IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Summer movie rewind

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry
Shot from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2” spells the end of the wizard’s saga. (Photo/DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC.)

Most of the time, movie reviewers chime in with their comments before the general public has had much chance to see the film in question. In fact, critics bristle when studios don’t sneak preview films for their consideration and assessment—sometimes in an oddly near-empty theater opened just for them.

Sometimes, this early look can be a hollow experience that misses the communal act of movie-going (and drains the laughs from many comedies). Other times, though, it’s a more focused experience that allows for a reaction untainted by the feelings of the crowd.

That certainly worked, for me, at a preview of “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Mallick’s ambitious simultaneously micro and macro look at, well, life. Meditative rather than strongly narrative, it takes us to the beginning of time and to the beginning of an individual man’s life, giving equal weight to both. It explores the details of growing up without passing moral judgments. We see moments of great warmth and moments of horror, moments when motives are clear and others when motives are vague. It’s beautifully shot but maintains a casual flow and refuses to add up neatly. And it takes luxurious tangents away from its core characters, trusting we’ll go along for the journey.

Shot from "The Help." Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer shine in “The Help,” adapted from the bestselling novel. (Photo Courtesy Warner Bros Pictures)

It knocked me out.

I can’t say that I’ll rewatch “The Tree of Life” as often as I’ve screened Mallick’s “Days of Heaven” (one of my all-time favorite films), but I savored the experience like nothing else in recent years at the movies. For me, “The Tree of Life” raised the movie bar so high that it was weeks before I returned to a multiplex.

I didn’t go back until “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” which I was prepared to skip because I hadn’t seen—at least not all the way through—any of the previous Potter flicks. That omission wasn’t because of any hostility toward the Hogwarts students—I read the first book to my daughters while it was still in galleys. (Yes, I still have that galley. No, you can’t have it.) It’s just that I missed the Potter train metaphorically pulling out of the cinematic station and never really found the time or energy to catch up to it.

But stuck between planes in Milwaukee on a steaming hot day with hours to kill and a teen daughter in tow, well, sure, we can go see the latest—and last—Potter.

Oddly, Harry and company left me frustrated

that George Lucas didn’t film his three “Star Wars” prequels in the style of the beloved original trilogy. The Harry Potter cycle of films can now be seen as a whole—perhaps getting a bit more elaborate as technical wizardry evolved, but with each film clearly existing in the same universe as the others. Watching the “Star Wars” saga straight through is a very different experience, with an odd jump after part three into a lower-budget but much more engaging world.

Through “Deathly Hallows II,” I appreciated the depth of detail and the lived-in warmth of the characters even as I knew I didn’t have the knowledge base to fully understand what each of them was capable of magically doing. It was also clear that I had missed out on what is no doubt a special series in the movie-going life of a generation.

Another high-profile best-seller, “The Help,” has been given the Hollywood treatment and the only thing everyone seems to agree on is that Viola Davis will land an Oscar this year.

I agree with critics who are bugged that “The Help” falls into the category of films about civil rights told largely through the stories of white characters. Yes, it’s less offensive than “Mississippi Burning,” but it still feels as if a white savior was needed to change these women’s lives. And by giving the audience a hissible character to hate, it takes some of the heat off of the pervasive racism that was part of our culture just a few short decades ago.

But the film, unlike any recently, does remind us of our closeness to that time and the ways in which hard-working women were treated. Even when it resorts to a gross “Fried Green Tomatoes” plot device, “The Help” does give dignity to these women without turning them into saints.

Which brings me back to Viola Davis. You can feel the ache in her footsteps and the struggle in her mind. Her truth effectively countered my caveats, turning this into a recommendable crowd-pleaser. If it had arrived 30 years ago, it could have been a more important one.

I don’t think I’m too far out of the mainstream when it comes to appreciating mass-market Hollywood films. But I’m baffled that my reaction to “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is so different from that of just about everyone I know.

Where others saw a funny, redemptive, romantic comedy, I saw a series of sloppy and painfully strung together “Oh, come on” moments. Afterward, I couldn’t decide which scene felt the most false and most strained.

Shot from "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Steve Carell and Julianne Moore can’t keep “Crazy, Stupid, Love” from being crazy and stupid. (Photo Courtesy Warner Bros Pictures )

There were plenty of candidates: The scene where newly separated Cal (Steve Carell) is given a Macy’s bagged gift as a break-up gesture from a former friend. The one where Cal’s son (Jonah Bobo) publicly demonstrates his love for his teenage babysitter. The “heartwarming” moment when that same teen gives the love-struck kid a nude photo of herself. If this film were test-marketed, the audience should have had a button they could push labeled, “Really?”

Then there are the scenes where a teacher (Marisa Tomei) publicly humiliates herself by shouting inappropriate comments at Cal outside of her school. Elsewhere, there’s an otherwise smart woman making herself look like an idiot at an important business meeting. And there’s the interrupted graduation speech, which I could barely watch.

In even a semi-real world, these people would be punched out, fired or arrested.

Crazy, yes. Stupid, yes. And only briefly lovable, in the apartment scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Hate is a strong word. But I hated “Crazy, Stupid, Love” more than any film since Tim Burton’s remake of “Planet of the Apes” back in 2001. Which brings me to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” another, far more successful attempt to reboot the franchise.

One of the things people forget about the original Charlton Heston POTA is that it had a slow build. Our hero wasn’t suddenly surrounded by chimps, gorillas and orangutans. He and his companions had a lot of desert to trek across. Tension built. And while the series had its hokey moments, the first flick was intense.

The makers of the new edition wisely allow time to lay the groundwork, raising awkward and interesting questions along the way about what happens when the line blurs between pets and people. And in an almost “Flowers for Algernon”-ish way, “Rise” puts us in the expanding mind of its leading character—a brilliantly special-effected chimp more dimensional than any of the human cast members.

Yes, there are plot holes. And the trailers give away too much of the end of the film action. But this smart adventure thriller held me from the beginning. And I’m looking forward to the inevitable sequel.•

__________

Chime in with your thoughts on the summer’s movies at www.ibj.com/arts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

ADVERTISEMENT