A.O. Scott of The New York Times has an interesting article in today’s paper about allusion. In “Catch That Reference? There’ll Be a Quiz,” he uses recent films such as “Super 8,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Midnight in Paris” as examples of movies that expect their viewers to catch references to other movies and to popular culture. It’s an easter egg hunt that adds another layer of enjoyment to the filmgoing experience.
I found this interesting article today: “Guides for the Casual Movie Buff and Dedicated Cinephile.” You can access it below.
I know, and you probably do, too, that the box office is currently being burned up by The Hangover Part 2, X-Men: First Class, Pirates of the Carribean, and Bridesmaids. I will probably get around to seeing some of them, along with the second installment of The Deathly Hallows, this summer. I am intrigued, however, by three films I’ve heard a good bit about but haven’t yet seen.
The first is Beginners (click on the title for The New York Times review of the film), a semi-autobiographical film by Mike Mills that recounts the story of a 75-year-old man (Christopher Plummer) who comes out as gay to his son (Ewan McGregor) after the death of his wife of 47 years. The film chronicles the attempt by the son to understand a father he realizes he never really knew, as well as the attempt by the father to reinvent his life in his last few years, before dying of cancer. I’m a fan of both Plummer and McGregor, and the interviews I’ve heard with Mills have piqued my interest.
The second is Midnight in Paris, the latest film by Woody Allen. Owen Wilson stars as a Hollywood screenwriter in Paris with his fiancée, played by Rachel McAdams. Longing for the Paris of the 1920s, Wilson’s character finds himself one rainy night picked up by Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The rest is history—literally the history of the Moderns. Everyone from Hemingway to Dali to Gertrude Stein walks across the screen. The film is an homage to Paris, a tongue-in-cheek time travel à la The Purple Rose of Cairo, and a meditation on the power and dangers of nostalgia. I haven’t seen an Allen film in years, but this one may break my fast.
The third film on my “to-see” list is The Tree of Life, directed by Terence Malick and starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival—audiences both cheered and booed it. In his typically strong visual style, Malick tells both the story of a difficult childhood in Texas by Penn’s character and speculates on the origins of life itself.
As far as I know, there are no car chases in any of these, nor do any buildings blow up. But when you get tired of watching drunk men trying to remember the night before the morning after, or sailing to the ends of the earth with Jack Sparrow, you may be ready for a few films where the story still matters.
With it being one week until the Oscars, there have been a number of interesting news stories related to the kinds of films Hollywood makes, what determines commercial success, and whether there’s any correlation (direct or inverse) between a film’s commercial viability and its artistic merit.
So I’m posting a couple links. The first is to an article that appeared in The New York Times, “Movies for Grown-Ups Find an Audience.” It points out that there’s an interesting confluence this year between films that have been critically well-received and commercially popular. Check it out.