Fala and I went to see Gangster Squad today.
It was a bit more graphic than I expected (although I’m not sure what I was expecting from a movie called Gangster Squad), but it was an entertaining, decently-made movie. It felt very much like a film right out of another era — straightforward, comfortably formulaic, and not terribly reflexive. It was a straight-up old school sort of film, as if they’d found the long-lost script for some 50s crime thriller and simply polished it up for contemporary tastes (with more violence and more nudity, obviously). This meant a lot of stylish retro banter and gorgeous sets and costumes, but it did leave me wondering where to draw the line between paying homage to another era and glorifying the more suspect aspects of that time. There were some nice little moments here and there, though, and everyone in it was pretty great, especially Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who may have gotten his break playing nice but might just make his career playing charming-but-dangerous). It may not have done anything too innovative with the material, but it knew exactly what sort of film it was trying to be, and, as such, succeeded as a well-executed example of its genre (pun intended).
Ben and I saw Zero Dark Thirty today, and I’m still not entirely sure what to think. It’s good, I think, but I’m just not sure what to make of it.
I don’t think, as a lot of reviewers have suggested, the film took a pro-torture stance. It represents torture as being a part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, but it doesn’t seem to be advocating the efficacy of torture. Whether this is accurate or not, though, I couldn’t begin to say.
One the whole, it felt to me more like a documentary exercise than an ideological one. In a way, it seemed to be trying to keep ideology out of the mix entirely. Though you could, of course, argue that any choice about what to represent — what goes in, what gets left out — is a charged, and indeed a political, decision, this film seemed much more interested in representing the process by which bin Laden was found than in commenting on the results one way or another
I don’t know. I have to keep thinking about it — which may, actually, be Zero Dark Thirty‘s intent.
I’m gonna say it: War Horse is a terrible movie.
It’s basically one of those horrible ensemble dramas like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, except about a horse. It’s got a lot of great people in it, and it’s very pretty (costumes! rolling fields!), but there’s no actual substance. It’s one of those slick, schmaltzy “epics” that Hollywood is so good at churning out around awards season. Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with Oscar bait, per se, but this is a film so impressed with itself that it prevents the viewer from actually feeling anything.
In truth, there’s nothing special about the story, and none of the actors is given the time to really shine. Technically, I suspect that it’s quite competent, and it’s very handsomely filmed, etc, but when the most impressive feat is that they managed to wrangle all those horses so well, I think there’s a problem. It may have made me tear up at a couple of points, but so do commercials for laundry detergent, and frankly I was more annoyed at being emotionally manipulated than I was genuinely touched.
Not that I should have expected anything less from Steven Spielberg. Together with James Cameron, Spielberg is the king of overwrought Hollywood tripe. It’s middle-brow hokum, which has its place, certainly, but I wish people wouldn’t try to pass it off as anything more.