Now for the Serious Part...
So with the vast amount of free time I have tonight (Tamara is feeling quite under the weather) I have decided to finish what I endeavored to start: my review of the world of cinema from 2006. But this post will have a different flavor, in that I will examine those of a more serious nature- i.e. those that had any chance at a Best Picture nomination; i.e those which weren't meant to fulfill nerdy desires for cool CG or comic book characters brought to life.
1) We Are Marshall
I've been around for some sports tragedies, most of which I remember hearing about pretty clearly. Darryl Kile, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, died at age 33 of a heart attack. Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, died last year when the plane he was piloting crashed into a New York apartment building. Dale Earnhardt, a legendary NASCAR driver, died in a decepticely harmless-looking crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Aaron O'Neal, a freshman linebacker for the Mizzou Tigers, collapsed and died after a workout session two years ago.I can't even imagine what it would have been like to turn on the radio in 1970 to hear that essentially the entire Marshall football team had been killed in a plane crash. "We Are Marshall" attempted to convey the emotion and trauma of such a tragedy, and in my opinion did a fantastic job. Matthew McConaughey is great as the new head coach- he is a bit animated and happy, but he does a very good job. Ian McShane is fantastic as the father of the deceased quarterback, embittered towards the idea of football by his son's death.
I think the best performance, though, is Matthew Fox. I may be biased because "Lost" is one of my favorite shows. But one thing I have noticed is that as an actor, Fox is one of the best I've seen at portraying or conveying emotion. When he acts sad or upset, it feels like he's really sad or upset. He's one of the great undiscovered acting talents (thank heaven for Lost to reveal his real talents). As such, he is perfect for the part of the grieving and reluctant assistant coach who is going through survivor's guilt of the worst kind. He gave his seat to another coach for a good cause, and that tears at him. Fortunately he has a good wife and a good head coach to help him work through his grief.
Overall, I didn't expect this to win any best picture nods or many awards at all. What it is, though, is a well-performed piece that brings the past to life.
Favorite Goosebumps Moment- The game-winning play near the end of the movie
The Good- the "We Are Marshall" chant and David Straithairn coming to his senses and becoming one of the good guys.
The Bad- Feels a little like "Remember the Titans"
The Ugly- McConaughey's haircut
Score- 8 Slushees
2) The Pursuit of Happyness
Who would have thought Will Smith would go from the Fresh Prince to the Prince of the Silver Screen? Granted, it's been a slow climb from "Bad Boys" and "Men in Black" to good quality movies. I, for one, really enjoyed Smith in "I, Robot" and "Hitch." It wasn't until "Happyness" that I realized just how versatile Smith really is.
The fact that this is a true story makes it even more powerful. Smith is very convincing playing
Chris Gardner in the real life cinderella story of a man who goes from poor to very poor to even poorer than that to slightly less poor to very very poor again before landing a job against impossible odds at Dean Witter. To do that he has to spend time he doesn't have studying, skipping out on making money he desperately needs. Smith's real life son, Jaden, plays his son in the movie, and is absolutely adorable and wonderful. It's inspiring but painful to watch- you find yourself stressing as Gardner's situation goes from bad to worse to worst to worse than that- Smith's talent really conveys his fear and "I-don't-know-what-to-do" anxiety, like when he and his son have to sleep in a subway station bathroom because they have nowhere else to go.
It's powerful and very emotional- my favorite moment made me cry when Gardner's son tells him, with child-like honesty, "You're a good dad."
Favorite Real World Connection- the real Chris Gardner makes a brief cameo at the end of the movie
The Good-Smith. Both of them.
The Bad- It's just hard to watch. You feel as anxious and unsettled as Smith's character is.
The Ugly- Just how many people needed a place to stay every night in the movie. Sadly I'm sure this number (homeless) is far beyond what we can measure or understand, much less eliminate.
Score- 9.5 Slushees
3) Children of Men
If you want a movie that makes you scared of the future and what might happen, watch this movie. The acting is as powerful as the story and the implications of what the future might hold.
This post-apocalyptic downer features perpetual bad guy Clive Owen as Theo, the "hero," though he is reluctant to be so. Twenty years from now humanity is sterile- women can no longer become pregnant or bear children. The result is that humanity is faced with impending extinction. This bleakness is punctuated at the beginning of the movie, with the world-shattering news that the world's youngest person has died at age 18 (or so). More than that, all the world's nations have collapsed into anarchy and fragmented into self-serving militant factions. What would you do if hope was gone?
But Owen finds, or rather is dragged into, hope when his ex-wife's radical faction reveals to him that they have a girl named Kee, who is, in fact, pregnant- a miracle among misery. But others know and have their own agenda for the girl, who only wants to find her way to the Human Project, a mysterious group who might hold the key to humanity's survival. He just has to dodge maniacal militants and dedicated mercenaries in order to get Kee and her child to safety.
It's dark and bleak with staccato moments of humor and stark violence, but so very effective in its view of what might happen if the world falls apart.
Favorite Depressing Quote: "I can't really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can't remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what's left to hope for? " -Theo
The Good- Michael Caine as the 50-year-displaced hippy with his crude comments and dark sense of humor; Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, the most famous woman next to the Virgin Mary
The Bad- I felt like there wasn't enough back story about the fall of civilization, and it's hard to determine exactly what the Human Project is or does.
The Ugly- The very real-feeling possible future for this world.
Score- 9.5 Slushees
4) United 93
Where were you on 9/11? I was out jogging with my mom and dad- I came home, showered, and watched syndicated sit-coms downstairs. When I came up for breakfast, the kitchen TV was on and one of the World Trade Center towers was pouring out smoke. My dad told me a plane had hit it shortly before. As we watched and listened to Katie Couric's running commentary, an explosion rocked the second tower. Replays shortly after showed another plane hitting the World Trade Center. The thoughts of "accident" quickly turned to "attack." This had to be deliberate. Add in the news that a plane had hit the Pentagon and there's no way this wasn't a terrorist act. The whole morning I immersed myself in as much of the news as possible- from watching it on the TVs in Wal-Mart, making short but somber comments to and with other customers, to listening to the radio driving home, wanting nothing more than to be at home watching the news. There was fear- vastly different than those who lived in more likely targets (i.e. big cities) since the damage was so far away. But the uncertainty of what would happen next was very real and unforgettable.
"United 93" brought all that back, 5 years later, in prefect replication. Imagine three very talkative guys- the kind that always have to be the center of attention, always making jokes and wise-cracks. Imagine them rendered speechless by the power and realness of a movie. That was my experience watching "United 93." Paul Greengrass (of "Bourne Supremacy" genius) was perfect in his portrayal of the mystery of United Flight 93, which crashed into a previously-insignificant field in Pennsylvania. No one knows for sure what the hijackers' target was (speculation favors the White House or the Capitol)- what has been determined is that the passengers were aware of the other attacks, that they felt they were doomed to a similar fate, adn acted decisively to prevent such a disaster in their case.
With no A-, B-, or even C-list actors (and a real-life 9/11 vet in the military air traffic comander- yeah, he's playing himself), the acting is superb. What's more is this movie is free from politics and full of emotion. You may not sympathize with the terrorists, but you feel like you understand them more. And whether the passengers acted out of self-preservation or in an attempt to prevent further attacks, they are heroes. No matter what anyone says, they are heroes and died with honor.
This is, hands down, one of the most effective and powerful movies I have ever seen.
Favorite Cinematic Techniques- Using a hand camera, bouncy though the film is, makes it more realistic. This feels like it's 9/11 all over again.
The Good-There were a lot of attempts to connect the film to the real history. Check out the trivia from imdb.com.
The Bad- Absolutely nothing.
The Ugly- That there are actually people who would call the passengers cowards because they might have acted out of simple self-preservation. Check out the IMDB message boards for the film to see what I'm talking about.
So there you have it. May 2007 bring as many good movies, if not more.