I can’t tell if this review has spoilers or not. I don’t think it does. The reason I can’t tell is because I’m not sure it is possible to spoil a movie that is so predictable a blind person could see it coming. And yes, I meant that. On purpose.
One of the sprouts cojoled Mrs. Greenbean and I into watching Bird Box Friday afternoon. It is streaming on Netflix. The language is rough and there is considerable violence and gore. Not appropriate for children or people who are sensitive to violence.
Here is your Bird Box recipe.
1 cup A Quiet Place
1 cup M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening
1/2 cup Stephen King’s The Stand
1/2 cup This Is The End (The James Franco/Jonah Hill/Seth Rogen farce)
2 tablespoons The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price (or if you prefer modern, Will Smith’s I Am Legend)
1 teaspoon The Book Of Eli starring Denzel Washington
I am only partly kidding. There is a lot of internet chatter over the similarities between this and A Quiet Place. The truth is, as best I can get at it, the novel basis for Bird Box is earlier than A Quiet Place, but they both are variations on the the other ingredients listed above. To my mind the most obvious similarity was with The Happening, although the middle part of the film could have been This Is The End in a Star Trek type mirror universe.
The cinematoraphy of the film was nicely done, and the editing was pretty good too. The acting was mostly mailed in. I never believed Sandra Bullock, and she was never believable as a late 20’s single mom with an introverted artistic touch. John Malkovich was playing the evil brother to his character in the Red movies (which I love) and most of the other characters were throw-aways. Trevante Rhodes was really the only character I could identify with, and he did a great job being human. The others were just cliches. But then, this whole movie is a cliche.
Water–don’t ever miss Hollywood’s complete fascination with water motifs.
So many metaphysical themes to this film. Pick your blindfold.
Having written all this, it actually wasn’t horrible. It is a popcorn and soda kind of movie which doesn’t require you to think. It poses some fun ‘what about’ discussion and even could pose theological debate–which is my fave. It is a full two hours, but you probably won’t hate yourself for watching it.
Back when I was a local church pastor one of the things I had to do was get inside of people’s heads. This was true of the weekly work of preaching but also true of individual one on ones. It was my job to figure out not what people were saying, but what they meant. For example, if someone said in a private conversation, “There sure are a lot of new faces around here,” what they probably meant was, “I don’t feel as comfortable as I used to in this faith community,” or they might mean, “I don’t know if I like it here anymore.” People almost always never say what is really going on inside their heart and mind and this is not duplicity because they often are unaware of it. It’s just the way we are.
1. Oscar is afraid of decency. How in the world is Frozen not on this list. This may be the worst snub ever. Foul language, nudity, and violence entertain Oscar while something I could show to children doesn’t. Let me quote Kevin Fallon from the Daily Beast:
Six of the nine Best Picture nominees are rated R. The rest are PG-13. This is sad if you’re not an adult. Or have a family. Or are even slightly wholesome.
2. Oscar is uncomfortable with new people. Did anyone else seem to notice that so many of the best picture nominees are repeats. Could Amy Adams and Matthew McConaughey please let other actors into the limelight for a moment? Does Tom Hanks have to be in every movie this year? Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, and Sandra Bullock seem to always get the benefit of the doubt, don’t they?
3. Oscar is probably racist. Aside from 12 Years a Slave, most of the movies are so completely pasty white that it is jarring, even to a pasty middle-aged white man like me. Trying to find a person of color in American Hustle, Philomena, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Dallas Buyers Club is like playing Where’s Waldo? Sure there are people of color in Captain Phillips but just like 12 Years A Slave their hand is kind of forced on that one, huh?
4. Oscar is nostalgic. Dallas, Hustle, and Wolf are all period pieces which harken back to the 70s and 80s as times of great debauchery and drugs. I think Oscar misses those heady days of irresponsibility and questionable fashion.
5. Aging is a major topic on Oscar’s mind. Philomena tells us the story of a woman who, in her old age, tries to reconcile her past and wrong that was done to her. Nebraska is one of the best films on aging ever made. Add the nostalgia bit from Number 3 above and we get the feeling that Oscar is nervous about life and death.
6. Oscar loves true stories. Of the 9 nominees, 6 are based on true stories and biographies. The only exceptions are the two futuristic movies Her and Gravity along with the road trip movie Nebraska. This has always been so. The best movies are great books whether it is The Godfather or Hunt for Red October. What is curious is that Hollywood seems to be out of truly fresh ideas. The heavy dependence upon the written word couple with the enormous amount of both 80’s remakes (Yeah I’m talking to you, Robocop, Endless Love, About Last Night, Total Recall and all the rest) paralleled with comic book movies which have their own literary history tell us that Hollywood is intellectually bankrupt.
7. Oscar doesn’t like money makers. This is odd when someone thinks about how Hollywood loves money and how it adores stories about powerful people. However, it is true. Gravity is the only movie on the list that breaks the top 10 box office earnings. Nebraska has earned a total of $16.5 million dollars as of last weekend. Compare that to The LEGO Movie which in three weeks has made $184 million.
So those are some of my thoughts about what is going on inside Oscars collective mind. You can click here and here to read similar ruminations about previous years. The next post will be my predictions for winners in major categories.
As you might imagine I have some definite ideas about that question, but before I attempt to answer it let me first tell you a little of how I perceived the 9 nominees. To see what Greenbean thought of previous years films, click here, here, here, and here. To see my analysis of why Oscar picked these films this year click here and to see what my predictions are click here.
For now, let us take these in alphabetical order. I’ll try to be brief, or as brief as possible.
12 Years A Slave–I think this film has a very real possibility for winning best picture. The story arc is powerful and the acting, across the board, is outstanding. My only complaint, and it is a tiny one, is that I prefer linear movies. I love flashbacks, but I don’t really like starting me at the middle, taking me back to the front, and then when the film catches up to the beginning I think it must be the end yet we are no where near resolution. I wonder, though, if the seriousness and the historical urgency the film has for contemporary culture might not hinder its chances of winning.
American Hustle–I hated this film. There is not a single character in it I like or identify with. By the time the credits roll I want them all to go to jail for a very long time. There are two redeeming factors for this movie, however. The first one is Jennifer Lawrence. She is such a fantastic actress that she steals every scene she is in. I think she could win another Oscar, this time for best supporting actress. The second redeeming factor was the fashion in the movie. As a child of the 70s I dig the retro hair and clothing.
Captain Phillips–This movie was very good and compelling. The logical procession of the narrative maintains storytelling tension throughout. Tom Hanks was really given the shaft by not being nominated for best actor because his performance was masterful and understated. He played the role perfectly. I do not think it will or can win, but I like it.
Dallas Buyers Club–Matthew McConaughey is the beginning and the end of this film. His performance was powerhouse and disturbing, which is what it had to be. The movie does a great job of capturing this time in history and the confusion which existed about AIDS amongst both the homosexual and heterosexual communities. The movie fails, though, in the pacing and the development of other characters.
Gravity–Beautiful movie. The images are amazing and the production quality is out of this world. Sandra Bullock has the very difficult task of making us care about a character’s plight all by herself with no supporting cast to speak of, and she pulls it off. Oscar has a historical heritage of neglecting sci-fi and space films in general so I don’t think it can win best picture, however Cuaron will probably win best director.
Her–The movie Her makes two predictions about the not too distant future. The first one is that in the future computers will have unique personalities that evolve over time. The second prediction is that men’s fashion will be in a terrible slump. I had such a hard time focusing on the film because the clothes that all the male characters wear are appalling. It is also a creepy movie. I think Spike Jonze is trying to tell us a tale about technology and the human need for authentic relationship, but for some reason the movie kept reminding me Soylent Green. This movie does prove the point, made so terribly in last year’s The Master, that if you need someone to portray a sexually deviant and creepy man, Joaquin Phoenix is your guy.
Nebraska–I loved this movie. It is slow developing, in black and white, and not very flashy. It is the opposite of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street. This will be added to my favorite lists of movies about aging (along with The Bucket List, Gran Torino, Red) that I recommend to younger people. I also think that if a teacher were teaching adults (this is not a kid friend film) about the 5th Commandment–Honor your father and mother, that he or she would do well to just put this movie on and push play.
Philomena–Oh my, this movie surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I did, a lot. It has a good dose of British humor and that dryness that we Americans love so much without being snooty. This movie is not snooty at all. It dares to ask serious theological questions and doesn’t try to give answers. I love that in art. I also adored the faith that Philomena had despite the failures of her church. That is the Christian message indeed, that our personal relationship with the Lord is where salvation is found.
The Wolf of Wall Street–Debauchery. Materialism. Evil. This movie is 3 hours of sin with nothing to like. It shares the attribute with American Hustle that there was not a single character I liked. I can’t understand why this movie was even nominated, other than the flash and influence of Scorsese, DiCaprio, and the fact that the only thing that interests Hollywood more than itself is rich power brokers. This movie indulges itself not only with one pornographic scene after another but also with endless inflated dialogue and ego. A prime example of the ego is the length of the movie. Had it been cut in half it would have been a much better film. The more I think about it, PBS Frontline would have done better with the material. If this movie wins best picture it will mean that Oscar has gone insane.