Movies I Feel Inclined to Insult Publicly
The Sapphires – I suppose I should have been skeptical when I learned that this movie about an Aboriginal girl-group entertaining troops in Vietnam war zones was being heralded as a winning crowd-pleaser. This could have been a really interesting and even entertaining film. But the combination of over-earnest treacle, slapstick humor, and the Glee-ification of what should have been a great soundtrack made for an inconsistent, borderline-unwatchable mess.
American Hustle – What the hell was that?
Blue Jasmine – I am willing to give this one another try in light of the many loving reviews it has received from people whose opinions I value. I went into this film wanting to love it, and for about a week or so I tried to convince myself that I did. But ultimately I cannot find any recognizable humans here--just a general sense of disdain for upper-class and working-class folks alike. This does not really lend itself to the meaningful commentary on class that so many reviewers claimed that it offered. But it's hard to comment on class in America when you are somehow convinced that at the heart of it all, jealous/hysterical wives are even guiltier than the white-collar criminals they marry. Yes, there is much to admire in Cate Blanchett’s depiction of that jealous/hysterical wife. But the screenplay being what it is, I am not able to see Jasmine as a fully realized individual, and thus I can’t be totally on board with the Blanchett coronation. All this to say, I am not a fan.
Spring Breakers – Once again, I am willing to give this one another try in light of the many loving reviews it has received from people whose opinions I value (OK, one person in particular!). I loved the Britney Spears number, and I enjoyed watching the James Franco show. But I am really struggling to see this movie as the vital social commentary that it seems to believe it is.
Movies I Didn’t Really Like, but Don’t Have Much to Say About
Movies that I Liked to Some Extent, with Major Caveats
Mud – Good enough, I guess. But how many times have I seen this movie before?
Philomena – This movie was more enjoyable than it had any right to be. It had major screenplay issues, in that it seemed to gloss over significant plot points without sufficient explanation (I assume those who read the memoir had an easier time filling in the blanks, but a film should stand on its own). Prime example: What was the deal with Mare Winningham’s character??? Judi Dench’s performance is pretty unimpeachable, though.
Captain Phillips – As I told Matt and Katherine, this is an incredibly serviceable movie. I guess that’s not really a ringing endorsement. But it’s so competent!
Inside Llewyn Davis – I saw two movies here, and I rated them very differently. First we have Inside Llewyn Davis, which provides a great study of a fascinating character. I loved so many of the moments I spent with Llewyn himself, warts and all. But then there was Outside Llewyn Davis—and here’s where the Coens’ shtick did nothing for me. Yes, John Goodman is good for a few laughs, but his character only served to take me out of the story that I found so gripping. And then there’s Carey Mulligan. Was it the character? Was it the performance? I honestly can’t tell, but the one-dimensional “Jean” is truly one of the worst screen creations I’ve ever seen. All this to say, this movie offers a wonderful and authentic central performance/character, surrounded by sneering caricatures, and an apparent disdain for all the music that Llewyn himself isn't singing. And perhaps that’s the point, but it left me ambivalent.
Dallas Buyers Club – I find myself on the “not gay enough” train with this one. Yes, it’s important to fight against the notion of AIDS as a “gay disease.” And yet the film seems to go out of its way to make any queer character not played by Jared Leto as anonymous as possible. The ACT UP folks are clearly present, so would it really have detracted too much from the McConaughey aura to, like, give them names or something to do? All that said, I think that McConaughey is deserving of the accolades. On the other hand, I find the wild praise for Leto’s performance baffling.