Sunday, February 22, 2009


I used to love Oscar season. I had an ongoing wager with a good friend regarding outcomes and the loser had to but a really fabulous brunch in LA. But then I had kids and stopped going to LA, fabulous brunches are a thing of the past and to tell you the truth - I can't watch many of the Oscar films.

I know this is a product of the kids - but I can't watch tough movies anymore. I spend so much of my time imagining the worst end result of any one of my child's actions through out the day (ie: if I let him walk on the sidewalk instead of sit in the stroller he will get hit by a car and die OR I will rush out to save him and I will get hit by a car and die, leaving my husband alone to raise the children, but in a few years he'll meet a fabulous thin blond and she will raise my children, slowly removing all photos of me in the house. When Lucy gets married she will thank the blonde and call her mom. Mick, so living the new blond will marry a woman just like her, rather than just like me and his house will be neat and clean but he'll be trapped in a soulless, loveless marriage.) that it's simply not entertaining to go out and experience more human drama on film. I've had enough of it just walking down the street with my toddler. Which isn't to say I just want mindless blockbusters, but the middle ground films are few in far between - Little Miss Sunshine. Waitress. I've heard Slumdog is feel good, but you have to get through some children being tortured or something. We watched Babel on the Movie network a while ago - I needed an IV to help with the dehydration caused by crying. I was sobbing uncontrollably almost from the first scene. Not fun for anyone.

Anyway - times have changed - can't watch tough, serious movies. Want feel good fluff.

Adam and I had a chance to go out the other night to see a movie and ended up at Milk, and before the movie I was sitting in the theater, nearly asleep in that nice, hushed popcorn-scented half-darkness getting irritated that filmmakers can't make smart blockbusters anymore, or that indie films all have to be so tough. Remember Apollo 13? Excellent blockbuster. Forrest Gump? There are others, right?

But then the movie starts and f*$! me if Milk isn't amazing. Just amazing. Top to bottom, left to right - good storytelling, excellent EXCELLENT performances - Sean Penn - you can't say enough about that guy's ability to disappear into every single role he takes on. This gay activist is played by the same guy who played the Boston Irish tough guy in Mystic River. Same guy.

And don't get me started on James Franco. Because the guy KISSING Sean Penn and looking at him with such a complicated and realistic mix of love and worry and respect and disappointment is THE SAME GUY who put his foot through a cop car windshield in an effort to see better while driving said car in Pineapple Express. I wonder if James Franco watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High at some point in his youth and thought, while watching Penn, making out with that guy on film is going to change my life.

And Gus Van Sant, whom I already love so much for bringing me Good Will Hunting - manages to make this sad movie, terrible tragedy into something hopeful and inspiring.

I guess my point is, those middle ground movies are still there. But when did the distance between what the public wants and the films Oscar awards get so wide? Not everything has to be a Will Farrell film, but why can't we wrap good storytelling and important stories in candy-coating that will bring out the masses?


Amy Ruttan said...

I have the same problem with tough movies.

I always put myself and my kids in the actors places. *sigh*

See there was this great movie with Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones and it was a Ron Howard, I can't think of the title. It came out just after I had my daughter in 2003. It was a Western about Cate Blanchett's daughter getting kidnapped by criminals who intend to sell her as a sex slave. Tommy Lee is Cate's estranged father and they have to reconcile to track them down.

It was all going good until the kidnappers took a woman and her small child. The small child died, and the woman went out and blew her brains out.

That was the end for me. I couldn't imagine her agony or losing her child.

I'm so out of touch with movies. My single friends want me to join an Oscar pool. I didn't because really I have no idea.

Abby said...

I love both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and I was curious about Revolutionary Road, so I got the book out of the library.

It is about two people who are married, hate each other, hate their lives, are utterly disappointed that they didn't become... I don't know what they wanted, and are too weak to leave. And they're so miserable they're mean to their children all the time.

That's the first few chapters. I went online and looked at a plot summary, and it just goes downhill from there. The moral of the story seems to be "having a job and a place to live and a couple of children is the lowest circle of hell."

Whew. I returned the book unread. I think I'll just go rent Titanic again.

Maureen McGowan said...

I read a lament the other day written by the TV critic in the Globe... His main thesis was different, but his theme was similar: why do movies suck?

He was looking through the list of best picture nominees and (for him) the only one worthy wasn't Milk, but The Reader. And he was talking about how all the great storytelling is now happening on TV.

Molly... I think you could get through Slumdog. I get it about the small bits of kids getting tortured... Some unpleasant things happen in that film... But in the end, it's feel-good-happy fluff. I guarantee you'd walk out the the theatre smiling.

I've seen all the best picture nominees this year, and lament that a) there aren't any I consider truly amazing and b) so few people will have seen any of the five nominated films.

Sigh. I liked them all and, with the exception of Benjamin Button which was all gimmick and no substance, I think they're all good films... But didn't *love* any of them (even Slumdog, I liked it, but wasn't totally in love) and for a movie buff like me, to not love any of the five? That's just sad.

Maureen McGowan said...

About Benjamin Button... I keep meaning to write a review of it... But I read something the other day in the paper that made me laugh out loud...

A critic saying the first seven hours of that film weren't bad.


As I said, I didn't hate it... But I did spend the entire film editing it in my mind...

Maureen McGowan said...

Abby... Revolutionary Road is VERY bleak. If you think your description of the book sounds bleak, you'd love the ending -- NOT.

The one difference I can see from your description of the book and the film is the mean to the kids bit. We don't see the kids much in the movie... I guess that, in itself, implies they were pretty neglected, but I don't think they had time in the film to focus on the kids, so stuck to the couple...

I was actually more impressed with Winslett this year in The Reader... which I didn't expect to like. (LOVED the book, and was fearful the movie wouldn't live up to it.)

She was quite astounding in the film... But it is so not an accessible kind of film that most people would like to see. Not only is it about Nazi Germany... You really need to think about the characters' motivations because they're purposefully unclear, and it's an equally bleak story to Revolutionary Road... (More bleak, actually)

And Molly... I think there was at least one intelligent blockbuster this year... and the Academy chose to mostly ignore it... Dark Knight.

Abby said...

Well, I don't know how much the kids are in the book. But one of the first few scenes in the book is the husband gardening and feeling frustrated and hating everything, and his kids are playing quietly in the grass nearby keeping him company, and finally he just turns and screams at them and chases them away.

Around this point I said, "I don't really need 300 more pages of this. I think I'm good, thanks."

I don't mind a bleak story (and this one was well-written), but when I've got the idea by page 50 it kind of feels pointless to keep going.

Me, I've got my hopes pinned on Watchmen. God, what a book!

Heidi the Hick said...

I have to say, I know how you feel about tough movies. (And loved your mental projection about the awful alternate universe picture because I get that too!!!)

After watching the Oscars, I think there was a lot of hope this year. A few people emphasized the important of stories. Yay!

I'm at the point in my movie watching life where we're just about done with kid movies, not ready for R movies, but y'know, everybody loves dirty jokes so it's pretty much Will Ferrell movies around here, for better or worse.

Sinead M said...

Ah, to be done with kids movies.... we're so far from that day.

I could really enjoy a smart, well written romantic comedy soon... but the chances ae slim.

Corey said...

"Milk" was the only film I had seen and I had much the same reaction as you did. I was stunned by Sean Penn's performance, and everyone else's, too. It was a loving tribute to a unique man who made such a huge impact on his community (and many other people, too). I felt like they treated his story, his life, with such reverence and love.

As for the rest of the films, I'm sure one of these days I'll get to some of them. Can't watch movies with Brad Pitt because it's tough to get past his off-screen persona. Suspension of disbelief is very, very difficult for me. One reason that reading is my preferred medium, because I don't feel as manipulated; I can use my own imagination from the words on the page.

I had heard that "Revolutionary Road" is a terrific book. This is coming from someone who also loves Cormac McCarthy.

Wylie Kinson said...

Molly, Molly, Molly...
I hear you. I used to be able to watch ANYTHING - horror, drama, thriller... now most movies just make me fret and cry :(

I REALLY wanted to see Slumdog buy my dh said I wouldn't handle it well and wait until DVD so I could FF through those bits.

My beef with Oscar? They ignored Wanted. The soundtrack was awesomely in tune with the action and the visual effects BLEW ME AWAY. James McAvoy=Yum.

Kathy Holmes said...

The beauty of the Oscars this year was Hugh Jackman and his wonderful musical performance with Beyonce wearing a red tuxedo amidst the chorus line of black tuxedoes. "Musicals are back," he exclaimed. :)

Romantic comedies and musicals are my favorite movies.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I agree Kathy -- Hugh Jackman WAS the beauty of the Oscars - him cracking himself up over The Reader part of his opening number endears him to me forever. That and the man can wear the hell out of a tux.

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