Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ordinary People (1980)

"I HATE YOU!!!! No... wait... that's Mom who hates ME!!"
Nominees: "Coal Miner's Daughter" "The Elephant Man" "Raging Bull" "Tess"

He Said: No Ordinary People

Going into this one it was rather difficult to find anywhere, and we will just leave it at that and not how we attained a copy to watch it. My in-laws both told us that this was the most boring movie ever and the only one that they ever walked out of the theatre on, so we were putting off watching this one for a while and certainly not looking forward to it at all.

Ordinary People is basically about a family living their lives, I am guessing somewhere in the American Northeast (maybe Connecticut), who are going through the emotional and mental difficulties following the death of a son and the subsequent suicide attempt of the other son.

There is no real plot per se in this movie, just character development with a small amount of mystery and intrigue in terms of figuring out what exactly happened to the family, at the start you just know about the characters acting weird, disturbed, and slightly sad and then beating around the bush about the living son and the “hospital.” At least this mystery existed for me since I didn't know anything about this movie other than Donald Sutherland was staring in it, as I try not to read the synopsis going into movies so that it gives me more of a mystery and interest in the film.

The acting is pretty good. The suicidal son is quite good with a young Timothy Hutton in that role. Judd Hirsch does a fine job as the psychiatrist and the parents are pretty good with Mary Tyler Moore and the aforementioned Donald Sutherland, even if I think Sutherland's acting was a bit stiff at times. Robert Redford directed it (well but not outstanding) and won the Oscar, not sure how they gave it to him and passed on Scorcese's Raging Bull, another fine film in the same year, but no Oscar year is without controversy.

Not much to say on this one, other than that I recommend it, it is highly entertaining if you like slower movies with good strong characters and character development; if you don't like those types of movies then I would pass on it. Also, as the subject matter is a bit on the dark and gloomy side it is a bit of a downer film, so if you aren't into those then perhaps passing on this one would be best. Perhaps the only criticism I have is that it isn't really about ordinary people. The family is a very affluent family being able to afford expensive psychiatrist fees and the ability to fly around North America and to Europe on trips. So they aren't really that ordinary except in that they are trying to deal with emotionally difficult things and have problems working through them just like all families would if faced with similar circumstances, which I guess might be part of the point.

Hard for me to say if the Academy was right or not. The first couple times I saw Raging Bull, I thought it was fabulous and I would probably say it was overall a bit better than Ordinary People. However, since I haven't seen Raging Bull in some 10 years, I will have to call it a draw until I watch it again. Stay tuned perhaps for an update after another viewing of Raging Bull. That all being said, I think people should see this if they can get a copy of it and if you are not put off by the somewhat dark subject matter.

Next up, Dances with Wolves. Oh the groans, oh the terrible movie. I HATED this movie as a child and it was on TV all the time and my mother would watch it all the time, here's hoping it is like a fine wine and gets better with age. All I can say is I am definitely not looking forward to this one.

She Said: Ordinary Schmordinary.

So when I told Dad that “Ordinary People” was up next, he told me it was one of the worst movies he’s ever seen. When I told Mom, she said she’s pretty sure she and Dad walked out of the theatre.

They’re on crack.

This was one of, if not, THE best movie we’ve seen so far as part of this little project. It was beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted. The portrayal of a family dealing the with death of the “favorite” son and the resulting mental illness of the other is spot on. I really felt for these people, even the mother who was so consumed by her own grief (in an icy, detached kind of way) that she was nearly impossible to care for. All the main actors received nominations for their roles, except for Donald Sutherland, which I don’t get. This is a true ensemble movie: this family could not have been played by anyone but these three people, all of whom rely on each other for their performances.

In comparison to “A Beautiful Mind”, I found this to be a much more realistic portrayl of mental illness: not as something you can overcome by just “willing it” to be so, but as a real disease requiring treatment, with setbacks and breakthroughs and just the general messiness of being.... human.

Watch this movie. Your tear ducts will thank you.

Verdict: The Academy was right. More or less.

Ordinary People (1980)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Michael Clayton

I actually watched this movie and wrote this review quite a few months ago but forgot to post it.

This is the last one in my series of best picture nominees compared to No Country for Old Men. Yes I didn't put in a review for Juno since that was obviously not in the same league as No Country, decent yes, but not even close in terms of a well crafted film. Attonement is something I just have no interest in watching so no review on that one.

Michael Clayton is an attorney who is a fixer, it starts with him having to go to upstate New York to help out some guy who did a hit and run, and after meeting with him his car blows up (without him in it). The movie then switches to four days before those events so we can see how he ended up in that situation.
Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will be Blood all share some things; they all have some death to varying degrees, and people falling into things they shouldn't have and then being black mailed, threatened, or killed due to that fact.

Really cool closing credits though. He jumps in a cab and gives the cabbie a fifty and says to give him “fifty dollars worth...just drive.” So we watch in single long shot, Michael Clayton (George Clooney) sitting in a cab with all the multitude of things running through his mind while being driven around in a cab. He looks around out the windows at everything passing by and takes some deep breaths and generally has a concerned worried look on his face that slowly switches to somewhere between scorn and sorrow. I have never seen anything quite like that before and it was really neat. As I am sure you have noted if you have read a few of these reviews, I really like the single shot scenes with no switching of camera angles, it really makes it feel a bit like a play and more like you are really there. As opposed to all these ridiculous action movies (Michael Bay is famous for this garbage) with tons of camera angle switches all over the place with terrible editing that makes you feel more like you are on an amusement ride than watching a movie.

The movie was overall well done and enjoyable and much more interesting than There Will be Blood, but I still preferred the story and overall filming of No Country better than this effort. Still this is a solid movie that I would recommend to see but for this Oscar year I would say the Academy was right (and yes I haven't seen Atonement yet and probably never will) in picking No Country for Old Men as the best of the ones nominated. Obviously I haven't watched every movie from that year so there could be one that is even better, but I doubt it.