Screening Room Articles
Sitting here, staring at my computer screen while not really watching -- off to the side -- a movie even I don't recognize on TCM, I find my mind wandering into the realm of considering the state of film criticism in our media-saturated world -- and I'm not all that happy by what I see. But it's less the criticism that bothers me than the way the moviegoing public seems to be taking it.
So there we have it for another year — the Oscars. The question is if there's anything new to be said about them, and while the answer is probably "not really," some comment is called for about the curiously all-over-the-map nature of this year's selections and the general weirdness and — let's face it — galloping ennui of Oscar and this year's program.
OK, it's Oscar season -- you know, those awards that we all love to hate and call meaningless, but tend to mysteriously get worked about anyway. I have no idea why I care. I've sworn off them twice. I've called them embarassing on any number of occasions I've sworn at the TV profusely (and when I swear profusely even sailors turn beet red) and been tempted to hurl a brick at the screen (fortunately, I rarely have bricks at hand) more times than I care to think about. This year promises to be no different.
Here it is: the biggest, the bestest, the baddest roundup of the year. Once again, Mr. Souther and I have worn ourselves to a frazzle — two frazzles, in fact — sifting through the excitement (and occassionally, the excrement) of movie year 2012. We will please some, displease others, and probably make a few folks downright peevish.
I'd seen The Lost City once before, so I knew just how seriously deranged it was, but it had been a while. So this past weekend I decided to check it out a little — mostly to be sure it played OK, which is often a dicey proposition on these public domain titles. That's really all I planned on doing. Honest. And I know that these things tend to become wearisome if you watch too much of one in one sitting. (The rule should be two episodes max.) Imagine my surprise when I ended up watching all four hours worth of barely coherent and totally unhinged nonsense.
Sitting here Monday morning with one eye on The Gay Divorcee on the TV -- winner of the Best Song for 1934, back when the category made sense — the first thing that struck me about the previous night's Oscar show was that the whole thing just plain needs rethinking. It probably won't happen. After all, this is something put on by people who think Billy Crystal with a suspiciously too black beaver pelt glued to his head and looking one face-lift away from Joan Rivers is pretty edgy stuff. Still, it needs rethinking all the same.
So there they were bright and early announcing this year's Oscar nominees to an unseen audience. There must have been an audience, though, because there was some unseemly whooping over the nominations for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (I'm sure there was a good reason for this). And, no, I did not get up for this, I just happened to be up at the time. Now, the guessing and the kvetching begins -- not to mention the studio shilling, which has already begun with the TV ads. Lotsa fun.
Here at last is the anxiously awaited (you were waiting anxiously, weren't you?) honest-to-Lubitsch complete, in-depth, in detail, in all its debatable glory full list of the best and worse the movies of 2011 offered. At least, it's such a list as things looked to Justin Souther and me. You may have seen our lists in the print edition a little while back. This expands on (and in one case at least alters) those earlier ones. Sit back and let's see who we can please and who we can annoy this year.
I'm sure a lot of you view Chistmas as a moviegoing day. I've never quite gotten the hang of the idea myself, though I did get bamboozled into going to see Vanilla Sky in 2001, even though I'd aleady seen it once. That was also my first actual encounter with the idea of trooping off to a movie on Dec. 25, so imagine my astonishment when I found myself parked behind the theater in a section I thought only existed for romantic trysts and dealings of dubious legality. (Indeed, that does seem to be its function 364 days out of the year.) Assuming, however, that this is your cup of lapsang souchong, I'll offer a few glimpses at what's out there.
This is far and away the hardest thing I've ever had to write. The very idea that Ken Russell could be dead is unthinkable to me. This isn't just the passing of one of the -- not always fully appreciated -- true giants of cinema. This is the passing of a friend of nearly 30 years -- a man I unreservedly loved. The very fact that I am -- for the very first time -- writing something that he will not be reading is strange and saddening in itself. And that makes this even harder, making various regrets snowball into something almost paralyzing.
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