1/17/2006

An Amazing Year for American Cinema

Oh that there were more hours in the day. How people keep up with blogging, working and generally living, is beyond me. I have so much I want to say, and so little time to say it all. Anyway, maybe if I got to the point quicker, I could say more, but then that wouldn't be me. I want to comment on last night's Golden Globe Awards Ceremony (this must be my day for ceremony comments....see last blog entry). Anyway, first and foremost, what I'd like to say is that in my humble opinion there is once again hope for American Cinema. I think many film critics, and I say film rather than movie purposely, view American movies as Hollywood, which means big and bright and brash and not always with a whole lot of substance and subtlety. But this year there was an ever increasing number of movies, dare I say films, with substance and with grit. Some I have seen and some remain on my "to be seen" list.

In the past, small independent films were seen only by those who were willing and able to get to the one or two theaters showing the unconventional movie. In my case, here in northern New Jersey, it would be the Claridge Theater in Montclair, a theater that in its day was lovely and large. But it went the way of many old, large movie theaters in America and was sliced up into many small, not so lovely, uncomfortable "Viewing Rooms" (my family room with our 60" rear projection TV is bigger and better and by far more comfortable than the 6 or 7 mini "theaters" at the Claridge). But now, one can go to the larger multiplexes and still see some of the smaller and often more multilayered films that were nominated at the Golden Globes. As a side note, I was unfamiliar with the history of the Golden Globes and wrongly thought that it was a relatively new institution.
It was truly an amazing year for American Cinema. There were many aspects to be appreciated this year in the films that came out, especially near the end of the year. One of those is the diversity you see in every aspect of the movie world from directors to producers to the actors. Ang Lee, who has directed some of the best films over the years, including this year's Brokeback Mountain was born in Taiwan. Peter Jackson, Director of King Kong, is from New Zealand. The winner for Best Supporting Actress was Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener and she was born in England. Frances McDormand was nominated for her supporting role in North Country And she's just a plain old American, but the other major actress in the movie, Charlize Theron was born and raised in South Africa and the director, Niki Caro is from New Zealand. And last, the film that won for best foreign film was Paradise Now and the "home country" was Palestine. The award was accepted by the film's director, Hani abu-Assad. Now that could be a whole other blog entry, but suffice it to say that this nomination and this winner is in some circles (mine for example) controversial, yet adds to the diversity of which I have been speaking. Anyway, my point is that the diversity one sees in this world of American movies is both astounding and welcomed.

And diversity was just one of the things that struck me as I watched the Golden Globe Awards. Besides for the amazing selection of smaller films such as: Brokeback Mountain (haven't seen it yet, but am anticipating it with great interest and emotion), Capote (saw it and thought it was unbelievable how Philip Seymour Hoffman transformed himself into Truman Capote; it was a really worthwhile movie to see) Goodnight and Good Luck (saw it and could not fully appreciate it for all the things I had heard about it in interviews, etc. because I was very sleepy; plan to see it again at home), Crash (saw it at a Premier in NYC along with some of the main actors and the director, all of whom sat on a panel after the film and spoke and answered audience questions; this movie was, in my opinion, one of the most important movies that has comeout in recent times....just see it and you will understand why), The Squid and The Whale (have not seen it, plan to, it's supposed to be smart, I guess sometimes funny, and very well acted, perhaps I will include later a great review I read of this movie); again besides for these wonderful small films this past year, there were equally wonderful larger and louder films. I have not enjoyed a movie more than Pride & Prejudice since, well, I don't know since when. I just loved this movie. I loved the scenery and the costumes and the dancing and I enjoyed the music so much I proceeded to B&N as soon as I left the movie theater and purchased the CD. Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn are so good as the parents and I just loved watching and listening to Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. I went to see this movie by myself and it took me to a wonderland. Another big movie of '05 was Rent
I also thoroughly enjoyed it (not as much as P&P, but a lot). I could watch Jesse L. Martin all day and not get tired of him. And Taye Diggs can, as my grandmother used to say, park his slippers next to my bed any day of the week. Not all movies as musicals work these days, but for me this one did.

There is one more aspect that got my attention. This year there were not one or two really good, important, searching and controversial movies, but there was a whopping 7: Munich, Brokeback Mountain, TransAmerica (Felicity Hoffman won for best Actress), Syrianna, The Constant Gardner, Paradise Now, and Good Night and Good Luck . They did not shy away from controversy because it might not sell. The powers that be took chances and I think we movie-goers should recognize that and doff our hats. What a year for movies and what a year it will be for dvd and video rentals. My hat is off to all who were involved in making the decisions to take a chance on quality, even if it might mean less revenue. But, I guess maybe those big-wigs knew what they were doing because these movies won awards and people are going to see them. All the better for us all.

Sherril

2 comments:

worshipnaked said...

Sherril -- You commented on my blog a few days back -- on the post about 10 movies.
You mentioned you'd written to Yann Martel and that he'd written back!

I'd really be curious to know more about it, if you care to share it!

Thanks for stopping by my site.

Diane S. said...

You're right. It has been a fabulous year for American Movies, and though I've seen nary a one of them (especially looking forward to P&P and GN&GL), this year's Golden Globes were evidence that Hollywood is taking chances, sticking it's head into politics, and I couldn't be happier.

Excellent post.