Friday, January 20, 2012

Catching up with 2011: Moneyball

“Nobody reinvents this game.”
– Joe Morgan, ESPN sportscaster and baseball dinosaur

This quote comes at the end of Bennett Miller’s Moneyball – his adaptation of the highly successful, highly controversial look at the inner-workings of the Billy Beane run Oakland Athletics during the 2002 season from the point of view of author Michael Lewis – a frustratingly mediocre film that gets one thing absolutely right: the dichotomy of the old pro scouts (the dinosaurs who don’t think the game can be re-invented) of baseball versus the new, “geeky” sabermetric system (the kids). If it weren’t for this element – and my general love and enthusiasm for all things nerdy about baseball statistics – there wouldn’t have been much to enjoy about Miller’s prosaic film.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Catching up with 2011: Hugo

As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, Hugo is the PG-rated Martin Scorsese film that is unlike anything he’s ever made before, but represents the things that are nearest to his heart. The film is a family film, yes, but it is also a labor of love for; a 130 minute infomercial for film preservation designed to arouse (I tried to think of the cleanest way possible to say that) cinephiles everywhere with its references to early film and re-mastered footage. I am admittedly not a huge fan of 3D – I often have to remove the glasses and rub eyes for a minute or so before I jump back into the “experience” – but Scorsese does it about as perfectly as the medium could hope. If there are going to be new films being done in 3D (three out of the five previews at the showing I attended were for re-releases in 3D…lazy and lame), Scorsese has provided the template. I love the film’s opening with its sweeping images of the train station (Scorsese wisely films this opening as almost a short film to give the audience the setting of the film, but also to get the audiences eyes acclimated to the 3D action without missing the story) and the way it showed just how beautiful (and subtle!) 3D can be. Once the film’s plot kicked in, I was surprised by how engrossed I was with the film, and really I only felt the need to remove my glasses a few times in the beginning parts of the movie, but after that, I didn’t even realize I was watching a 3D movie.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Catching up with 2011: The Descendants

The Descendants is a collection of entertaining – sometimes even great – moments that never comes together. It’s like I kept waiting for something to happen; that typical Alexander Payne-like swerve that throws the entire film under a new light, but it doesn’t happen. Nothing happens in this movie. And I’m not a person who needs something to happen in a movie for it to be entertaining or worth my time (one of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Paradise where not a lot happens), but there has to be some kind of mystery or intrigue or ambiguity about these characters that keeps us interested in following their journey. Everything just seems kind of telegraphed from the first moments of the lazy voiceover to the bedside emotional scenes that resound with a speciousness found in the worst offenders of the Oscar bait season. Payne seems more interested in holding the hands of the audience through every phony step of the way.