Monday, January 16, 2012

The Big Picture: why it doesn’t matter that the Golden Globes don’t matter

If there’s any reason to talk about the Golden Globes it would be only to jump-start a larger conversation about the worthy pictures and performances of 2011. What’s always curious about the Golden Globes’ nominee list is that it seems to so easily confuse celebrity with acclaim (where else would Ryan Gosling’s Crazy Stupid Love performance be nominated alongside Jean Dujardin in The Artist? Or Angelina Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey be nominated as best foreign film? Or The Ides Of March be nominated for anything).

More generally speaking, and the Golden Globes aside, it seems like throughout 2011 we saw some great performances in mediocre movies, and some good films that somehow fell off the radar. While Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep have both garnered a tremendous amount of praise for their performances in My Week With Marilyn and The Iron Lady, respectively, the films themselves haven’t lived up to their leading ladies. My Week With Marilyn suffers largely because it lacks any real depth. Because our narrator is a dopey rich kid who lucks into a film job, he’s really not got too much at stake. And the portrait we get of Marilyn is too erratic to be satisfying – her only moments of confidence and competence come at the very beginning of the film when we see her singing “Heat Wave.”

While there were high hopes too for Young Adult, which reunited Juno director Jason Reitman with that film’s writer, Diablo Cody, the film had neither the heart nor wit of Reitman and Cody’s previous work. While Charlize Theron does an admirable job of playing our intentionally unlikable main character, one wonders if her demeanor, especially at the end, could have been softened – and certainly one wishes that she could have been redeemed. It’s hard to spend two hours watching someone despicable refuse to change. (Truthfully, Young Adult felt more like an Alexander Payne film than The Descendants.)

Despite its divisive status, Tree Of Life did give us an excellent performance from Brad Pitt as a stern, withholding father. (Tree Of Life, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, and Margin Call all made my “Movies I Fell Asleep During” list in 2011.) Will this best his Moneyball performance in the eyes of critics? With that film’s tight, sparse script that makes a tricky subject matter seem elegant, my money’s on “no.”

Certainly 50/50 got a fair amount of attention at the Golden Globes, but it really was a very satisfying, funny film with a worthy performance from Anna Kendrick that’s often been overlooked. Kendrick plays a very green therapist who thinks she can give textbook answers to cancer-stricken patients. The character Kendrick develops is layered – insecure, but not over-the-top, caring, but not motherly, naïve, but not dumb. Nobody is playing that 20-something/new-to-the-workforce young woman like Anna Kendrick.

The Delightful and The Forgotten

Is anyone still thinking about Win, Win, Cedar Rapids, or Super 8? They should be. Other delights: Bridesmaids (ladies! friendship! hilarity!), Midnight In Paris (Owen Wilson gives a fresh twist to Woody Allen’s insecurities), The Artist (magical filmmaking and sound gags). Definitely keep talking about these.

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