Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Lightening Up...Or Trying

Movies: 2016
I'm very happy for Hollywood that 2016 set all-time records for box office--contrary to the current perception that television rules, the money still seems to be in the movies.  Netflix is OK, I guess--I still have some problems with the concept that only getting to watch what they select for you, whenever you want, is somehow better than a broader selection of choices with limited time selection (especially since the advent of the DVR somewhat frees up the time limitations), but in terms of the experience, for me there is no contest.  Movies affect me much more deeply.

That being said, the movies that draw the crowds generally have a different sensibility from mine. There is one exception, which I will get to shortly.  The only movies in the top 20 of box office receipts in the year which were not "superhero" comic heroes or cartoons were "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", "Jason Bourne", "Star Trek Beyond", and "Central Intelligence".  The first four, I would say, continue the theme of total escapism; only the last, a comedy with Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson which I had totally forgotten, is the only exception to the rule that extreme absence of reality is what drove financial result (it was #20).

I'm not immune to the appeal of such movies:  one figures in my top 5, two in my bottom 5, while one of them (the Star Trek movie), I saw, I paid for,  I enjoyed it,  but I had forgotten I had seen it. Mission Accomplished!

My Top Five Movies of 2016: 

  • Arrival
  • Rogue One
  • Moonlight
  • Hell or High Water
  • Free State of Jones

Honorable Mention:  Birth of a Nation, Allied, Queen of Katwe, Youth, Where to Invade Next, Hello My Name is Doris.

Comments: "Arrival" is my favorite movie of the year, and I'm hoping Amy Adams will win her long-deserved Oscar for her performance.  "Rogue One" is the Star Wars movie I liked best, by far, since "Return of the Jedi".  "Moonlight" is a touching story, beautifully filmed, and one with a critically-important message.  "Hell or High Water" feels real to me, and is also very entertaining. The other movies are all underrated, flawed, but valuable.

Serious Movies I Have No Right to Judge - though those with * I criticize for their pseudo-2016 release strategy:

  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Hidden Figures*
  • Jackie*
  • Silence*
  • La La Land
  • Captain Fantastic (did they have a release strategy?)
  • Fences*
  • Lion*
  • Loving
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Patriots Day*
Comments: "La La Land" and "Manchester by the Sea" are considered the other main contenders for Best Picture along with "Moonlight".  I will see both of them eventually but am in no hurry; I do not feel that we have a lack of escapist show-biz kid self-worship that "LLL" is going to fill, though--I will be rooting against it, though that may be in spite of my feelings after I actually see it.  Both had the late release more right--general release on Christmas is the tried-and-true approach. "Hidden Figures" could be the sleeper for the Oscars, but its late release (why?) will hamper it.  "Silence" may be the movie Martin Scorsese had to make for decades, but it looks like a miss to me.  "Captain Fantastic" is probably the one of all this list I most want to see; I simply missed it because it never came close to my area.

A Few Movies I Did Not Like:

  • Nocturnal Animals
  • The Lobster
  • Suicide Squad
  • Knight of Cups
  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant
  • Superman v Batman:  The Dawn of Justice
Comments:  With the exception of the last two, which I just saw on TV after their runs, the others actively disappointed me.  There were other movies, such as "Race", "Snowden", "Sisters", or "Hail, Caesar", which were about what I expected, but no more.  "Office Christmas Party" and most of the cartoon movies fall into a category I would describe as "No Objection to seeing them, but I will wait and see them for free".

Sports at the Moment
Though arguably this is exactly the time when the fate of 2017's baseball teams are being determined, there is really no news to report.  The Hall of Fame election this year looks to be a total PR disaster, no matter who is or isn't elected.  For the record, my choices this year would be  Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ivan Rodriguez, Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Vlad Guerrero.

Next, I must brag on my team in English soccer.  Chelsea is on a 13-game win streak--no losses or draws in 13 league games--which has lifted them to the top of the table.  They will be challenged to continue the streak, which would be a record, against Tottenham on Wednesday.  Chelsea has simply got everything going well right now.  Off last season's disaster, they have no Champions League distractions, and new coach Antonio Conte has them extremely well focused.  I think he's going to be a keeper (not a goalie).

I am very critical of the structure of college football, but I would not say there is a lack of talent, sometimes even excitement.  Yesterday's Rose Bowl, won 52-49 on a last-second field goal by USC over Penn State, was clearly the game of the year.  It goes to show that the playoff system as it is now will always be about those #5/#6 teams proving they should have been it.  On the other hand, though there are way too many bowl games, the variety and structure does tend to bring teams of similar ability to face off, with the decisive factor being motivation level. The final should be a ho-hum win for Alabama, assuming they aren't checked out already.  I don't think their obsessive, hectoring coach Nick Saban will allow that to happen.

The NFL playoffs and the NBA playoffs both look somewhat predictable at this point.  Dallas and New England are large favorites to meet in the Super Bowl, and Golden State and Cleveland to meet, for the third straight year, in the NBA championships.  College basketball, on the other hand, has the most exciting playoff system in sports, and  this year should be no exception.  Although the laws of probability still apply, there is plenty of room for surprise.

Before the Door Closed on 2016...
Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds stepped through it.  Both were highly intelligent actresses who played a variety of roles, on screen and in life.  Fame was hard on them but they were never defeated.  I identify Reynolds, above all, as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown", a movie role now largely forgotten by the world, but which I will never forget.  Look it up.  The manner of Debbie Reynolds' death, directly following her daughter's, was remarkable. As for Carrie Fisher, one can certainly say she lived a full life.

It is fair to say that 2016 had an inordinately large number of notable persons who passed away, but I feel that this is not a transitory, one-time occurrence.  Those born in the first years of the baby boom have been dominating our news in all areas for many years; now many of them, particularly those who lived hard, loved hard, consumed hard, are passing on.  There is no objective measure of this, but I suspect we're in for a few more years of famous folks falling fast.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

Two comments: I forgot "20th Century Women" as one of those that I should have mentioned in the category "I Have no Right to criticize"--I hope to see it. I did see "Hidden Figures", which was pretty much as expected, which was very good.

Second, I was so wrong about the Alabama-Clemson championship game. Kudos to the Clemson Tigers and their star QB, DeShaun Watson, to pull off the unexpected. I watched much of the game and was impressed Clemson was putting up a fight, but did not stay for the exciting finish. Oh well.