>Where have all the five star pictures gone?

>

Six months ago I read a blogger’s opinion on contemporary films, stating that a particular David Lynch film was the only good film produced in the current decade and how cinema these days is boring to death. I thought it was a very radical opinion and contested it, as I think films these days can be as good and as creative as any other decade. Although I still disagree with opinions that underestimate today’s cinema, I’d have to agree it’s not that easy to leave the theater genuinely impressed by something. I could use my fingers to count the films that in the last five years remained in my memory, and if I had to diminish the number of years (let’s say 2004-2006), perhaps I could remember 3 or 4 films as being the best ones I had seen in those years. What’s going on? Is it something wrong with the movies or with me? I’d not say that’s something wrong with me or anyone, but one thing is certain: “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are”.
I’ve seen thousands of films in over 10 years. At the time I fell in love with cinema (around the age of 11), I wasn’t as hard to be pleased. Many films I got to see at home because I was simply not old enough to go to the theaters. However, I saw many “free” censored films that I liked in the dark room, moments that were never forgotten. At the age of 10 I saw Batman Returns in the movies and I didn’t forget that dark atmosphere for days. Two years later I rented Pulp Fiction and I will never forget how me and my three-years-younger-than-me brother laughed histerically at the moment Uma Thurman‘s character wakes up from her OD. And of course there were the sad ending romances, and the cinema to dream and to escape, as well as the epics. I suppose all my genre and style film preferences were built up at my early cinephile times, as well as my favourite actors. Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino were two of my first big movie crushes. Around the same time I saw Heavenly Creatures and I would never erase Kate Winslet from the top of the best actresses alive. And those afternoon sessions replaying Edward Scissorhands from now and then. Johnny, Oh sweet and talented Johnny.

I wonder if it’s ever going to be another Burton film that will top that one. Sweeney Todd? Hell, no. I actually liked the film, a lot more than I liked Michael Clayton, for example (I just haven’t been able to see that much Oscar-nominated films so far), but that’s something lacking in it, something I can’t even explain what. I love its opening with the camera penetrating each dirty spot of that surrealistic gothic and dirty London in rapid flashes, the cinematography is brilliant, and so are the art direction and the costumes created by the long-time Burton collaborator Colleen Atwood (watch an interview with her on the film here). Depp is scary like I’ve never seen him before, and I like his singing, especially in My Friends and Epiphany, and Helena Bonham Carter as his leading lady is equally good and deserved more attention. The supporting team was not quite impressive, except for a very happy surprise, the young actor Ed Sanders. And I guess that’s it. It’s a good film.

Charlie Wilson’s War. I’m not really sure what to think of it. As a comedy is not very funny, except for the Philip Seymour Hoffman moments, and as a political flick, it’s very hard to take it seriously. Maybe, it was meant to be something in between? The film begins with Tom Hanks in a jacuzzi in the company of two strippers and a playmate surrounded by junkies and white powder, though he’s actually interested on what’s on TV, that shows the fight between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Settled during the cold war times, it’s Hanks and Julia Roberts going all the way to the war zone to defeat the red menace. It actually sounds interesting, but I didn’t think it was after seeing it, especially after the moral lesson in politics around the end, told through a very obvious metaphor. I miss Tom Hanks from Forrest Gump times. I never get sick of watching him in it. As for Julia Roberts, I just can’t stand her anymore. She aged, had twins, injected botox on her face and decided to deceive herself saying that not smiling anymore means great acting.


Cassandra’s Dream. It could have been another Match Point, but it wasn’t. I’d rather see another Scoop, another typical Allen neat comedy every year, than seeing a nearly disposable Dostoevsky drama. The best thing in this film is Colin Farrell‘s acting, and I never thought I would ever write quite a sentence in my life. Match Point was a masterpiece, it deserved all the awards it could possibly run for, but I believe Cassandra’s dream was made through lazy hands. Ambition, irony and a not so easily expected twist are back in this second Woody Allen moral tale, that lacks the brilliance of the previous one. And then… Things We Lost in the Fire. A woman is all alone. It’s easy to understand her pain and despair, played by Halle Berry in her best performance since she won the Oscar. Right after seeing it, I really liked this film, but a week later, I realized I hadn’t liked it that much. Perhaps it has to do with how Susanne Bier insists to state in every single frame that this is a Susanne Bier film and she’s not kneeling to Hollywood. Eyes close-ups, ears close-ups, close-ups here, close-ups there. Accept the good. The things they lost in the fire and tears in my husband’s eyes, not in mine. Small things like that. This is not a bad film, but it’s not a great one, though. However, I liked it more than I expected.

The horror, the horror

All these films were directed by very talented filmmakers and they were ok. I’m not bashing any of them. I’d recommend each not for the film itself, but for particular aspects in each of them. But if you really wanna stay away from something, don’t bother seeing El Orfanato and don’t dare to rent Stardust. Have you ever heard of Romance & Cigarettes? It’s dreadful, only worth it for Kate Winslet and NOTHING else. And Morvern Callar? Boring and pretentious, just like another one I saw in the movies recently, the same boring long walks, just that this time it’s a young woman instead of a brainless male teen. At times like these, it makes me relieved to know there’s always something fresh and new around the corner, something hard to be found in movie theaters and blockbusters. There’s always pearls to be discovered, I just feel sorry that many of them are not discovered in the darkness of a cinema theater.
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17 Comments to “>Where have all the five star pictures gone?”

  1. >haha i love this post!! it;s so witty! BUT i love Stardust to bits!! really!

  2. >I worry about film studios. They don't take risks (or if they do, they use lesser-funded subsidiaries like Searchlight Films) by making intelligent films. The risks they take are financial ("big-budget films") or with special effects. Good stories, strong plots and good acting seem to be secondary considerations when making films. Hollywood also likes to "dumb-down" movies to gain the broadest audience. It's sad.

  3. >Romeika, ótimo post. Quando a gente começa a assistir filmes, realmente não somos tão difíceis assim de agradar. Mas, com o tempo, na medida em que entramos em contato com outras obras, vamos apurando nosso gosto cinematográfico."Sweeney Todd" não me empolgou muito. Assim como você, adorei o garotinho Ed Sanders, que tem uma voz linda demais."Stardust" não achei esse desastre todo. Achei um filme divertido, despretensioso. O que eu odiei mesmo foi a atuação da Claire Danes nesse filme. Uma das piores de 2007.

  4. >Romeika, ótimo post. Quando a gente começa a assistir filmes, realmente não somos tão difíceis assim de agradar. Mas, com o tempo, na medida em que entramos em contato com outras obras, vamos apurando nosso gosto cinematográfico."Sweeney Todd" não me empolgou muito. Assim como você, adorei o garotinho Ed Sanders, que tem uma voz linda demais."Stardust" não achei esse desastre todo. Achei um filme divertido, despretensioso. O que eu odiei mesmo foi a atuação da Claire Danes nesse filme. Uma das piores de 2007.

  5. >hmm fascinating posti'm not a bit old movie buff, so i wouldn't be able to compare old and new, but generally i'm impressed with what i see in theaters. it is true that the often obvious oscar contenders are pretentious bores to me (aka michael clayton! what's with all of this crap about it being a classic thriller, a throwback to the 70s, basically snore for me) and i'm a bit irritated with the "which quirky indie will be nominated this year" first little miss sunshine, which yes was cute, but no where near any oscar territory, and i did really like juno, but definitely not the best comedy i've seen in years. there just seems to be so much more highfalutin critic crap out now that i don't know what to believe anymore. it's really rare when i leave the theater geuinley entertained, by entertained i mean i was actually able to tune out reality for 90mn and laugh/cry etc. i guess my favorites in the past few years- "stranger than fiction" (brilliant premise, a literary movie), "atonement" (breathtakingly heartbreaking), "darjeeling limited" (wes anderson at his best), & as corny as this sounds"the jane austen bookclub" (it was just a very well done romcom). sorry, long comment, but i'm a movie addict too, i cannot help but be verbose here hahaps stardust wasn't halfbad, over the top, but then again it is based off of a neil gaiman novel haha, i was entertained at least

  6. >I really really want to see charlie wilson's war I've gotten so behind in movies lately!

  7. >Barb, thank you ^^Penelope, many people liked "Stardust" hehe And thanks!Seraphine, yeah it sucks. But I have not even mentioned average Hollywood crap in this post, notice that all the four films that didn't leave me that much impressed were directed by Tim Burton, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Susanne Bier. Some of them are considered creative genious by many, do you see the problem here? :-S But again, it's just one's opinion, it must be other people out there who loved all these films.Kamila, obrigada. E isso é verdade, às vezes revejo filmes que vi pela primeira vez há anos, e me questiono se hj teria adorado tanto os mesmos. O menino Ed Sanders é a melhor voz do elenco, e umas das melhores atuações. Odiei a voz de Johanna hehehe.. E quanto a "Stardust", me pergunto o que terá acontecido a Claire Danes, que nos anos 90 era tão boa atriz e por esse fato, tão promissora.Jayne, I liked "Michael Clayton" and its plot, but I think all these Oscar nominations it got (including best film) were a bit over the top, which just proves:1.Creative crisis in the industry.2.Academy Awards voters are and have always been so clueless. I'd rather see "Ratatouille", "Eastern Promises" or "The Bourne Ultimatum" running for best picture.As you can see, I have nothing against mainstream films, I think all sort of cinema can be good, entertaining and fun without underestimating the viewer's brains.And the thing of the labels, I hear you. It has been like that for quite a while, every year the critics need to elect the darling independent film of the year, it seems like anything different means greatness. I haven't seen "Juno" yet, so I can't judge any longer. And I still have great expectations towards it, from what I've heard it could even turn out as my fav movie of the year:-) And that's what I hope, as I need to see a new film I really really love again.

  8. >Hey Romeika, great post! Loved it. It's good to remind us of a past of wounderful filmes, but still doesn't deminish the work of today. I think too many people underestimate todays cinema also. There are great movies, we just have to learn to look at them differently than the ones we watch that were made once upon a time when the movies were made only as a forma of escapism, of love and passion. Today what leaves a lot of movies crippeled is the need to also have to make money. Its all about the money. Few think about the magic. But when they do, it`s magnificent.I absolutley LOVED Sweeney Todd!Ciao!

  9. >I liked Ratatouille about as well as anything last year.

  10. >Hi Wally, yes, many people do that, and it truly makes me annoyed sometimes. I only disagree on one thing, I think at least when it comes to Hollywood, it has always been about money in the first place since its very beggining, long before the age of blockbusters. Seraphine, I think "Ratatouille" was so above the average last year, but again, that's just one's opinion.

  11. >I agree with some of your comentaries, Charlie Wilson War is very boaring (also I hate Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts so I don't enjoy their films, I wached for Simour Hoffman who I enjoy very much every time I see hem) I really enjoy Sweeney Todd, but I don't thinks that is the best movie of Burton (I also Watcher half hour after "No Country For Old Man" that is really Something).I like the old Woody Allen, I don't really like "Match Point" neither "Scoop", I love the older ones ("Husbands and Wives", "Crimes and Mismurders", "The Other Woman", essentially I love the Ode to Bergman Movies), the 2000 era is very soft and easy.The movies that I don't forget are almost all of independent cinema and other countries, the Hoollywood movies are worst that in any date; That's why I see very few things of the Commercial Movies (We have to accept that neither David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Kim-Ki Duc or Wong-Kar Wai are very commercial in the cinema history… but their films are extremely beautifully and over the common)PD.- If tou like fantasy, Stardust is a good option, and if you like "The Devils Backbone, El Orfanato is a very enjoyable movie (the Latins don't make scaring movies, but the mood and the script is very enjoyable)

  12. >I'm so glad to read that someone else laughed at that scene in Pulp Fiction. I laughed at many parts while my friends sat kind of in horror. I agree with you on El Orfanato…my husband and I were debating which plot hole was the worst, until decided it wasn't worth it. Though, I did like the set and wardrobe…and that's the only good thing I can say.

  13. >A.R, I actually like this new Allen phase, though I'd not place "Scoop" together with "Match Point" and "Cassandra's Dream" (which I didn't find that good). I hope you and everyone else have noticed this post is mainly focused on english speaking films, and although many of them are not mainstream, they are part of Hollywood in a way. Good you mention filmmakers like Von Trier and Ki-Duk, who usually deliver something original and refreshing. Last year I saw some japanese film, "Executive Koala", it wasn't a great film, but so unusual and so memorable, better than most of the comedies I got to see in 2007. After years watching mostly the next Oscar winners, it's a pleasure to discover different cinematographs.I didn't see "The Devil's Backbone", so I cannot compare.. I found "El Orfanato" such a disappointment.

  14. >Laura, that's what Tarantino is all about, he can make us laugh in these awkward/violent/hard to digest moments. I just love his style. As for "El Orfanato", the technical aspects are good, including the cinematography. The acting is not bad either, but the plot is terrible. It starts as an usual supernatural thriller in the current Hollywood cliche style. Then it becomes a drama. And by the end, it's a mix of fantasy and poetry – "Oh, now they're not that scary anymore", I told my husband by the end. (I'm sure you get what you mean).

  15. >"Sweeney Todd" foi um pouco decepcionante para mim, tenho que confessar. Para um diretor como o Tim Burton (amo "Edward Mãos de Tesoura") fazer apenas um filme 'bom' nunca é o suficiente. Também esperava mais de "Coisas que Perdemos pelo Caminho", se bem que desse não gostei mesmo. Uma pena que todas esses astros estão realizando filmes que não mostram toda sua capacidade – e acho ótimo nossa opinião sobre cinema melhorar com o tempo. Belo post!

  16. >Vinicius, obrigada! A minha decepcao com "Sweeney Todd" tem a ver com isso: do Burton eu esperava uma obra-prima, mas ainda assim eh um bom filme. Pelo menos a atuacao do Depp correspondeu as minhas expectativas:-)

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