Thursday, January 3, 2008

10 Down

1. Women. Women have had a bad year in Hollywood - such a bad year that it could be its own post. Waitress started the year off great, and Juno closed it, but in between nothing but bad stuff happened to women. First of all Adrienne Shelly, the writer-director-co-star of Waitress, was murdered. Then you've got the infamous, possibly apocryphal statement by WB exec Jeff Robinov that "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead." Enter Judd Apatow sausage-fests like Knocked Up and Superbad; in the former, the women are well-treated but get way less screen time and fun, while in the latter women are at best sexual objects and at worst the coming catastrophe that destroys young male homosociality. As A.O. Scott said about Juno, in response to the Apatow films: "Despite what most products of the Hollywood comedy boys’ club would have you believe, it is possible to possess both a uterus and a sense of humor." Every female actress of note in the entire world was packed into Evening (Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Eileen Atkins, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Natasha Richardson) but it sucked so no one went to see it. So, we've still got Juno. I guess that's about it.
2.Sequels. I hated the first two Spider-man movies, but the critics liked them. I liked the first two Shrek movies and the first two Rush Hour movies. Nobody liked Fantastic Four, and the people liked National Treasure, but not the critics. All of those franchises were in different places, and all of them had different levels of financial success in their 2007 offerings, but all the 2007 offerings had one thing in common: they all sucked, to differing degrees. Most of them alot.
3.The War on Terror. In the Valley of Elah was pretty good, and I've heard good things about Charlie Wilson's War and The Kingdom. That's the best that can be said: 3 ok movies that got ok reviews and made ok money. Then, of course, there's Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Redacted, and probably some other crap I'm forgetting that no critics liked and no one saw. Oh well. Just rent Three Kings.
4.Biopics. Last year, a mediocre biopic, Walk the Line, had Oscar success, and a couple years back an even worse film, Ray, also had inexplicable success. This year, two French biopics (Moliere and La Vie en Rose) were mostly ignored while Todd Haynes' I'm Not There made biopics look pathetically conservative (which they are) and Judd Apatow's Walk Hard made them look stupid (they are). No more biopics, ever.
5.John C. Reilly. Everything Judd Apatow touches turns to gold. So when he elevated perpetual fourth fiddle John C. Reilly to lead in his spoof of Hollywood's worst genre, Reilly's road to stardom seemed paved to success - hell, it even got good reviews. This one time out, though, Apatow turned some lead to more lead, and the only possible explanation I can come up with is that people just aren't interested in Reilly. Maybe there'll be a Talladega Nights sequel starring him or something, but don't count on it.
6.The Lives of Others. This German film took a double whammy this year. First, us pathetic non-Manhattanites got our first look at it this year, but it won last year's Oscar for best foreign picture. Some critics put it on top 10 lists this year, some not. Frankly, I don't know what to do with it on my own list, and this annoys me. More importantly, although Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the film's overly-named debut director, is still alive, we lost its 54-year old star, Ulrich Muhe, to cancer before he had a chance to bring us more of his captivating underplaying. God, people keep dying on this list.
7.The Independent Film Channel. The IFC has a great new plan for releasing movies: release them simultaneously on demand on cable, the internet, and in one pretentious theater somewhere in Manhattan. So that means the renowned This is England will never come near me in theaters, so I have to watch it on my laptop screen. I've wanted to watch it for months, but I don't like watching movies on my laptop screen. Couldn't we just keep seeing movies, you know, in movie theaters - without moving to Manhattan?
8.Rich white people who think their lives suck so much that they have to go off to Alaska and die for no reason, so that another rich white person can write a book about it for rich white people to read in bookclubs, and then have other rich white people make a movie about it for rich white people to go see in independent movie theaters while drinking halfcalf double foam vanilla lattes and oohing and ahhing about the plight of unhappy rich white people.
9. Star Power. In addition to the Rubinov quote, it was a rough year for stars. Put simply, no one will go see a movie just because a star is in it, ever again. They have to want to see the movie itself. This means brilliant fare such as Michael Clayton goes unnoticed because George Clooney can't sell a movie all by himself, but it also probably means no more Julia Roberts vehicles forever. At least an even trade.
10.Manohla Dargis. She's a good critic. But every time I see that she reviewed a movie I wanted to hear about from A.O, my soul shriveled a little.

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