Screening Room Articles
Actually, I always have questions, but I'm limiting myself here to questions that involve movies, since those are germane to this column. In this case, I'm posing two questions. I don't necessarily expect any answers, but these seem to be worth some contemplation. Let's start with this PG-13 version of The King's Speech that crept its way into theaters this week.
I'm going to revisit -- albeit briefly, since I don't have a lot of time this week -- one of my earliest (March 2008) "Screening Rooms," which was called "In Praise of Trash." Why? Well, because I think there's a lot to be said for "trash," and because I was recently taken to task (I'd have rather been taken to Paris or London, frankly) for praising Drive Angry 3D. I was told I had "lost all credibility" with the reader, which actually suggests that the reader was not quite the regular follower of my reviews he claimed to be, since it was hardly the first time I've given an exploitation picture a good review. It doesn't really matter, but what does matter to me is the idea that there is some etched-in-stone rule about what sort of movie can and can't be liked. I don't buy that.
Officially, it may be that today is only the first day of spring, but the movies -- so far as the studios are concerned -- have their own idea of time. That's to say that they're officially in the countdown to summer mode. This year, it appears that summer -- that time when the studios unleash what they fervently hope will be the Really Big Pictures -- starts on May 20 with the release of Rob Marshall's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, or possibly even on May 6 with Kenneth Branagh's Thor, though that's a more dicey proposition.
What do Night of the Hunter (1955), Carrie (1976), City Lights (1931), The Hours (2002), Shanghai Express (1932), and The Old Dark House (1932) have in common? Well, nothing really -- except that at recent Asheville Film Society and Thursday Horror Picture Show screenings, I spent all but one of those titles standing up. Why? Because there weren't any seats or even supplementary chairs left and I'm too old to sit on the floor. The only one where I got a seat -- The Old Dark House -- was a very near thing. I'm not complaining, mind you, but I am on the perplexed side.
Probably no genre of filmmaking is so generally disdained as the biopic. It's actually less the films themselves than it is their often somewhat-to-extemely dubious veracity. I would not deny this aspect of the movie versions of the lives of the great. It's certainly there, though most times I'd argue that it's no worse than your average high school history book, especially as concerns older biopics where anything too disturbing tends to be given as fine a coat of whitewash as Aunt Polly's fence ever saw. But it seems to me that even these films served a function in terms of general knowledge that was not without its value.
Well, here it is -- Oscar weekend -- and what had started out as a seemingly predictable year at the Oscars now looks a little less predictable, and has also become one of the most promoted ceremonies I can recall. It's certainly evolved into the busiest Oscar season I've ever had since I've been Svengali'd into -- along with Justin Souther -- this Oscar party at The Carolina on Sunday night.
As a movie reviewer I probably spend more time in theaters than the average person. As a movie reviewer who -- writing being a far from lucrative occupation -- spent years working in theaters as well, I can guarantee that statement. In those capacities over the years, I've learned an awful lot about movie houses, how they work, what they do right, and what they do wrong. And I've also gotten a pretty good sense of what audiences do and don't understand about how theaters work.
In case you missed the fact, Monday is Valentine's Day, and the day means a movie, this year -- well, you're kind of out of luck. Or you're not exactly choosy. First of all, let's make one thing perfectly clear -- no matter what it's title may imply, there is no way in hell that Blue Valentine is a good idea for this purpose. (I'm assuming you aren't wanting to break up, mind you.) That leaves you with what? Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in Just Go with It? This duo doesn't exactly spell romance to me.
It's the dead of winter, I know, and the movies have a tendency to be rather grim at this time of year. However, there's usually some relief from this as the stragglers of the previous year's limited release offerings make their way into the provinces. And, of course, that's happening, but last year that included Pedro Almodovar's colorful and playful neo-noir Broken Embraces and Terry Gilliam's fantastic and fantasticated The Imaginarium of Dr. Paranassus. This year it seems to be largely grim, grimmer, and grimmest.
So the Oscar nominations were announced bright and early on Tuesday. Actually, it was probably dark and early in Los Angeles, but since we all know the only real time is Eastern Standard Time (read: New York time), they pretend it's morning out there. (Similarly, they will pretend it's a gala evening instead of late afternoon on Feb. 27. It's a funny old world.) And there was nary a surprise in the lot, which wasn't much of a surprise in itself. That, of course, doesn't mean that most of us don't feel compelled to attempt to dope out the results on at least the major awards.
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