Friday, January 28, 2011

Genre Oscars

I've seen more of the Best Picture nominees this year than in some time. I've been making a point of getting off the sofa more and hustling out to the theater. I try to do my part to encourage the making of more movies.

It's interesting how many films have at least a drop of genre juice on them this year.

The King's Speech and The Kids are All Right are more likely Oscar contenders--human dramas with strong performances. I saw both, and I liked both.

Speech is the movie I'm rooting for, in fact. It is an emotional journey, finding drama as it deals with small, intense human strife against a backdrop of war and political crisis. It examines the toll of leadership on the individual and illustrates the importance and the power of words and symbolism on the world stage at a time when such consideration is particularly relevant. 

The genre side
The films that fit the notion of genre flicks are exceptional examples and not to be dismissed, however. I think they really are some of the best films of the 2010. In a year where safe, cookie-cutter fare was offered up, they stretched boundaries.

There are certainly lessons for all writers in this year's slate, opportunities to examine the development of character and the exploitation of cliche or previous works or myths.

The most obvious of the genre group is Black Swan with it's horrific elements, which surprised many people I've talked to, including Christine who hasn't gone to a real horror movie with me since walking out on Warlock a few weeks after we went to The Silence of the Lambs.

 Black Swan is definitely a study in how to enrich a thriller with character and a dose of subtext. Themes drawn from the ballet, to me, balance perfectly with the delusions of the central character.

Winter's Bone is set up on a mystery chassis with a few horrific touches. It does one of the best jobs ever of creating a realistic rural.
universe, in which the poor aren't caricatures and the accents seem real.

It has the well-woven strands of a mystery plot, enriched by its snapshot of a culture and its strong heroine.

 The Move Westward
True Grit's
a Western, of course, though one built from a literary novel. It really is a perfect adventure story, enhanced both by its use of arch types and its skewering of them. Mattie Ross is the precocious teen capable of outwitting adults, though she breaks the boundaries of Disney heroines easily, and Rooster Cogburn inverts the stalwart Western hero without sacrificing mythic acts.

Inception is the other genre entry, deceptively looking more like an epic thriller yet with a mind-bending labyrinth at it's core. It's still the more traditional in this mix, yet it stands out against the well-crafted but safe summer blockbusters that surrounded it last July. It was the one of the mix that made me want to go to the theater vs.waiting for the disk.

I enjoyed the set pieces including Joseph Gordon-Levitt's floating challenge more than the opportunities to interpret and re-interpret dream-within-a-dream possibilities, though I know those have been fun for some. I'm a Lost fan and apologist, but I'm not really up for multiple rehashes of  Inception. That's just me.

For a while, it looked like 2010 wasn't a great movie year, but, you know, looking back, maybe it was OK.


Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely want to see Black Swan and true grit.

Sidney said...

Both are really good. True Grit's amazing, crafted with a careful palette of browns.

Erik Donald France said...

Right on -- thoroughly enjoyed your takes on all of these~~

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