It’s time to close the door on 2015. Past time, even. But I wanted to round off this awards season, as patchy as my coverage of it may have been, with a poll (seen above), some statistical fun, and some reflection on my awards past.
“Robin Wright, playing a fictionalized version of herself, agrees to be digitally scanned so her avatar can star in films indefinitely; 20 years later, this technology reaches an absurdly logical conclusion. Absolutely fascinating look at celebrity culture run amuck, much of it in surreal animation representing a hallucinogenic alternate world. Beautifully made by Ari Folman, thought-provoking, visually stunning, and genuinely poignant, with a great, bold performance by Wright. See it if you can.”
That was what I said last November, when I first saw The Congress as part of the Drafthouse theater chain’s Fantastic Fest. Perhaps it was the sheer wacky boldness of the film that caught me off guard and blew me away–I gave it a score of 89, a solid **** rating–but on returning to it, I see that, as good as its good parts are, it falls just short of greatness, largely because, amidst a science-fiction narrative which leaps down the rabbit-hole with often dazzling results, lies a convoluted plot and a view of Hollywood which seems inspired less by reality and more by other movies.
The name Terry Gilliam and the words “checkered career” seem to go hand in hand. After Time Bandits was a hit, both Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen fell victim to studio politics, and the latter, which had gone well over-budget, was a massive bomb. But The Fisher King was a success (even winning an Oscar for Mercedes Ruehl’s performance), and 12 Monkeys became his biggest hit to date. Then Fear and Loathing was a failure on its initial release (though it has since become a classic), and worse, Gilliam got bogged down for years in attempting to make his Don Quixote film (which he’s still trying to do).
He eventually moved on, to the moderately successful but quickly forgotten The Brothers Grimm and the generally derided Tideland. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus did well overall and got two Oscar nominations, but that didn’t prevent his next film from taking forever to come out, and even then only in limited release. And sadly, it’s not hard to see why. Despite its strengths, mostly due to the cast, The Zero Theorem feels like a retread of Gilliam’s past glories without any of their thematic depth and not enough of their resonance.
Good God, how long was it since I first decided to do this project? (7 months? Shame, shame.) And I haven’t even made all that much headway. I’ve still got a ton of Top 10 films from over the years to watch, but I’ve been trying to watch more movies from my collection lately, so, hopefully, I can catch up. Anyway, I’ll start with this year, since I’ve seen every film on this list (in the theater, no less, which was a first for me). And it’s a decent year, but as I’ll show, it’s one of the rare years where the Academy actually put together a better list.
I should’ve just written the reviews in Word and posted them once I got my connection back. I had an elaborate double review of Hercules and Lucy called “Demi-God & Goddess” all planned. Instead, I put it off–abetted, perhaps, by the sense of burnout I’d previously alluded to. Not that these are films that demand extensive analysis–even A Most Wanted Man is, all things considered, not especially provocative. But three of these are very good films, and one is often fascinating, even when it is maddening and rather dismaying in some of the choices it makes.
I confess I’m at a disadvantage here. I’ve only seen the shortened North American release version; it was cut from around 130 minutes in France to around 90 minutes here. This was apparently in response to mixed reviews from the French release, and according to some, especially Boyd van Hoeij at Indiewire, the film is better off for the cuts. But I’m not so sure. Because while not without its charms, the Mood Indigo I saw was frenetic and often alienating, poorly paced and devolving into near-incoherence in the final moments.