Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The sort of movies that almost cancel out the existence of "Macgruber" and "Eclipse". Almost.

As a measure of my dedication to the cause, I've got two leftover movie reviews from the week spent in Santa Barbara that require appreciative mentions.  All in all, it was time well spent in the theatres last week.  And most of all, the time spent watching and then trying to unravel the dizzying story of "Inception" was worth every minute.  It isn't a perfect ride.  But it surely is quite bewildering.  Christopher Nolan deserves all the butt-kissing he receives.  While this movie is not his best, it is monumental.  My rating is an imperfect B-plus, with plenty of room to be further impressed with added viewings.  I, after all, made the huge mistake a few summers ago of not being blown away the first time by "The Dark Knight".  As everyone is actively discussing (coming quite close to spoiling), the story of "Inception" dwells almost entirely inside the dreams of targets of corporate espionage or its practitioners.  You're cleverly encouraged to question what's real.  In the end, it doesn't matter.  The journey is the thing.  Leonardo DiCaprio is a hard nut for me to crack (immensely talented, really hard to like on some level possibly because of that fact), Ellen Page is out of her depth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to amaze me his rocket ship career ascendancy, I still just don't get the whole gauzy grapple at Marion Cotillard's underwhelming breadth, and all the other character actors are positively fantastic (in particular, Tom Hardy will be a huge star in the not too distant future).  So if you need convincing, please see it.  Then grab a brewski - or more appropriately an absinthe - and discuss.  Preferably with others.  Movies should always hope to be this smart, even though they almost never can be.

In a very different way, the bleak little critical darling "Winter's Bone" also inspires conversation.  My rating - a hearty, worthwhile B.  Even though I saw it with absolutely the worst crowd for this particular film, although I'm sure they'll think they meant well.  Pairs of seniors, spread out evenly throughout the theatre landscape of a Saturday matinee.  It's been ages since I've been irritated by people talking back to the screen at a movie.  In this case, it was almost entirely caused by the meticulous authenticity of the white, rural poverty central to the story.  But since when is it cool to say "they don't want to eat squirrel" out loud?  When anyone who's seen enough of the real poverty this movie is drawn from feels a stirring irritation to answer "no, but they MUST because they're HUNGRY."  That may be a hard anecdote to draw too much meaning from.  But it does represent the central conundrum of this movie - representing poor, meth-addled, White America without making the largely rich, clean, White America that is seeing it in arthouse, urban theatres not feel compelled to respond in disbelief.  "Winter's Bone" nails it.  And the brutality - not violence, mind you - used to do so will make a ton of people uncomfortable.  If you have a willingness to see tough, smart characters who don't transcend their surroundings but instead revel in survival, see this movie.  If you've got upper-class guilt and a skewed view of how everyone makes their own destiny, stay home and watch "Glee" or read Dan Brown.  Because this movie ain't for pussies.

Hope your own endings make everything else along the way worth the journey today.  Rock on.

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