There are few movies I defend as frequently or as fervently as Jason Reitman’s Young Adult.
For most viewers this movie is the height of misanthropy—nasty, mocking, with no real change and no real point.
I agree, it’s a nasty, nasty film. But its nastiness serves humanist ends.
Directed by Ron Howard
Directed by Sarah Polley
Though it’s a decent film, Stories is one of my biggest disappointments of the year. A documentary about her family, Polley breaks one of the fundamental pacts between filmmaker and audience: One of the great humanist purposes of cinema is to make us feel less alone. I left Stories feeling more alone.
That’s because Stories would be more appropriately titled My Family is Great. They’re well off, they’re good-looking and most relevantly, they’re emotionally sophisticated. The Polleys tackle a heartrending family drama with an almost surreal emotional maturity. There’s no room for jealousy, for ugliness, for tears.
"If you talk with Guillermo del Toro or any of my friends, their films are like their babies — like their children. And they really take care of them and do new additions and new commentaries. For me, my films are not like my children. They are like my ex-wife. They gave me so much; I gave them so much; I loved them so much; we part ways and, it’s OK, we part ways."
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Films rarely inspire awe anymore. That Cuarón has brought a sense of wonder back to the big screen inspires my hope for cinema’s future, 3-D’s storytelling potential and the future of big budget filmmaking. Cuarón throws out every rule of conventional camerawork—the 180-degree-rule seems quaint in the face of his peerless vision.
I imagine Gravity bringing a tear to Hitchcock’s eye. It’s a pure form of cinema as a kinetic, visceral experience. All excess is boiled away, and as such, it suffers the same weaknesses much of this type of cinema does. There’s not much to really say once it’s over, no moral issues to discuss, no mysteries to unravel, no emotions to dig through after the screen goes black. Simplicity is one of Gravity’s great strengths, but it’s also what makes me feel a little uneasy putting it in the “Great Film” category. Maybe if the story had been even simpler—had Cuaron removed Bullock’s cheeseball subplot and the corny dialogue it begets—I’d be content.
More importantly, let’s hope Gravity inspires more filmmakers to think bigger, think bolder, to throw out the rules and show us things we’ve never seen before. Let’s bring wonder back.