s normal.
Am I saying that we should all kick off our shoes and start trusting people with the contents of our wallets on the subway? Nah, common sense should always prevail. But the character of Ned is a reductio ad absurdum (if I use Latin will it make up for my horrible farming pun?) argument for the power of positivity and happiness, which is something everyone needs to hear every once in awhile.
Oh, and it’s pretty funny too.

Our Idiot Brother

Dir: Jesse Peretz

We don’t exactly live in happy times.

Not to inundate you with more September 11th images (it’s probably the only week I can do that without bordering on bad taste) but remember right after 9/11 it was considered the death of irony? No one wanted to be disdainful of anything, everyone wanted to be entirely sincere. As I recall (I was only 13 at the time, bear with me), that lasted for roughly the remaining four months of 2001. Irony was reborn and being too cool for school, and indeed possibly too cool for 100% unironic happiness, became the norm.

Paul Rudd’s character Ned seems like a man unstuck in time from those last few blissfully irony free months. Free of cynicism and a hardcore idealist, Ned seems to be floating through life pretty well uninhibited till a stint in jail uproots him from his farm (ugh, sorry that pun was too easy and I will never do it again) and lands him right in the middle of the lives of his three sisters who cannot fathom how he lives the way he does. They call their lives “adult” but the way I see it, and indeed the way that Ned sees it, is that they are sort of miserable. But, being an idealist he never lets himself be bogged down with the lives of his sisters, living to his own moral code where all he wants is to get his dog back from his mean spirited ex-girlfriend.

At first Ned’s eternal happiness and borderline dopishness feels uncomfortable. Of course he should be worried about something! Anything! He’s a wanderer, unemployed and now officially an ex convict. But…if it doesn’t bother Ned, why should it bother us in the audience? Slowly, Ned’s sisters become absurd and Ned, Ned becomes the audience’s normal.

Am I saying that we should all kick off our shoes and start trusting people with the contents of our wallets on the subway? Nah, common sense should always prevail. But the character of Ned is a reductio ad absurdum (if I use Latin will it make up for my horrible farming pun?) argument for the power of positivity and happiness, which is something everyone needs to hear every once in awhile.

Oh, and it’s pretty funny too.

Super 8
Dir: J.J. Abrams
I am contrarian by nature. It’s true. I love arguing opposing viewpoints. I sometimes actively try to take a different side in an argument just to see if I could convince someone of a different view. I would have made an amazing lawyer if I wasn’t so quick to judge pretty much everything according to my own ever changing tastes.
I disclaim that to tell you this: I truly believe that Super 8 is a lazy, unemotional film. I promise you that it’s not because it was widely proclaimed to be one of the best movies of the summer. It’s because it took me three hours to watch this 112 minute movie because it didn’t hold my attention, and also there was an earthquake.
Let’s talk about storytelling. Arugably the main inspiration for this film is Spielberg, who I think is a hack but that’s a story for another day. He’s all about storytelling and above everything else (even competent direction) emotion. What’s the quickest way to feel emotion for a character you don’t know? How about…kill his mother in the first ten minutes of the film. Boom, now I care about this character even though I don’t even know his name. Give a flaxen haired girl a withdrawn father. Give a fat kid a loud family and have the mom be played by the vampire rights activist from True Blood. The other kids? Don’t give them parents at all. Instant sympathy. Take your pick, which one were your parents like? Fall in love with that character. Rather than give the kids personalities, make their home lives suck and fall in love with them that way? It’s an old trick, and a lazy one, and it rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. It’s not the only way to write children, and it’s certainly not the best.
Also I’m not entirely convinced that this movie needed to be set in the late 1970’s. I think it led to a misplaced sense of nostalgia. If this movie was set in present day, there would have been a more dynamic sense to “PRODUCTION VALUE!” Charlie because he would have purposely been using an old type of film rather than a cheap handheld. Why show kids in the past making a movie with a DIY sense rather than kids this day and age using old boxes of film to make their own movie? Again, I found it lazy to put a shine on the good old days (they work at a goddamn mill? Is this a movie or a John Mellencamp song?) then perhaps pointing to a way wherein these days can be good.
I honestly think that J.J. works best when he’s not intimately involved with the content of the film. In my opinion his best work is Star Trek, where he was allowed to put his own spin on an established world rather than being involved with creating something from scratch.
I’m obviously not in the majority on this, but man, I didn’t like it.

Super 8

Dir: J.J. Abrams

I am contrarian by nature. It’s true. I love arguing opposing viewpoints. I sometimes actively try to take a different side in an argument just to see if I could convince someone of a different view. I would have made an amazing lawyer if I wasn’t so quick to judge pretty much everything according to my own ever changing tastes.

I disclaim that to tell you this: I truly believe that Super 8 is a lazy, unemotional film. I promise you that it’s not because it was widely proclaimed to be one of the best movies of the summer. It’s because it took me three hours to watch this 112 minute movie because it didn’t hold my attention, and also there was an earthquake.

Let’s talk about storytelling. Arugably the main inspiration for this film is Spielberg, who I think is a hack but that’s a story for another day. He’s all about storytelling and above everything else (even competent direction) emotion. What’s the quickest way to feel emotion for a character you don’t know? How about…kill his mother in the first ten minutes of the film. Boom, now I care about this character even though I don’t even know his name. Give a flaxen haired girl a withdrawn father. Give a fat kid a loud family and have the mom be played by the vampire rights activist from True Blood. The other kids? Don’t give them parents at all. Instant sympathy. Take your pick, which one were your parents like? Fall in love with that character. Rather than give the kids personalities, make their home lives suck and fall in love with them that way? It’s an old trick, and a lazy one, and it rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. It’s not the only way to write children, and it’s certainly not the best.

Also I’m not entirely convinced that this movie needed to be set in the late 1970’s. I think it led to a misplaced sense of nostalgia. If this movie was set in present day, there would have been a more dynamic sense to “PRODUCTION VALUE!” Charlie because he would have purposely been using an old type of film rather than a cheap handheld. Why show kids in the past making a movie with a DIY sense rather than kids this day and age using old boxes of film to make their own movie? Again, I found it lazy to put a shine on the good old days (they work at a goddamn mill? Is this a movie or a John Mellencamp song?) then perhaps pointing to a way wherein these days can be good.

I honestly think that J.J. works best when he’s not intimately involved with the content of the film. In my opinion his best work is Star Trek, where he was allowed to put his own spin on an established world rather than being involved with creating something from scratch.

I’m obviously not in the majority on this, but man, I didn’t like it.