Posts Tagged ‘oscars’

by Alex Huntsberger

Blue Jasmine (2013) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jssmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jasmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

THE BASICS: This is a movie about the financial crisis. I mean it’s not a movie that’s about the financial crisis. The financial chicanery that sets the plot in motion is more Bernie Madoff than Bear Stearns. But it’s about the financial crisis in a more holistic, spiritual sense.

FIRST SOME PLOT

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (originally Jeanette), a Wife of Wall Street who is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her financier husband Hal (Alec “I WILL PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS WHEN AND WHERE I FUCKING WANT TO” Baldwin) is convicted of fraud and hangs himself in prison. Jasmine, a nervous wreck, attempts to put her life back together, getting a job as a receptionist and taking a computer course with an eye towards an interior designer’s license. Oh, and she also sets about trying to ruin her sister’s life, mostly by throwing a Rip-Torn-in-Dodgeball number of wrenches into Ginger’s relationship with her boorish but good-hearted boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnavale). Oh, and also in the mix is Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (the surprisingly not-dead Andrew Dice Clay) whose marriage to Ginger Jasmine previously ruined with some bad financial advice. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand, the former as…well…basically himself and the other as way older than I remember him and that makes me feel weird.

If that plot wrings a bit familiar, it’s probably because you were really cool in high school and read/saw/were involved in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Tennessee Williams’ lyrical ode to the Dirty South.

Tennessee Williams (artist's rendering)

Tennessee Williams (artist’s rendering)

Much like Blanche lived in a world entirely of her own choosing, so does Jasmine try to block all the ugly truths that she has been privy too. Her refrain throughout the film is, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” Which is totally fine, except that one can only leave the past in the past when one has, oh, I don’t know, learned something from it. The film, in fact, frequently jumps back to the past, showing Jasmine’s glory years in the lap of East Coast luxury, and what it shows is that Jasmine remained as willfully ignorant back then as she does now. Whether it was Hal’s frequent philandering or his even more frequent financial shenanigans, Jasmine basically stuck her fingers in her ears and went, “lalalalalalalala,” if by “fingers in ears,” you mean, “cash money in her bank account,” and by, “lalalalalalalala,” you mean, “brunching on the weekend? Ugh, how gauche.” From beginning to end, Jasmine exists in a state of denial, much like a great deal of this country did so after a decade where investing in Wall Street was pretty much equivalent to buying stock in a textiles factory that manufactured The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have seen the enemy and it is…umm…us, Except that “us” is played by Cate Blanchett. (Looks in the mirror). Yeah, that’s about right.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

So, a lot of “Oscar” performances have that air of holding out one’s hand and yelling, “Oscar, please!” And it’s not that Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t seem like it’s gunning for an Oscar. It’s more like she’s an 80’s action hero who takes out an entire cartel’s worth of vaguely ethnic bad guys with nothing more than a Glock, a hunting knife and a pack of chewing gum. She doesn’t so much as ask for an Oscar as she does walk into your office with a bag full of bad guy scalps over one shoulder, the President’s daughter (who she just rescued from said bad guys) over the other one, dumps both of them on your desk, lights up a cigar and then just casually glances at the Oscar clutched nervously in your hand and mutters, “you gonna hand that thing to me, or what?” The lady’s been nominated for 5 Oscars so far and won best Supporting Actress for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She won an Oscar for playing a multi-Oscar winner; so, she’s basically not fucking around in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Like, do you remember that one scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo shows Cate Blanchett the ring (and, yes, I’m mixing actor and character names: welcome to the Octagon) and Cate Blanchett gets all goggly-eyed and glowing and CGI? Okay, that’s basically Cate Blanchett in this movie. That level of intensity, that level of bone-deep wackadoo, for two hours straight. If it were almost any other actress, it would probably be terrible. But it’s Cate Blanchett, so it’s not.

Jasmine spends the entire length of the movie in a delusion: that she is doing fine and everything is going to be fine and that she doesn’t need to deal with all the fucked up stuff in her past because tomorrow is a brighter day. However, it is very clear that everything is not fine. She’s a middle-aged woman, newly poor, who has no discernible skills and whose refusal to reckon with her role in causing a great many people a great deal of pain is going to catch up to her sooner rather than later. And it is this tension, between Jasmine’s fantasy and the world’s reality that makes up the fulcrum of Blanchett’s performance. It’s like watching someone at a fancy party who really, really needs to pee but keeps pretending like they don’t, that they can hold it in, until eventually their bladder gives way and they just piss all over themselves. Except, instead of urine it’s, like, emotions and stuff.

And it’s fucking awesome. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar.

Nailed

Good job, Cate.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins

Maybe five of you might remember Hawkins from the film Happy Go Lucky wherein she played a woman named Poppy whose outlook on life was, wouldn’t cha know it, happy go lucky. That she managed to make this woman complex, sympathetic and actually quite admirable is a testament to her skill. As the uber-sane ying to Blanchett’s bats hit-crazy yang, she’s wonderful.

But honestly, the most important thing she has going for her is this: she’s playing a supporting female character in a prestige Woody Allen film. Because when it comes to getting Oscar noms (and wins) for the best actress in a supporting role category, Woody Allen is basically Orson Welles. Dianne Wiest won twice, for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Mira sorvino won for Mighty Aphrodite; and Penelope Cruz won for Vicky, Christina Barcelona. For a male writer/director, especially one who is pretty much confirmed as kind of a crepp (as will happen if you marry your own stepdaughter and are NOT a character from a soap opera) the guy has a knack and, more importantly, a rep for writing good female roles that win Oscars.

I would say that Hawkins stands a very good chance at being nominated, if not outright winning.

Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Dice Clay

Oh man, do the Oscar voters ever love a comeback story. See: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls, Thomas Hayden Church for Sideways and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. (That last one is also attributed to The Wrinkled Fuckers’ love of blackface.) For those of you who have never watched VH1 (which should really change its name to The History Channel: Pop Culture and then eventually start doing shows about whether or not aliens were responsible for Robert Smith) Andrew Dice Clay was one of the biggest stand ups in the world back in the 80s. Motherfucker sold out Madison Square Garden. And he did it with material such as the following.

(Please image this as read by Morgan Freeman)

Hickory Dickory Dock
This bitch was sucking my kawk
The clock struck two,
I dropped my Goo
And dumped the bitch down the block.

Yeah, Jerry Seinfeld he weren’t. Thankfully, the gods of fate saw fit to serve Mr. Dice Clay and his “He Man Woman Haters Club” brand of misogyny his cosmic comeuppance. The guy hasn’t been in the public eye really for the past 20 years. The world moved on, Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal and Liz Lemon all happened, and the world was better for it.

Alec Baldwin remembers him...he's just not sure from where.

Alec Baldwin remembers him…he’s just not sure from where.

It’s hard not to bring all of this to bear when watching Dice Clay’s performance as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband and all-around big lug. Dice Clay comes off as a man’s man who has been chastened by the world. Augie and Ginger’s marriage was wrecked by their investing a lottery-winnings windfall in one of Hal’s illusory funds. He’s your classic coulda-been-a-contender who’s given up dreaming big and now just tries to get by. And you know what? Andrew Dice Clay is good. Augie’s exaggerated guido mannerisms all recall Dice Clay at his most horrifically ascendant, but here they are softened. He comes off not as a monster, but a relic. He’s the hardworking blue collar American guy who’s one big mistake was getting involved with those vampire squids of Wall Street. After disappearing during the film’s second half, Augie reappears for a single, critical scene, a puffy pompadoured Deus Ex Machina who appears out of nowhere to (unknowingly) rip up Jasmine’s happy little future like a pig rooting through the dirt for truffles. Honestly, it’s a moment of class warfare on the part of Allen, and executed perfectly by Dice Clay that is incredibly, viscerally satisfying.

Right now I think he’s…not a longshot, but not a lock either. Dice Clay doesn’t have the talent to pull off a comeback quite the same way that mickey Rourke did after The Wrestler, that’s apparent in the movie. But in these early Oscar days, his hat is firmly in the ring.

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen

This is category that favors dialogue over plot structure. For instance, Gravity, which I will spill countless words over into the endless vacuum that is space the Internet has very (very) so-so dialogue but is actually very well structured. It probably won’t get nominated. Blue Jasmine on the other hand is not a tightly-plotted script but on a line to line level is, well, it’s Woody Allen movie. The man knows his way around words, and more specifically, the way that highly-neurotic people wrap words around themselves like a dolphin drowning in tuna nets. Whether or not you prize plot over dialogue, the Academy…hold up, I’m not going to refer to them as “The Academy” cuz that makes them seem like, oh, I don’t know, worthy of our respect, which is not so. They’re voting on “Best Movie” not “Best Cure For Cancer”. (Oddly enough, the winner in that category is actually “prayer,” but only if you’re a practicing Satanist.) I’m not going to call these people “The Academy.” I am instead going to refer to them solely as what they really are. I’m going to call them “The Wrinkled Fuckers.” Let’s start this sentence again…whether or not you prize dialogue over plotting. The Wrinkled Fuckers prefer a screenplay with lots of shiny words. Deal with it. And boy do they love Woody Allen, who polishes his words like a 12-year-old boy polishes his…bald statuette. Allen has already won Best Original Screenplay 3 previous times, for Midnight in ParisHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. Dude’s got cred. He’s getting the nom (nom nom).

Best Director: Woody Allen

Allen’s strengths as a screenwriter (he makes movies where people talk at each other and that’s usually about it) are his weaknesses as a director, at least Oscar-wide. In this category, I don’t think that the Wrinkled Fuckers are smoking what Mr. Allen is growing.

Nah, son.

Best Picture: Blue Jasmine

It’s written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett AND there can be up to 10 nominees? If the answer to this question were a 70’s prog rock band it would definitely be…

YES

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Mr. Samuel L. Jackson doesn't much appreciate the Oscars

Mr. Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t much appreciate the Oscars

Well, the time has come. It seems as though life has caught up to me and is holding me at gunpoint in an old dam water run-off pipe. I keep yelling at it, “I need more time” and it responds in a Tommy Lee Jones Gravel Growl (TM), “I don’t care”. The only way to go is down, over the edge of the water fall and plunge deep into the reservoir below so that I can find out who killed my wife and framed me. Well, this man, Alex Huntsberger, is my waterfall to escape from the TLJ of my stupid life. You know ‘Life’, that old crotchety bastard, cobbled together from pieces of ‘career’ and ‘a girlfriend’ and ‘obligations’ and ‘eating not-trash’, prepared to stop me from doing exactly what I want and when I want. That asshole.

So, in an effort to expand the scope of this little blog, I have invited friends in to add tidbits of delight in all the areas far from my grasp. You might remember Mr. Huntsy as the man who touched his nipples while singing ‘Money, Money’ during our Abduction Whine and Cheese. Or perhaps as the fellow who defended Ryan Murphy’s insane attempt at creating something not-terrible by way of Dylan McDermott’s deflating career (American Horror Story). From now on, among other things, he will be this site’s major Oscars contributor by way of our nubile addition to this online literary repertoire. So, while the year winds to a close and all the studios start pumping out their attempts at statuette glory, Mr. Alex will scour, scrub and desalinate these puppies, stewing them down to their Oscar glory-essence. Five actresses enter the Huntsy-Dome; one best actress leaves. For she is the best. She has brutalized Meryl Streep; broken Kate Winslet and her boobs; and devoured the final sliver of Julia Robert’s non-cyborg components. So, remember, when you watch that self-aggrandizing fellatious shit storm of an awards show and you see Cate Blanchett drenched in the life blood of Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench, sporting a cold hearted grimace robbed of its final ounce of humanity, you’ll know why.

So, without further ado, let’s get on to the Huntsy-Dome…

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, the infinite abyss of deep space, Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice in the back of my head going “Na-uh, not how it works”

Either that's Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

Either that’s Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

There is a place in Chicago. It is a dark place, its covert shadow hidden behind the facade of infinite twinkling lights and signs for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. A world, a candyland, if you will, of actual candy and misappropriated dreams. It is, at once, a monument to a crowning achievement of civic engineering and, at second, a cesspool of fantastical nonsense. Yes, I talk of course about Chicago’s Navy Pier. It’s neither navy, and it barely gets under the rope of the definition of ‘pier’ but, this hellscape of a tourist trap is the location of the city’s only IMAX theater. The pilgrimage to this end of the universe, this Harry Carray-infested ring of the Inferno, is an ordeal both annoying and existentially testing for any who are willing to endure it. How much do you really need to see Gravity in IMAX 3D BS OMFG HPV ASAP? As much as you needed to see those three scenes from Iron Man 3 that are actually appropriate for a massive fucking screen? Hmmm?

Well, the lady Coleman and I braved the thronging masses of cheapened Chicagoan touchstones as we traipsed into the massive undulating snake tail that is the line into the IMAX theater. To call it insanity is doing a disservice to the mentally ill. It is putrid humanity at worst. And, because this place is run by the version of Schrodinger’s cat that was poisoned in that box and then clawed its way out by way of sheer will and a heart of throbbing evil, one cannot get both snacks AND a movie, seeing as the lines for both are a MILLION MILES LONG. So choose! Would you like sustenance but miss the first fifteen minutes of film? Or do you want a movie while sustaining a mouth drier than the Sahara in a drought? Choose ye and despair!

Erin and I chose the second option. And we were not disappointed. A little parched, but not disappointed.

For all my bellyaching, the concept of this IMAX in 3-Dimensions nonsense has probably saved the theatrical experience from itself. Too often, as technology makes a product more easily accessible, the industry that this practice hurts usually stamps its feet, gnashes its teeth, and holds its breath. However, eventually, people innovate or die. It’s a simple law of the universe. IMAX is an experience one cannot see anywhere other than those monstrosity orbs latched onto museums and theme parks like benign civic tumors. But, lordy, are they incredible. Assigned seating. No bathroom breaks. It’s like going back to school. However, the magic of IMAX is, if done correctly, you can truly be transported. Until this point in my life, I’ve never fully understood what this means, what with the meager offerings of The Dark Knight’s specially filmed scenes or the five minutes of Iron Man 3 that weren’t shot in extreme close-up on RDJ’s beard (don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine beard, but it’s not going to win the mantel of PORE-COUNTING: THE MOVIE aka Les Miserables)…that was, until I saw Gravity.

"Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother." ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

“Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother.” ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

Mr. Alfonso “One Take” Cuaron, otherwise known as Mr. Children of Men, perhaps my favorite film of all fucking time, or as Mr. “The Guy that Destroyed Harry Potter 3”, as that one girl furiously stated on Facebook when Prisoner of Azkaban was released  is one of those bastards audacious enough to have taste and to encourage artistic merit even in his movies about fictitious wizards. What a piece of smegma. Well, after taking a break from, well, the universe, Mr. Cuaron has returned to the screen with his development-hell tale hanging in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Gravity is pretty simple. Sandra Bullock is a medical doctor inexplicably working on the Hubble Telescope, cracking jokes with George “He’s Never Not George Clooney” Clooney as a veteran NASA space-man. During a routine upgrade, the Russians blow up a satellite which then causes a barrage of 20,000 mile an hour debris to shred them like one ply toilet paper. From there, the script takes the hero’s journey in its elemental form: get from A to B to C. I’m talking physically. The script is basically a set of celestial GPS directions. And that’s just fine.

There are few things that have to be acknowledged with Mr. Cuaron’s achievement here, because it is an achievement of almost every kind. First and foremost: technical. I don’t know the name of his cinematographer, but the man must have been touched by god in the womb. This guy is the Jesus of the long-take. Cuaron approaches him being like, “Yo, I have like four shots…” and this guy shakes his head and, like water into wine, is like, “Nah, son. ONE shot.” I think you can count the number of shot breaks in Gravity on one hand. And, while in Children of Men this was more a gimmick, a penis-showing contest, if you will, in Gravity it is nothing but seamless. I completely forgot that the camera hadn’t broken from its subject after a while. Granted, with this thing showing more CGI than a George Lucas Weight Loss Convention, it might be considered a dubious honor. There is no question that Cuaron has crafted something harrowing, intense and all-consuming. In the few moments of breath Ms. Bullock takes before leaping into yet another Zero-G Shit Fest (note to self: open club called Zero-G Shit Fest), we too are forced to come up for air if only momentarily before being dragged into the emotional maelstrom on display. For the length of the film’s 90 minutes I never once tore my eyes from the screen. Such an act would be one of sacrilege, an affront of the gods of cinematography. You might miss a panoramic view of the Earth’s surface at sunrise, or Ms. Bullock sucking down the last of her oxygen while escaping the current of her suffocating panic attack. If seen in the right way, you won’t be able to look away. In this day and age, that demands an award of the highest order.

"Hey George, George, hey George...wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? ...George?" ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

“Hey George, George, hey George…wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? …George?” ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

Though, with any experiment in technicality (because, let’s be real, that’s what this is) there are some drawbacks. Through Cuaron’s constant employment of POV and the excessive prevalence of CGI the action looks more of a video game than anything else. This is a meager complaint because that comment usually means that the movie is about as exciting as watching your 12 year old cousin play Call of Duty for about 10 hours straight. Here, the opposite is true. In fact, it seems as though Cuaron has finally realized the mecca of video-game cut scene excitement that all Call of Duty games reach for. Unfortunately, those network-connected plebs (read: most males between 18 and 30) are too locked into a video game to come and see this exercise in zero-G storytelling. The other drawbacks are that of character and literary theme. When most of the movie is people screaming and begging for lives versus nature, there’s little room for nuance. Granted we get snippets of backstory for both Clooney and Bullock…but who gives a shit? Other than one fascinating comment from Bullock about her daughter, their characterization is a futile experiment. Most of the dialogue is directional and plainly objective. Any subtext is fairly useless when the ISS is exploding behind you.

Between the eruptions and the tension, there are some clever strings being pulled. Cuaron is a smart man, smart enough to make a movie about a lack of child birth into something about hope for a dying future. This movie plays with a few themes in a subtle manner. Firstly: nature vs. humanity. It’s clear from the opening credits that space is uninhabitable. It seems as though Cuaron intends to encourage humanity to keep its feet firmly on the ground. Though it is called “Gravity“, that character never makes an appearance. It is the Godot to Bullock and Clooney’s Didi and Gogo. They beg for it to be there and yet it isn’t. Cuaron is careful that very little of this movie, in space terms, is extraordinary. The events of the catastrophe come from nothing more than routine work. Even when the missile strike is discussed over the radio, Housten is barely worried. The entire movie is an example of how deadly the universe is when humans are stripped of their basic assumptions namely: gravity, oxygen and heat. I mean, it seems obvious, but with movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek purveying absurd inaccuracies about the very nature of space travel, it’s refreshing to see a genre dragged back to its roots. Unfortunately, for the most part it’s a one trick pony, unlike its brilliantly bizarre and superior predecessor 2001: A Space Odyssey (SPOILERS: George Clooney is the massive space baby). It’s interesting to note that it’s a sad day for NASA when movie makers need to historicize a fictitious event that had to happen in the PAST when concerning SPACE TRAVEL. That’s right, since the shutdown of the space shuttle program, this movie is impossible. What the Carl Sagan fuck, guys?

In space, it's all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed my a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she's the strongest member of the 'SPEED' cast the world' ever known.

In space, it’s all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed by a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she’s the strongest member of the ‘SPEED’ cast the world’s ever known.

Cuaron carefully plays with both space and time (no joke intended – okay, fine, there was a joke but I was too lazy to make it. DEAL WITH IT). Firstly, though space is infinite, I’ve never felt so claustrophobic. Both he and his cinematographer are obsessed with examining the beauty of the cosmos…but that beauty is a distant creature. All they have in the meantime is the vacuum of nothingness. Every vessel they visit is the size of a boarding school bathroom stall, barely enough room to fit two children, even if one of them has their head in a toilet, and that kid is totally not me, I’m just using a hypothetical situation to prove a point and I certainly don’t still have a debilitating fear of clockwise rotating water. All things taken for granted on earth (100 meters, fire, momentum, etc.) are a mess in space. Seeing Bullock and Clooney handle each challenge moment to moment is thrilling and, somehow, never hits the point of diminishing returns. Even that video-game-esque excitement of the POV shots adds to the crushing sense of closeness, our protagonists’ faces always reflected on the meager barrier between them and the obliterative death of deep space. Likewise, time takes on a new meaning out in the black. You are constantly aware of the debris barrage coming every 90 minutes, though each second seems an eternity. There is a moment when Bullock reaches safety for the first time and removes her suit, she lies, floating in the airlock, like a baby in the womb, curled tightly into a fetal position. The seconds tick away and she doesn’t move an inch. It is not only a powerful moment of relief, it’s also a transformation where, for the first time, we see her as a fully-fledged and vulnerable human being.

From here on…there be SPOILERS. Beware…

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don't like it, you're an IDIOT.

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don’t like it, you’re an IDIOT.

This, as with Children of Men, is a story about hope. It’s the tale of a person facing insurmountable and deadly odds, one that will not only kill but utterly dehumanize before the end. It’s about people seeing the end of their fate and deciding to press on into the darkness. In CoM, because, yes that movie is so essential to society that it requires an abbreviation, we see Clive Owen beaten, slammed, shot, tortured, chased, and generally emotionally mutilated, all in service of saving the first child born in 20 something years. Gravity plays with similar themes though reduced like a fine sauce to a simmering and simple delicacy. The is no need to save earth, it’s just a tale of survival. For the length of the movie I expected Bullock to bite the proverbial space dust. However, she persists, hallucinating her way into action and doing the impossible to find her way back to Earth. Every inch of the way, your heart is hurting for this poor woman as she has to go through catastrophe after catastrophe all of it caused by a routine satellite SNAFU. Cuaron makes an interesting point of highlighting the deadliness of the mundane especially in Bullock’s story about her daughters death (hackneyed choice, b-tee-dubs, guys, but I’ll let it slide. The script isn’t exactly the work of a master. “GRAB ONTO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!” is just a teensy bit short of Shakespeare. But whatevs) she discusses that her kid tripped while playing, hit her head and died. Nothing more to it. It’s that spark of the minor devastations that drives this tale to its optimistic end. But while my heart yearned for her to survive, my mind begged this movie to be slightly more complex. It’s not. There was something chilly to the ending of Liam Neeson tour-de-wolf-punching-force The Grey (both literally and figuratively), where it becomes apparent that the film following the survivors of a plane crash in Alaska slowly succumb to the elements until they’re left as frozen meat-cicles. I hoped for a similar end to Gravity. Perhaps something mildly ambiguous…not Sandra Bullock standing in red mud while the orchestra climaxes (both literally and figuratively).

The only actual complaint I could have about Children of Men is the ending. The same is mostly true of Gravity. You beg them to survive, you pray and hope and clench and hold your breath and then…when they do, you find yourself lacking. We, the audience, are children screaming for a big-kid meal…but when we get it, we’re disappointed, unaware that we didn’t actually want a positive ending at all. It’s beautiful to think there is an intelligent artist doing good work in the horrifically existentially disemboweling creature that is Hollywood, pumping out tales of unfettered hope. I guess…I don’t want that. I wanted Sandra Bullock to die. And this is the first time in like two years that I wanted it to happen for a reason other than because she won the Oscar for The Blind Side. I wanted this to be about man’s folly in confronting nature, just like I did with Sunshine. But then people win against nature and, once more, it transforms a harrowing tale into one of a power fantasy. Where’s the ‘cautionary’ in the cautionary tale? Le sigh.

*SPOILERS OVER*

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I've ever seen.

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I’ve ever seen.

In the end, sci-fi is a limping, damaged filmic genre. These days people are more content to settle for nonsense like Star Trek Into Darkness and everything to come out of the penis that spawned Transformers and Battleship. It’s refreshing to see something different, something challenging. Should it win Oscars? Maybe for technical achievements. Anything else? Not in my humble (read: not humble in the slightest) opinion. Remember Avatar? No? Good. This is a piece of technical brilliance with a thematically cogent tale laid over the top, like flesh over the metal innards of the Terminator. In a few years, these tricks and techniques will be old. Watch Avatar again and yawn. Why? Because it’s fucking stupid. The magic of newness died long ago. It’s amusing to read Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comments about the factual inaccuracies of this movie. A fire extinguisher will not propel you in a direction while in a vacuum. Why? Because science. Maybe, hopefully, one day this movie will simply be an artifact of past ignorance. Future children (new band name!) will view this on a zero-G hologram computer and laugh, much like I giggle my ass off at Bullock’s absurd indictment of the Internet in 1995’s The NetUntil that point, well done, Cuaron. You are still one of the most talented and interesting directors out there. And I love you.

Wait. Ignore that last part. I don’t want it to be creepy.

Battleship (2012) – Peter Berg (Dir.), Taylor “Locks of Love” Kitsch, Brooklyn “Chicken Burrito” Decker, Liam “Facepalm” Neeson, Alexander “Vampire Viking” Skarsgaard, real US Veterans

battleship-movie-poster

The battle for my heart has already been won, Battleship, my Battleship.

Guys. Guys. Seriously, GUYS.

It happened. It finally happened! All this time I have been waiting, patiently biding my time, nagging and needing, pushing and pulling, whining and whinging until finally, fucking ultimately and in the goddamn end, someone ACTUALLY WATCHED BATTLESHIP WITH ME. Without alcohol, drugs or anything other than Earl Grey tea (Jean-Luc Picard style, bitches) I consumed, nay feasted on this behemoth of summer movie epicness.

Wow. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the rest of the Seven Dwarfs. What can be said about Battleship that hasn’t already been said about Citizen Kane? What can be said that hasn’t already been said about Hamlet? Paradise Lost? In fact, it was so mind-blowingly brilliant, so life-changingly beautiful that I almost gave up my entire career in Chicago to go live with the gorillas in the Congo. It is, hands down, the most important movie I have ever seen in my measly existence. Decades from now, worshippers will lay themselves on the pyres of Peter Berg to sacrifice themselves to the greatest gift known to man. That gift? Mutherfucking Battleship.

But then, after completing this tour de force, this magnum opus, this codification of all things that makes us human, I finally glanced across the various Best Of lists for 2012 from a handful of mindful critics. Much to my chagrin, Battleship was left completely by the wayside! How was this possible? How did this many scholarly filmic journalists pass up the greatest ode to human suffering that is Hasbro’s Christ-like franchise? And so, like a manic father searching for his son in a mall, though you know he was snatched by the bad guys and is going to be held to blackmail me into infiltrating the White House to steal the nuclear codes, I tore through the Oscar Nominations this year. A Munch-ian scream-like grimace came across my face as, category after category, Battleship was left in the dust, a discarded piece of brilliance too advanced for its own time and tossed aside along with yesterday’s jam. What kind of monster would nominate Daniel Day Lewis, the silliest facial hair in the business, over Taylor Kitsch? How could we have Anne “Phoning it in” Hathaway on the list but no Brooklyn Decker? And, come on, Tommy Lee Jones? He was terrible in Men in Black 3! I haven’t seen anything else with him in it, but based on that sole metric, he must be awful. Why not substitute him for Alexander Skarsgaard?

So ashamed was I in the academy that I’ve decided to write my own Best Of list for this fateful year. Get ready, plebs, and, as Mr. L. Jackson would say, HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS.

Best Franchise Leading Man – Taylor Kitsch (Battleship)

There is a man, not just any man, but a Canadian man. He burst onto screens and into our hearts with the emotionally hollowing and brutal Friday Night Lights only a few years ago (full disclaimer…I’ve never seen Friday Night Lights nor am I sure of what it’s about. Baseball, maybe?). Since that unparalleled start, he was thrust into a role that could not have been portrayed by any mortal man. I am, of course, speaking of the Cajun, exploding-card-throwing-kendo-stick-wielding-building-jumping-Hugh-Jackman-punching fanboy favorite, Gambit, in perhaps the greatest movie about facial hair and poor cuticle trimming the world has ever seen: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Since then, Kitsch was catapulted to stardom. And, like that first red bird you fire in a game of Angry Birds, it usually goes a little too high, soars too close to the sun and incinerates upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. Such was Kitsch’s career. In this last year alone he starred in the massively successful and sure-to-not-be-the-only-movie-in-it’s-franchise-unless-Disney-gambled-millions-of-dollars-and-lost-catastrophically John Carter as well as this beast of genius, Battleship. How can one actor go from long hair to short in only one scene? How can a man so effectively growl and look like he’s constantly defecating himself? How can a man make his eyes so squinty-small that it seems as though someone forgot to cut them open when they tore open the Kitsch Action Figure packaging? This man is absolutely destined for stardom. Obviously we will get to see his true strengths during the inevitable Battleship 2 due to the first one’s incredible commercial success.

Sorry, what was that? Oh, it didn’t make any money? Huh. How about that?

Yes, that’s the face that launched a thousand Battleships…well, it would have if, well, it was a good face.

Best Brotherly Acting – Alexander Skarsgaard (Battleship)

Now, though Kitsch was obviously the star of the show, credit must be given to his literal brother in arms, Alexander. I don’t remember what his character’s name was, but it doesn’t matter. The point is: they’re brothers. The two of them are so brotherly and so fraternally joined that any question of their joint ancestral background is nonsense. Even though Kitsch is brunette and Skarsgaard is blonde. And Kitsch looks almost native american while Skarsgaard is about as Aryan as weinerschnitzel. And Kitsch is like 5’10” while Skaarsgaard is approximately 3000 feet tall. Oh, and Skarsgaard has an accent. Other than that, any question of their filial relationship is completely absurd. But honestly, how hasn’t Skarsgaard won an Oscar yet? Isn’t there a category for best Sookie Pounding? Or maybe that’s just the Emmys (there’s an Emmy for everything). This gentleman is an epic piece of humanity whose nuanced portrayal of a naval commander truly cuts to the core of what Conrad was searching for when he penned Heart of Darkness. I mean, just look at his face-blowing-up performance that occurs at the thirty minute mark:

Just look at that lip. I haven’t seen a lip that good since Brando.

One might think he was a shoe-in for Best Supporting. But no, the Academy went with Philip Seymour “Butts” Hoffman. Travesty.

Best Naval Research – Peter Berg, Joe and Erich Hoeber (Battleship)

When given the task of representing an entire branch of the US military there are too many pitfalls to count. Let us all hang our heads in remembrance of the ever-lost and exceedingly terrible Aaron Eckhart growl-a-thon Battle: LA where combat verisimilitude turned every action scene into incoherent visual mulch. When Peter Berg decided to take on this, the greatest movie I have ever seen, he was given an impossible task. How does one take the tale of aliens invading the Earth and manage to keep the integrity of the US Naval forces in tact while they have to adapt and survive against this new and brutal foe? Well, the answer is: masterfully. So many questions I had about the Navy were answered in full, things like: Q. Who is in charge of a battleship? A. The guy with the coffee cup; Q. What does the commander do if he’s the only named character on the boat? A. Everything; Q. Can anyone do anything without orders? A. Absolutely not. Q. What is the first thing every single member of the crew does when given an order? A. Directly question and bitch about it to their commanding officer; Q. If aliens invaded a vessel, what’s the first thing you do? A. Send the most senior officer into the situation without any intel or weaponry other than a standard issue M4 assault rifle and then clear literally every space on the ship so, in case he does go hand to hand with a power-suited super alien, he won’t have any help whatsoever because he is, of course, the most senior officer. What we were offered was a dramatic, coherent view of everyday naval life forced into an extreme situation, an exemplary piece of filmmaking that would rival Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front or Tora! Tora! Tora!

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This is in no way a metaphor for the triumph over erectile dysfunction.

This certainly wasn’t, in no way a transparent cashing in on US militarism for solely the purpose of profit and unwarranted patriotism. Nor was it the result of director Peter Berg sitting in his bathtub with a toy boat yelling “NAVY! NAVY! NAVY!” over and over again while the two English-as-a-second-language screenwriters tried to take broken dictation. No way, no how. This is an AMURKAN film. No corners have ever been cut in AMURKA.

Best Meet Cute – Taylor Kitsch and Brooklyn Decker and a chicken burrito (Battleship)

As I will go into during my multi-part, existential, soul-searching examination of romantic comedies, the art of the ‘Meet Cute’ is a practice so delicate and precise that, if done incorrectly, can sour one’s audience to the point of the entire theater bursting into collective screams and soiling themselves with rage. Thank god Peter Berg was here. This ‘Meet Cute’ (where the two love interests first ‘meet’ in a cute fashion) wasn’t even necessary for this film. No. We could have just skipped to the next part where Kitsch has his hair cut off and is suddenly in the Navy and the audience would have believed that the two prettiest people on screen are in a relationship because, let’s be real, eugenics is a thing. But not Peter Fucking Berg. No, we had to see them meet while Kitsch was still sporting his rad doo earned from the deserts of Mars. We had to see the truest love committed to the silver screen since Casa-fucking-blanca.

What’s the scene? Kitsch is at a bar. So is super-blondie and constructed-in-a-Victoria-Secret-Secret-lab-owned-by-Michael-Bay Brooklyn Decker (also the name of the most hipster mode of transportation in NYC). We’re confronted with the age old issue that plagues all new couples. The lady wants a chicken burrito. You know, a chicken burrito. The elixir of the gods. A chicken burrito. Why does she want a chicken burrito? Because she wants to eat a chicken burrito. Because it’s a chicken burrito. And chicken burritos are delicious. So what does Kitsch do? He promises her a chicken burrito. You know, what the lady wants. A chicken burrito. He heads to Seven Eleven to get a chicken burrito but finds they are closed, thus his question for a chicken burrito is halted chicken burrito-less. What does he do? Buy her real food? Nope. He breaks in while the Pink Panther theme plays and steals her, yep, you guessed it, a chicken burrito.

And then he gets tazed.

I haven’t seen anything so true, so heartfelt, so fundamentally brilliant in all my 25 years. If I hadn’t gotten lucky and met a beautiful woman recently, I would march into a bar tonight and just start handing out chicken burritos in exchange for love. Also, I’ll make sure to be violently incapacitated by the Chicago Police. Fucking genius.

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“Wait, I thought this movie was about Chicken Burritos. Why is everything exploding?” ~ Brooklyn Decker, sweet but not much going on up there.

Best Being in a Movie Without Really Being in a Movie – Liam Neeson (Battleship)

This was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Peter Berg. It is established that Liam Neeson, you know, the Irish gentleman who is known not only for his unparalleled acting chops but also for his incomparable ability to beat the shit out of non-Americans with a brutality that can only be found in a movie produced by Luc Besson, is Ms. Double Decker’s father and Mr. Kitsch must ask him permission to marry her. Of course, Kitsch, being the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants one-last-chance loose-cannon (insert other cliches here), he has not yet curried favor with the Admiral. Oh yes, did I mention? Her father is also the Admiral of the Navy. So, when Kitsch goes to Navy, gets a few Navy badges and joins in playing war games at Navy-Camp, he is determined to win her father’s trust and respect. Neeson towers over the proceedings, the aloof and terrifying father figure that is the puppet master of these Naval war games.

And then the aliens show up and Neeson pretty much disappears until the last ten minutes of the fucking film. Yep. He doesn’t stick around. He just sits on his aircraft carrier for an entire day doing nothing. While Kitsch and his cohorts battle tooth and nail, their asses handed to them in a shockingly interesting adaptation of a board game to the silver screen, Liam Neeson does nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, when the big alien shield is finally broken in the midst of the final battle, it cuts back to Neeson in exactly the same position having not moved a single inch in and entire fucking day. Now, a less observant movie-goer might ask, “Hey, did they just film all of Neeson’s scenes on one day so he could get the fuck out of there and go back to making Taken 2?” But I am one of the enlightened. Making it seem as though nothing had changed just serves Berg’s almost Rand-ian thesis that is this movie. The Navy is stalwart. It is always there, never taking breaks. It is the perpetual watchdog of our shores. Well done, Mr. Berg. Well done.

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I was going to put a picture of Liam Neeson in this movie here, but this was all I got from google. Well played, Neeson, well played.

Best Actors that Have No Formal Training of Any Kind – Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Gregory D. Gadson, a bunch of really old WWII vets

Now, there have been instances in the past where roles have been filled in major films with people who are not actors. They don’t know how to read a script for beats, for character arc, for subtext. These people have no training of any kind and are thrust into the world of a movie without so much as a life vest. It’s incredible. Mr. Berg managed to wrangle so many non-actors in this film that the actual number of non-actors outweighed that of actual actors. Yes, we first have Ms. Brooklyn Decker whose performance in the chicken burrito scene alone so have clinched her Best Supporting Actress (Fantine my ass), a model with no real interest in dramatic forms. Next, we have Rihanna, a woman known for her intense hairstyles and affinity for precipitation-avoiding accessories, who is, apparently, the only woman on an active naval ship. All questions of her ability and dramatic talent were quashed the moment she utter the words “Mahalo, Muthf-” before blowing up a super alien with a fucking cannon. The fact that ‘Mahalo’ in Hawaiian means ‘thank you’ didn’t stop Rihanna from truly imbuing the moment with a level of female empowerment that would have made Susan B. Anthony ejaculate. After that, we have Gregory D. Gadson, an actual vet who lost his legs in combat and now only has titanium kick-ass legs in their place. At first, his delivery was flat, uninteresting and fake. But, as the movie went on, his delivery remained flat, uninteresting and fake. His lines, however, became more and more badass with every scene; thus by way of sheer will, he managed to, no joke, become the most awesome character in the entire movie. When he choked the alien with his fake leg I was reminded of Day Lewis’s performance in My Left Foot. That level of greatness. Finally, after the sixth act break in the movie, we are treated with an AC/DC-backed montage of 80-something-old US vets recommissioning the only working battleship left in the armada after the alien attack.

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Look at that emotion! Sally Field robbed Rihanna for that nomination. ROBBED, I SAY!

Read that bit again. An AC/DC-backed montage of 80-something-old US vets recommissioning the only working battleship left in the armada after the alien attack.

One more time: an AC/DC-backed montage of 80-something-old US vets recommissioning the only working battleship left in the armada after the alien attack.

I think I saw God during those moments. No joke. An out-of-body moment of true clarity. It really is a testament to Mr. Berg’s directing ability that he managed to coax performances out of completely green subjects that basically outshone all of his professional actors, making their ‘acting’ look like nothing more than a growly rendition of a middle school retelling of Glengarry Glen Ross. That, or his ‘real’ actors really were completely incapable of anything other that utter bullshit. But that’s preposterous.

Best Performance by Ben Kingsley as an Entire Alien Race – Ben Kingsley, Peter Berg (Battleship)

Now, I’ve been known to accuse Sir Ben Kingsley of being in every movie for nothing but a pitiful paycheck (Species anyone? Prince of Persia? Bloodrayne? Ghandi?). But today I officially take back everything I have ever said to tarnish his career. Every err he has ever made over the years, and, trust me, there have been many, have been forgiven. Now, one would think that if we were to be watching a massive summer blockbuster, then the time and effort placed in designing and crafting the alien race that invades should evoke the darkest corners of our imagination. Much like Independence Day had imitations of the god of all sic-fi horror Alien imprinted into its alien DNA, we have come to expect truly terrifying design from our summer action. Well, Mr. Berg, once again, has defied expectation and made a choice that will go down in cinematic history. In an almost Being John Malkovich-like move, he cast Ben Kingsley as every single alien on screen. The result, one would think, would be a complete lack of forethought in terms of the grander world Berg is attempting to cultivate. It is not. Instead, when the aliens remove their helmets, revealing the Oscar winner himself (with some questionable facial hair, but I think that’s written in Kingsley’s contract to combat the lack of living follicles on the rest of his cranium) we are suddenly forced to examine ourselves. Perhaps, by the end of this movie, we might think that the aliens who are invading are really ourselves. Man’s only enemy is himself. Once again, brilliant work.

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House of Sand and Fog ain’t got shit on this.

Best Transformers Sequel – Peter Berg (Battleship)

I’m sure you, when scouring the list of 2012’s movies, were stunned to see the lack of a Transformers movie this year. Fear not! Mr. Berg, apparently taking over the helm of the franchise after Mr. Bay, I’m assuming, accidentally lodged himself in a stripper’s rectum, has done the unthinkable. He has so accurately and totally mimicked Bay’s auteurish flair to bring us yet another powerful addition to Hasbro’s growing film fiefdom. Now, as there are no actual Transformers in the movie itself, one must assume that all of the vehicles are actual living covertly as helicopters and boats until Sam Witwicky stops having sex with women far beyond not just his league, but his fucking sport, to come and start a new adventure. How else can one explain the film’s disjointed continuity? The flagrant misuse of lens flare? Of slow motion? The ghastly incorporation of over-saturated color filters? The broken flow and erratic shifts in tone? The complete ignorance of basic screenwriting rules? The eschewing of three acts in favor of twelve instead? The runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes? An obnoxious and utterly unfunny comedic sidekick? A flagrantly untalented super-model with about as much emotion as a bag of nails constantly visually violated with a widescreen lens? Honestly, it truly was brilliant how Berg carefully and subtly laid the groundwork for a series reboot without attempting to push its audience into deep water too quickly (see what I did there?).

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Click the gifs and spot the difference. Can you? Neither can I.

As with all sequels, one must take the work done and make it better. In this instance, we had the addition of one female character that isn’t anyone’s mother. Well done there. Also, the screenwriters managed to imbue deeper meaning by way of constant quotations from Stephen Hawking, Sun Tsu and Shakespeare. These lines manage to cut deep to the emotional thrust of the action, while the less observant might just write them off as the two screenwriters scouring an edition of Bartlett’s Encyclopedia of Quotations in fear of having to write any lines themselves.

So, there you have it, my Best of 2012. I’ll be back for the Oscars where I will go through every single category and make sure you know exactly why Battleship should have swept up more Oscars than Titanic. I mean, come on. There are boats. There’s love. There’s a scene where Taylor Kitsch and the Japanese costar run up the length of a sinking ship and jump off exactly like Kate and Jack. The comparisons are innumerable. So, go see Battleship. I will watch it again and again, whiskey in hand. It truly is the new Showgirls.

Flight (2012) – Robert Zemeckis (Dir.), Denzel Washington, Barry Greenwood, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, John Goodman

I believe this is the face I made for the entirety of the 2 hour runtime.

So, do you remember there was that kid in school who, no matter what was going on in the world, whether it was a happy celebration, a sports game or just a bunch of people chilling out, they always needed to remind you that their father or their mother was a drunk/dead and that there was this whole story about it that they insisted on telling you, a story that is far too well-thought out to be necessarily true but the subject matter is so depressing you can’t stand up and outrightly call the kid a liar? And do you remember that this kid, whether or not the overwrought tale was true or not, would only play this little game of ‘pity me’ in order to garner attention from attractive girls/everyone in the room? Well, I do. This kid pulls on the heartstrings in so many manipulative ways that you have to just sit there and wait for them to stop talking, though you’ve heard the tale a thousand times and it is so riddled with cliches that you have to forcibly hold down your inner writer from calling out ‘BULLSHIT’, and, when they finish, whisper in the most convincing way possible, ‘I’m sorry’ (or, in the fashion of one of my more churlish friends, ‘That sucks’). Well, Flight is that kid.

I did not like this movie. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not that it’s poorly acted or poorly directed. It’s none of those things. In fact, it’s a resounding ‘Fine’ in all departments. The issue is that you sit through this film, fully aware that director Robert Zemeckis is reaching directed into your chest, Kali-Mah style, and yanking on anything he can find. We get heavy-handed music cues (Sweet Mary Jane plays while the surprising tit-worthy Kelly “She Was in Sherlock Holmes, Man That Was Bugging Me For the Whole Movie” Reilly ODs on heroin, the opening line of Sympathy for the Devil, ‘Let me introduce myself’, plays as John Goodman enters the fray and With a Little Help from My Friends floods the audio after Denzel snorts coke and hangs out with a little girl in an elevator), we get close-ups so ham-fisted that they might as well have started their own fucking butcher shop (YES, MR. ZEMECKIS, WE CAN SEE HIM CRYING. WE DO NOT NEED A CLOSE UP OF HIM CRYING, THE TEAR IS GLISTENING, WE DON’T NEED TO SEE A REFLECTION OF THE DEAD FLIGHT ATTENDANT IN IT), and, of course, we have prostitutes, swelling scores and Denzel Mutherfuckin’ Washington. This thing is so emotionally manipulative, if it were a human being, it would be a Dexter-level sociopath. Of course it’s easy to get sucked in and cry a little when the Denzel Waterworks (TM) take off. But, if you have any emotional distance whatsoever, the hand is shown too fast and you just sit there, for two fucking hours, thinking to yourself “BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT”. And that, my friends, is what I did.

How I felt walking out of this movie without laughing too loudly.

What’s it about? Well, The Denz is a hotshot ex-Navy airline pilot with a penchant for tits, ass, coke and booze. After a night of partying with a rather shirtless stewardess, he snorts a line, makes a screwdriver and then flies an airliner. What can go wrong? Well, apparently, the plane it a certified POS and knocks itself into a nosedive halfway through the flight (see what they did there?). With the help of the annoying dude who gets shot in the leg in The Hurt Locker, Denz Dub manages to invert the plane, stabilize it, revert it and then fly it into a field losing only six lives (or four, legally, seeing as crew don’t count as living people). It is one of the most stressful, harrowing and totally absurd openings to a movie since the Roger Moore era of James Bond movies. It’s reminiscent of Captain Sully “Sully is Actually His Name” Sullenberger and his heroic saving of the Hudson flight. Here’s the problem, Sully isn’t an interesting topic for a movie. You know why? Coz he’s a good guy without any discernible skeletons in the closet. So, Mr. Zemeckis took this yarn of heroism and asked, “What if the guy is a drunken douchebag?” Um… okay. Here’s the thing with movies about drunks. Alcohol is a depressant. Usually, people drink until they die, which is very solitary, slow and quiet. You know what isn’t any of those things? A FUCKING PLANE CRASH. After the initial whiz-bang of the opening 30 minutes, we are treated to an agonizing slow burn of a man haunted by demons and just making bad choice after bad choice. It is, in essence, a tale of two films. On the one hand, we have a completely unrealistic story of a super-pilot and on the other we have a man trying to kill himself with every liquor known to man. Both are fine in isolation, but these two halves are so tonally incongruous you practically shit yourself with boredom for the latter section. It’s as though Mr. Zemeckis spent 30 minutes tickling your dramatic erogenous zones and, just as it gets hot and heavy, he pulls out a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and begins reading all of the 12 steps over and over in monotone. Let me say: I have a lot of sober friends and I have great respect for the program and how it helps people with the disease of alcoholism. I believe it’s important to tell the stories of people struggling with addiction. BUT SOMETIMES IT ISN’T APPROPRIATE TO READ THE TWELVE STEPS TO MY AROUSED FILM-PENIS.

How I felt while trying to come up with an opening paragraph for this review.

Could this movie have been good? Yes. I believe so. Unfortunately, Zemeckis is a man personally trained by Steven “What the fuck is Subtlety? I Made Indiana Jones” Spielberg. He is from a school of cinematic thought where the music swells at every possible instant, silence is an audience’s worst enemy and CLOSE-UPS! OH LAWDY, THE CLOSE-UPS! Perhaps in the 80s, it was okay to make a movie about a white person going back in time and inventing rock and roll (we all know that’s what Back to the Future was reeeeally about). In the 90s it was okay to make a movie about a dullard getting AIDS and basically crafting the modern era of American politics. It was even okay in the early naughties to make a movie about a man in love with both facial hair and volley balls. But then…he did motion capture. Suddenly, Zemeckis crowned himself king of the Uncanny Valley with such horrifying and disgusting creations as The Polar Express, God-of-War-the-Movie: Beowulf and the final nail in the coffin for Jim Carrey’s holiday film career, A Christmas Carol. And when he was stuck jerking off in that realm of terror, film evolved. Suddenly, the Oscar norm isn’t Philadelphia, it’s No Country for Old Men. It doesn’t tell us when to cry, when to hold tight. It dares us not to. It challenges us. It leaves us questioning ourselves and our choices. It is a good move towards subtlety. Unfortunately, he missed it. Flight is Zemeckis’ first foray back into the land of real faces, but, unfortunately, they all still seem like those soulless pixelated monstrosities he so loves. Yes, they are human. Yes, they are acting well. But they seem shuffled about the story like hollowed-out meat puppets. It’s as though Zemeckis is attempting to craft his own filmic purgatory, a realm where audiences sometimes discover themselves trapped for 2 hours at a time. It is a place where a mirror is placed in front of their faces with the human essence, the core, the light at the center of consciousness, removed. It might be scary. It might not be. It is no hell. It is simply nothingness.

How I feel every time I am John Goodman.

Flight is nothingness. It has a message, yes. It tries extremely hard to be a story about alcoholism. And yet, it tries so hard to be more than that and that, my friends, is exactly why it fails. Perhaps Mr. Zemeckis needs to wander away from the computer for a moment and interact with this strange species we call ‘Hoomonity’. Maybe he can then turn his obvious skill as a director towards something a little less Oscar-grabby. Something quieter. Something without CGI of any kind. He wants it again. He wants that golden statuette so badly. But, Mr. Zemeckis, if Forrest Gump were released today, it would go the way of I Am Sam: in the words of Black Robert Downey Jr., it would go ‘full retard’. We aren’t retards, Mr. Zemeckis. We’re older and smarter. Get with the program.