Andrew of Encore Entertainment, Andy of Andy Buckle’s Film Emporium, Anna of Split Reel and AM mastermind Castor Troy were gracious enough to sit down with me at a make-believe table and discuss the past year in film. The following is our entire email-based conversation. Granted, it’s exceedingly long but then you can’t discuss a whole year in film without going on for a little while. Also, it’s probably – no hyperbole intended – the most incisive commentary of any kind since David Frost interviewed Richard Nixon.
Dear Andrew, Andy, Anna and Castor:
With 2011 now in the rearview mirror and the wind and wrack of award season dead ahead I thought it might be a fine idea to (theoretically) sit down with you, a few of my favorite and most esteemed film-adoring writers, to discuss the year in movies and see if any patterns emerged or if any eternal truths could be revealed, or, at the very least, to determine if you four will also plunge into a horrific depression if Shailene Woodley fails to earn a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Think of this round table as a podcast hosted by a massive introvert who would always rather write it out than talk it out.
When I was home for Christmas I watched Midnight in Paris a second time and my sister suggested that perhaps Owen Wilson’s character had NOT entered some fantastical realm but was merely imagining everything as a way to sort of internally work out his personal problems. I’ll be honest, this had never occurred to me. And I found it strange because people have suggested the same thing in regards Kirsten Dunst and Melancholia. I’ll be honest again, Melancholia was not a movie I particularly liked, even though I found it exceptionally well made. To paraphrase Anchorman’s Wes Mantooth, At the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate Melancholia. But god dammit, do I respect it. It seemed to me Lons von Trier’s argument (as it often is) is the earth is an evil place deserving of destruction and ultimately only utter annihilation of mankind could cure Dunst of her own melancholia, but others have indicated it was one long episode taking place inside her mind and the earth’s takedown was merely a symbolic working out of her immense depression.
Then there was Take Shelter, a film about a man (Michael Shannon) attempting to come to grips with the disturbing visions in his head, whether or not they were figments of his imagination or a prediction of terrible doom and gloom ahead. Senna, the brilliant documentary of the late Formula One auto racer Ayrton Senna, contained a stunning passage insinuating that right before his final tragic race he was literally having a premonition of his own ultimate demise. Heck, what about Sean Penn? Did he watch himself at The Tree Of Life premiere and think he must have merely imagined all those additional scenes he shot on set with Terrence Malick?
If 2011 was notable for anything it might be the lack of a consensus critical favorite. That said, The Tree Of Life might have been the one consensus amongst the sort of people who run in our circles in that even if we can agree it wasn’t perfect, we can agree it was something special even if summarizing in print how to define “special” was exercise in impossibility.
Anna, you wrote of Malick’s massive opus “as we’re seeing it all from adult Jack’s point of view, there’s really no reason why it all should make sense to everyone in a traditional way.” And Castor, you called it Malick’s “most spiritual and metaphysical work to date” (which is saying so much I couldn’t hope to summarize it in parentheses) and “You certainly will be searching for answers long after the closing credits.” Not making sense and searching for answers. Are those our true themes of 2011? Will we still be trying to make sense of this year in movies and searching for answers long after it’s gone? Or is that just a reflection of the world at present in general? Are we all meant to stand here at the opening bell of 2012 like the not-so-intrepid wagon train of Meek’s Cutoff without any clear idea of what lies ahead? I think my head hurts.
Enough of my extravagant pseudo-intellectual blather! There were other movies! In defiance of this age of unanswerable questions there was the fun-filled romp that was The Muppets! But Andrew, I see you didn’t care for them. Like, at all. Which is your prerogative, of course, and I wholeheartedly agree that the story was a bit of an inconsistent mess, but……you must not have watched those wacky but heartwarming puppets when you were a kid and missed them so dearly for so long. I felt it was very much told from the point of view of someone who grew up with these “characters” and kind of just wished them back to existence. That said, is it right for a film’s primary function and enjoyment to stem from nostalgia? I’m not so sure. And anyway, I think Beginners (which I know you loved) was truly the Feel Good Movie Of The Year, mixing despair with jubilation and how you can never have one without the other.
Bridesmaids was a film that received a lot of pub at the time of its release, not just for being the funny misadventures of a few gals but some sort of minor revolutionary feminism movement. I have refrained from wading too deep into that argument on account of my maleness and all but Anna, as the female of the group, I must say you wrote a fantastic piece on your site breaking down the main characters. You wrote: “A unique approach to women in a comedy shouldn’t equal ‘Hey let’s look at these women as a group of men!’” In that spirit and as someone who simply cannot get Lisbeth Salander off my mind after seeing Fincher’s Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, I have to ask if you saw Rooney Mara’s mesmerizing work as a true champion of feminism, as if her character had, in a way, transcended that whole debate and how bY being so distrusting of everyone she was treating everyone as equals. Does that make sense?
And Andy and Castor, you both had Drive your Top 10. Therefore can you PLEASE explain to me what it is about Albert Brooks’ supposedly great supporting performance that I’m just not seeing? Am I wrong to suspect you could just plug Jason Statham in there and get the same thing just with less Oscar buzz?
Andrew, my friend, the floor is yours. Have at it.