Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Are we not men?

After a rapidfire screening schedule that included Australia, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Slumdog Millionaire, Noel made an observation that rings true at least at this point in the prestige movie season.

These films aren't for grownups.

Compare to last year, whose prestige slate included such thoroughly adult and morally sophisticated fare as There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men. By contrast, this fall seems to be feeding us fables and fairy tales -- highly enjoyable ones, even stylistically adventurous ones. But nevertheless with the simplicity, schematic outlines, and overdetermined messages of the morality tale or the bedtime story.

Now I quite enjoyed Australia and Millionaire (I haven't seen Button). But I certainly see what Noel means. For all their cinematic daring, the stories are supremely comfortable. I know they are meant to evoke movie traditions (from Oz to Bollywood) and the happy endings that those historical models demand. Isn't it striking, though, that this is what these talented (and often iconoclastic) filmmakers are giving us? What is it about this moment that calls for the soothing tones appropriate to children?


doafy said...

I'm not sure I agree with the comparison to last year. Lately I've seen RocknRolla, Changeling, Synecdoche New York, In Bruges (on video, came out last spring? I include it here because it was the third non-uplifting movie in a row), Zack and Miri Make A Porno, and Australia.

Out of those, I'd say that Changeling, Synecdoche, and In Bruges were definetly "for grownups." They were at least emotionally complex. In fact my husband and I were so glad to see Zack and Miri and Australia because we'd had quite enough of the heavy stuff. Yet when we look in the listings, there continues to be heavy stuff we want to see.

Still on our list are Rachel Getting Married and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (which I know very little about, but the freakin' movie poster moved me!). Those were both in the running last weekend, but we needed fluff and grandeur.

stevie said...

I left a long comment last night that was eaten. Grrr!

To summarize: yes. I have not liked a lot of the prestige pictures - even Synechdoche, which I recognize as a work of genius but can't really fathom sitting through again. (It is like a filmed David Foster Wallace story - you recognize there's nothing like it and the superiority of craft that went into it, but it requires a lot of effort and isn't always a pleasurable experience.)

But mostly, this season I've just felt disappointment. Very little has touched me the way a large number of films from last year did (Atonement, Once, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, The Savages, Ratatouille, etc.). There are exceptions (Wall-E, Rachel Getting Married) but the sophistication and depth has not been there.