Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finish Line

I'll tell you what, I'm never eating at Benihana again. I don't care whose birthday it is.

 February is the cruelest month when it comes to Hollywood movies. After all the jockeying for Oscar votes has been completed, the studios dump their flotsam and jetsam on the movie-going public. Shit like I, Frankenstein gets released*. Combined with all the snowfall in the northeast, where my heart always resides, it makes for a pretty shitty time of year.

This dearth of quality films does however serve as a time to reflect on the feast that was served before last year's nominations deadline, to pick at the leftovers. I've reexamined most of the notable films** and performances, and I've come to two conclusions.


The Wolf of Wall Street would be my vote, if I had one, for Best Picture. Darkly comic and enormously enjoyable, only Martin Scorsese, with assists from Thelma Schoonmaker and Terence Winter, could craft such a remarkable film about absolutely horrible human beings. Marty did on purpose what Brian De Palma did accidentally 31 years earlier with Scarface: he made his protagonist a litmus test to examine the character of the viewer. Jordan Belfort is not a person anyone should ever want to be like. But a lot of people want just that: to be a villain and consider themselves the hero.


Rush, directed by Ron Howard***, is my personal runner-up for the best movie I watched last year. That it got completely shut out of Academy Awards nominations is borderline criminal. It is, perhaps, the finest movie ever made about a rivalry, and Daniel Bruhl's performance is stunning. It got shut out, but, like the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, nature finds a way. Rush will be discovered and rediscovered over the years. It is so good.

* The only exception in recent years to this rule of thumb, in terms of both box office and critical success, was Taken in 2009.

** I still haven't seen American Hustle.

*** "Cloying" is the term I used to use to describe Ron Howard after A Beautiful Mind and the Da Vinci Code movies. But Rush is as honest a film that someone can make. I would love more from Real Ron Howard, less from Studio Robot Ron Howard.

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