Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 5 Cinematic Questions of 2010

The long winding road of the films of 2010 have taken viewers on an amazing journey. They've wowed and amazed us. They've infused and inspired us. They've infuriated and disheartened us. Yet, I think one aspects of this year's films has stood head and shoulders above the rest: befuddlement. From the faux-not faux documentaries of I'm Still Here and Catfish to the mind benders of Inception and Black Swan, directors this year have gone the extra mile to make sure we leave the theater with a sizable 'wtf just happened' expression plastered across our face. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I think films that request (in some cases demand) multiple viewings to gain a greater appreciation are great for cinema.

In honor of that I've compiled a list of the five questions I took away from this year's movie selection. Some come straight from the films themselves, others are my own creation.

5. Just How Little of Pete Postlethwaite are directors allowed to get away with?

I admit this question may be more for my own sake than anyone else's, but Pete Postlewaithe has never really been given an opportunity to shine in Hollywood. In his two biggest films this year - Clash of the Titans and Inception - both his roles combined wouldn't equate to more than 15 lines and ten minutes of screen time. Even as he was destroying fellow cast members in The Town, the world was overlooking how talented he is (yeah, we get it - Affleck has abs and Lively has boobs - move on already). If you don't believe me put this up for a double feature: In the Name of the Father followed by Lost World: Jurassic Park. Polar opposite roles, he nails them both. Oh and while you're at it check out The Usual Suspects, Romeo + Juliet, Alien 3, and just about all his other films. Though please, pretty please, ignore Dragonheart - nobody came out of that looking pretty (except Sean Connery - even as a Dragon his voice is sexy)

4. Are smaller Graphic Novels/Comic adaptations here to stay?

With films like Kick-Ass, The Losers, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Jonah Hex all failing to break the $100m mark, it was not a good year for smaller graphic novels (comic books) making their way onto the big screen. Kick-Ass' low budget helped keep it afloat (something a sequel will likely neglect), while Red turned out to be the only standout making a swift $150m +. The Walking Dead found some love on television, but it still seems that Marvel and DC will reign supreme for the time being. Some of the films mentioned above (Scott Pilgrim for example) turned out to be among the most fun viewing experiences I had this year. However, we all know when it comes down to it - the bottom line in Hollywood is paved with green.

3. When will the 3D debate finally hit its threshold?

Yes, we all agree that 3D, when used in conjunction with pretty visuals, is a captivating experience. Yes, we all agree that lots of films that convert to 3D do so because they're lacking another viable draw. Yes, we all know that we've all written in depth articles about whether or not 3D should be, or is, here to stay. Still, the debate shows no sign of stopping. On twitter people still argue about it. And posts about films in 3D (and even those not in 3D) feel the need to point out how much better (or worse) it is because of it. Perhaps a better question would be - which will end first, 3D or arguments over 3D?

2. What happens if you die in limbo?

To be honest, I couldn't care less about the spinning top. My big curiosity with respect to Inception is the notion of 'limbo.' Beyond being just another plot device to infuse us with a sense of real tension in a dream world, limbo serves as the backdrop for much of Nolan's play with reality. It also leaves one gaping question unresolved: 'what happens if you die in limbo?' Does your body self kick as a defense mechanism? Perhaps you end up back in limbo. Or worse, you end up in limbo limbo! Yet, in the film there's nothing that tells you what will happen. All the characters that 'die' in limbo (hit in head from train or falling from a building) wake up. So wouldn't it have made sense much earlier on (since we see you can remain in control for some time in limbo) to tell everyone once they get their to kill themselves? I'm not sure, but I it's eating at my mind!

1. Truth or Fiction... Do we care?

As I mentioned above, one of the aspects of cinema that really came to the forefront of debates in 2010 was the idea of 'realism' in cinema. Just how factual should we expect a film based on a true story to be? The King's Speech has been the victim of some berating due its leaving out King George VI's Nazi sympathetic ties. Exit Through the Gift Shop, I'm Still Here, and Catfish each spawned numerous online debates as to the fullness of their authenticity. Then of course there's The Social Network. I can't think of any film in recent memory that seems to have inspired more media outlets to make sure they're posts on the accuracy of the film is heard by the masses. Not to mention Mark Zuckerberg's 'I'm not going to say anything but here's what I think' shtick which he's used to make sure everyone he can possibly get a hold of knows he's not like the character in the film (me think thou doth protest too much) . Yet to be honest, through it all, I really don't care. I thought The Social Network was a captivating film, worthy of much of the praise it has received. Though if I wanted complete fact, I'd do the research on my own. As for these docu/mocku-mentaries, I tend to view them as more of entertainment pieces, than something such as Restrepo (where I believe accuracy is paramount).

So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to know - what the questions the films of 2010 left your mind mulling over now that the end is upon us?

18 better thoughts:

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

I think the first thing I remember taking notice of Pete Postlewaithe in was The Lost World. They movie sucked but he was freaking great in his role. In my opinion he was the best damn part of the movie. I always love it when he unexpectedly shows up in something.

I kind of like the fact that we don't know exactly what happens if we die in Limbo. For all we know, no one ever got out and is still in Limbo. It is all part of the mystery.

As for the realness of "The Social Network," I haven't seen it yet but the book doesn't even try to hide the fact that it is making huge guesses about things that happened. I mean, there are parts of the book where the author pretty much says, "Now this is what might have happened that night..."

simoncolumb said...

A fantastic post!

Okay: Q1 - Posthelwaite will merely voice cameo roles in future...

Q2 - post-modern graphic-novel adaptations will fade out ... probably as the franchise of Kick-Ass will eventually fade out too.

Q3 - kids films and big-bastard blockbusters will stay in 3D... but, you'll never see woody allen in 3D

Q4 - Inception will be watched multiple times post-christmas so ... we'll see if it makes any sense then ... time will tell with that one.

Q5 - The best question. I think we are all a bit dubious of the media - and that means now, everything will become questionable... documentaries - are they real? everything is bias. we know that much.


Q5 -

Lesya said...

Great writing. Obviously, 'Kick-Ass' was not a total commercial success because of its R rating, but if it wasn't R-rated, I doubt whether it'd be so good. As for 'Inception', I think I cared more about the spinning top. I think I have a lot of questions about this particular movie, but they have escaped from my mind... Generally, I have a lot of issues about complex films I see but it's rather hard to put them in words.

Unknown said...

Really good post! I think the most interesting is the last, and even though it is not fair to the real people involved, I don't really care if it is truth or fiction. I just want a good story.

I get impatient with people who can't just accept a good story for what it is - like those people who won't read fairy tales to their kids.

Univarn said...

@Rick: I agree on Pete randomly showing up always being a plus. I just hate it when he randomly shows up and then leaves and is never really heard from again. As for limbo, I understand that mentality, but it's such an important concept in the film I would have liked them to deal with it more.

@Simon I suppose, but eventually future directors, who were born and raised on 3D, will rise, and 2D will be pushed aside and maintained only by the most dedicated cinema lovers.

@Lesya See, I don't think the 'R' rating carries the stigma it implies. 300 was R and it attracted numerous film goers. However, I think it being about high school aged kids turned off a lot of potential 20 year old viewers.

@Cheri I know someone who will watch any horror film you throw at them, but cannot stand fantasy movies - as they are too unrealistic. A mentality I most definitely do not understand.

amy said...

If you check the Age of Stupid, you got Postlewaithe most the time... but that movie/docu was kind of rubbish.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My question is the usual - is Hollywood so fresh out of original ideas it has to continue remaking old movies and TV shows?

Castor said...

Nice idea for a post Univarn.

5. I agree we could use more of Postlewaite. He certainly was awesome in that tiny role of his in The Town.

4. I think they will stick around but studios will definitely not put up with big budgets as seen with all the recent box office flops.

3. 3D is here to stay. I doubt it's going to go away now.

2. To be honest, I don't really care. There was a lot less that meets the eyes in Inception than most people think.

1. Well it bugs me when I go see a movie and then come home to realize it was overly dramatized. I can take small embellishing of the facts etc... but major changes from reality eats at me.

Univarn said...

@amy Age of Stupid doesn't even sound like something I'd want to check out :S

@AlexJ They have been for sixty years - won't change anytime soon.

@Castor I know it's a tough question to ask, but where do you draw the line at major? How does someone separate ego, hearsay, and myth in film? I often use Rudy as an example. They make quite a few changes in the film to heighten the drama and it works brilliantly. I don't hold a grudge against the film because of it.

Simon said...

In order: fifteen-twenty minutes, yes, now, you turn into old Ken Watanabe, no.

Rich said...

'Social Network' is far from the first movie based on a true story to stretch the truth. I agree it's an issue that has popped up quite a bit this year - how much of what we're seeing is real or fiction? - but one could always make a movie of their own that tells the "real" story and let the marketplace decide which is better. Stories always have an element of embellishment to them, and the best ones, if they're told often enough and wide enough, become legends. And we all know what we should do if the legend ever becomes fact.

I liked 'Dragonheart' BTW...

Andrew K. said...

On Postlewaite, damn he was sort of amazing in In the Name of the Father, but no one ever seems to remember that.

On Truth vs Fiction, we don't care. I'm not sure we ever did...

Univarn said...

@Simon I always dream of turning into old Ken Watanabe.

@Rich It's really bad when you go back and watch old classics from the 30's and 40's based on true stories - the amount of fact fudging is ludicrous (but creates great cinema).

@Andrew I don't think we ever did, but this year (or perhaps more so than I ever remember them doing) really seemed to latch on to the Zuckerberg vs. Social Network hook.

Hal said...

5. One line is all the dude needs.
4. They'll milk it for the rest of the decade.
3. The debate will stop once we either (a) embrace 3D, or (b) get over the novelty of it and go back to 2D.
2. If you die in limbo, you wake up in a Tim Burton movie.
1. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Great questions, btw. Thought-provoking for sure.

Danny King said...

With the case of "The Social Network," the fictional elements of the story and characters don't bother me one bit. They're all in service of a special film, and I think it's really up to the viewer as to how much they want to take the film at face value.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

My question is: Why do I always spill popcorn on my top and why does it always make such a mess?

I can eat any other food, in any other setting, and I never drop a thing-- even if it's in pitch black, I can handle it.

But NOT popcorn in a cinema.

I am deeply concerned by this, and if any of you can help me in this matter I would most certainly appreciate it.

Yours Sincerely,

Univarn said...

@Hal Thanks for the comment. Great use of a Liberty Valance quote - and apt as well.

@Danny I agree - I think the overall quality of the film definitely outweighs the fact fudging.

@Kid This is actually a very interesting syndrome known as the Hand-Popcorn-Ratio Conundrum. Whereby having started off eating only one popcorn at a time your mouth may feel full but your hand feels empty. Therefore your hand tries to compensate by grabbing more popcorn and as a consequence your mouth gets overflowed.

The Film Cynics said...

All great food for thought!

5. I've never been exactly clear on what the term "chew the scenery" means, but I have a feeling that's what Postlewaite was doing in The Town. Glad you made the exception of Dragonheart - there's 2 hours of my life I wish I had back.

4. I still think they need to fine tune the distribution of some of the smaller "art house" comic book films. If there had been enough screens showing Kick-Ass I think it could have wrangled in enough money to pay for itself properly... that's my armchair executive producing. Hellboy was a success - a real success. And I think that so long as it can remain in the back of people's minds, there's always a chance for a breakthrough.

3. People need to really start voting for 3D with their wallets. It costs so much more and it doesn't really offer much in return. 3D will persist so long as the market can sustain it, so if you can seek out the 2D versions of the films, we could put this puppy to bed.

2. The whole dying to wake up thing made for an easy and credible mechanic in the film, but you're right, it left a few too many things open to further interpretation. I've always felt it was best to answer the questions as they come up to the best of your ability but make sure to get swept away into movie again when a zero G kung fu fight breaks out.

1. Don't care. As soon as it winds up on screen, it's all just as fictional or non-fictional to me so long as it's entertaining.

My question: Can the market really carry the barrage of Superhero films coming out next year, now that Warner has finally got their ducks in a row to crank them out? I think they might be just a little to late out of the gate.

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