Disclaimer: I have good taste in movies. Disclaimer for my disclaimer: somehow liking a movie that the critics hate forces people to claim they actually do have good taste in movies. I’m sure that the movie industry with its multiple dish ditches that help promote or demote a film has always played the who’s cool and who’s not game, where anyone who wants to appear “in” loves every nominee on the Oscar list, or otherwise simply is dismissed as a member of the embarrassingly unintellectual pop movie masses. . .sort of like loving caviar over a Big Mac, right? I probably just never felt defensive about it because either it was a year I completely didn’t go to the movies or I just happened to be part of the in crowd that year. Not so, lately.
American Hustle. What a hustle. Yes, I am pleased that there are still filmmakers out there who are bold enough to focus on characters. Yes, this movie turned me into a Christian Bale fan. And I have always known that Amy Adams was a sexy, heavy-weight as an actress. But honestly, I was ready to fall asleep in the first hour or two. I was kept awake by mentally analyzing if anybody really did walk around showing that much breastbone and boob slices in the Seventies as if it were completely normal. Oh, sure. When I was a kid, we saw Amy Adams’s style in Cosmo. And we wondered if it was rampant in the clubs that we were too young to enter. But on the streets. . .in business suits. . .regular day time restaurants. . .? I don’t recall it. And I am pretty sure as a kid, I would have noticed. So at least I had that to entertain myself as the movie took forever to make me hate the curly-headed dude played by Bradley Cooper.
I am not saying I didn’t think the movie was “good” by movie-making standards. I’d hate to be the uncool kid. Seeing the comb-over scene and the sympathetic face of the woman who loved it was great. Bradley Cooper’s recent turn away from what was dangerously becoming his type cast (rich, handsome ass hole) was once again a pleasure to see. But watching Jennifer Lawrence do her Ellen Barkin impression from half of Barkin’s films was only fine (JL is coming very close to being over exposed. I mean, I was distracted too often by the fact that she really was too young to play this character. . .explore other actresses Mister Director.) So sure. I can see why it was supposed to be good. Just like I know why pickled brains are a delicacy. But again, let me stifle the yawn and say, well, it didn’t rock my world. Remember Pulp Fiction? Now, That’s what I’m taking about!
I read the critics after seeing AH. Of course, I am alone in my critical boredom. And it’s not that I need fast cars or crashes or heads-in-trunks to love a Cops vs. Bad Guy movie. I have no interest in any of The Fast and Furious movies. . But obviously the critics just adored AH, and the filmmaker, and the actors. I think the whole cast and production crew received an Oscar nod, right?
Now the weekend before seeing that film, my family saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I resisted going because I thought it would probably miss the point of the short story. My husband resisted going since he is not a Ben Stiller Fan. But we went and we were wowed. Snagged from the opening scenes. My twelve year old son said it was his “favorite movie ever”, and I’d be perfectly happy seeing it again with him. My twenty-year-old found it buoyant. (Yes, His word.) I enjoyed the sweetness of it, the beauty of every single scene, the idea that we could actually begin living a fuller life if we could overcome our fears. And even the humor vs. sobriety was well-balanced. Sure it had a tidy ending. And we did struggle to see how being the negative asset manager for LIFE could ever be dull or uncool. But I came away feeling I had a movie experience.
Of course, I read the critics afterward. Again we were not on the same page at all. They hated the CGI. (It’s okay in a Sci Fi futuristic film. Not okay in a real time fable. . .?). They hated the concept, the actors, the ending, the tidiness, the everyman quality of it, I suppose. What it felt like, to me, was that they hated Ben Stiller for thinking he could pull it off.
When I read the Oscar list this morning, that is exactly how I felt: the industry, along with its sucker fish, the critics, cold shouldered Ben Stiller for not being one of the cool kids. . .has he made too many Zoolander type films for the industry to overlook his tiny WM mistakes, because not one of the other film nominations was flawless. .. Stiller’s gorgeous visual feast didn’t even earn a cinematography or a CGI nod.
The industry suffered this sense of snobbery last year, too. Denzel Washington’s subdued, controlled study of an alcoholic coming to terms with his drinking was so nuanced, but then crushed by the heavy caricature of Lincoln by Lewis in the votes. Yes, I said, caricature. I never once stopped thinking while watching . .this is Daniel Day Lewis. But Washington, his portrayal was so deftly handled, I was lost in his every emotion. He at least got a nomination.
Point is the same. The movie goers’ experience seemingly now has nothing to do with it. Don’t tell me the issue is a film versus movie issue. Remember early Spielberg? He made movies, great ones. The critics and the industry in general now vote by what they think they are supposed to think. Thus, the Actor who takes on only “superior roles” and immerses himself like a crazy man for months into his character MUST be better than the actor who sometimes plays in buddy comedies. It’s becoming like a giant game of the emperor who had no clothes. Critics to be “serious” have to love and hate very defined elements, sometimes even when they don’t exist. Thank goodness I read them after my viewing pleasure has been fulfilled.