Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eric Kohn, Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson
December 26, 2012 10:46 AM
13 Comments
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Critical Consensus: Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson Discuss 'Django Unchained,' 'Les Miserables' and Other Fall Movies

Kathryn Bigelow on the set of "The Hurt Locker."
AT: As someone who roots for women directors and watched the role of women in Hollywood all my life, we've been so proud of Kathryn Bigelow, and yet here she is with rising star writer Mark Boal -- the two of them are together as an item, a team, who defer to each other a great deal. And now this political firestorm is rising around the movie about whether it's pro-torture. It's a press campaign like anything that has to do with the Oscar.

CR: I think it's much larger than Oscar politics. This is about a lot of people from the right saying that Obama said we didn't torture anyone but we did.

AT: Oscar campaign people are taking advantage of it. When you start to deny a film's veracity, that can hurt it, as it did with "Hurricane" back in the day.

CR: I believe that. The New York Times really tried to kill "Hurricane," and it's a great movie.

AT: "Zero Dark Thirty" has a marketing problem, too. They're trying to sell it as a SEAL adventure movie even though it's actually a CIA procedural of a brainy nature led by this fabulous woman character who didn't play well with men.

CR: It's a really strong and fascinating movie. I have a lot of other movies on my top 10.

AT: But you didn't like "Life of Pi."

That's one anomaly this season -- a much more uplifting, spiritual movie getting some traction this season. It's maybe even a bigger crowdpleaser than "Lincoln."

CR: Well, I've seen a movie with more talk than "Lincoln."

AT: I was surprised that the Indiewire poll gave Best Screenplay to Tony Kushner for that movie.

Critics tend to be divided on Spielberg. A lot of people expected grating sentimentality, but found Kushner's screenplay added a greater intellectual dimension.

AT: I think there's a magic alchemy between Kushner and Daniel Day-Lewis, the two of them almost counteracting Spielberg so that he was forced to shape this movie around their aesthetic.

CR: The two movies Kushner and Spielberg have done together, this one and "Munich," have been really interesting. They bring stuff out in each other. Both movies have a lot of talk in them as well as the emotionalism of Spielberg and the political context that Kushner is good at. I love the scene where the Lincolns are having a domestic fight. It's an amazing scene. I guess I thought about the Reagans and Clintons' domestic life. I always bought the idea that Marry was batty, but it never occurred to me that she was batty because she lost a son and didn't want to lose another one. That was great context.

AT: But "Life of Pi" has a spirituality that will bring people to it over the holidays. It's like an "Avatar" that takes you into an entire different world.

CR: I never thought of it as a spiritual movie but rather the stories we tell each other to deal with life.

AT: But it's also about god. Richard Parker, the tiger, could be seen as god. What kept him alive?

Well, let's not spoil the movie. What you can see from this conversation is just how diverse moviegoers' options are right now. Is this an unnaturally good year?

CR: This is one of the best Christmases I can remember in a long time. Two CIA movies, plus "Lincoln" having parallels with our political times. You have the standard movies for Jews on Christmas: "The Guilt Trip" and "Parental Guidance."

Then there's "Jack Reacher."

Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher."
CR: I loved "Mission Impossible 4," but this just seemed really an attempt to be two things at once: A fast-moving, slightly comic action movie but it really seemed to be about what war does to people and civilians can't understand it. The interesting parts of the movie are the relationship between Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall, because they've been to war and nobody else understands it. The movie almost seems like it's been designed for Iraq vets. I was surprised by all of that.

AT: Is it fun?

CR: It wasn't for me. I was disappointed, but came in with high hopes because of the Cruise-Christopher McQuarrie relationship. It was thin. There was a good performance by David Oyelowo.

AT: And he's also in "Middle of Nowhere."

CR: I loved "Middle of Nowhere." He's great in that. He's even in "Lincoln," in the opening scene.

AT: And he's in "The Paperboy"!

CR: He's fantastic in that! There's a huge variety of movies right now.

AT: Also, both "Amour" and "Barbara" just opened.

CR: Among foreign films, I really loved "Sister," which is fantastic, beautifully acted, well-shot.

AT: I was very taken by "A Royal Affair."

CR: I was really disappointed by "Hyde Park on Hudson."

AT: That was my least favorite film. I don't understand why Laura Linney wanted to make the movie. The whole thing about FDR and women was offensive, icky and gross -- not to put too fine a point on it. It was like bad Masterpiece Theater.

CR: It was like "My Week With Marilyn." The private lives of public figures -- but my joke was it was like "pubic lives." I really didn't want to know about it. So I was disappointed in that movie -- but as a year, 2012 was great. My 16-year-old and her friends love "Wreck-It Ralph." While I liked parts of "Brave," certain parts of it didn't work.

AT: Brenda Chapman was thrown off of that project, so we don't know what it would've been.

CR: We can guess. All those shots of men getting drunk were added in. It was frat party. That stuff threw off the rhythms of the movie. But that's just a guess. Anyway, "Wreck-It Ralph" is very strong. The boys want to see "Jack Reacher."

Maybe they're better off with "Les Miz."

AT: To answer the reason of why we have so many good studio holiday movies this year: "The King's Speech" opened up the gates again. For a long time, dramas were a dirty word. They weren't allowed. There are two reasons for optimism: The drama is now permitted and adults now drive the box office. The boomer generation is the one that still goes to the movies and likes adult dramas. The studios have finally figured this out.
 

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13 Comments

  • reston | December 31, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    Great discussion

  • fred | December 29, 2012 8:50 PMReply

    This movie brinfgs an important message about ourselves. The review compliments it

  • Goodvibe61 | December 29, 2012 5:32 PMReply

    Further more:

    "CR" says, " I saw the movie with critics and tastemakers", and then goes on to say "there were probably people there who had never seen a Tarantino movie before".

    Really? What kind of critics are we talking about here? Evidently ones who don't care much about their work. It's like saying, "I got my degree in 20th Century American Literature, and who are these Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner guys?".

    I don't buy any of it for a second.

    I didn't go see the film with "critics and tastemakers". I saw the film with John Q. Public. And yet, I didn't here a single person on the way out of the screening asking others, "what about this reference? I didn't get it". The audience was completely riveted for 2 3/4 hours, and by the way, the scenes at Candieland, particularly the scenes that ratchet up the tension, carried a feeling of electricity in the theater, you could hear a pin drop in the theater, people on the edge of their seats. The whole concept of Tarantino's films not having anything at risk, that he makes "meta" films that "aren't about anything" is the biggest cop out I consistently see. The characters carry as much if not more weight than the movies of almost any other filmmaker, creating characters that have stood the test of time in popular culture. More people remember Mr. Pink, or Jules Winfield, or Jackie Brown, or The Bride, or Hans Landa, then remember other director's characters. Don't waste your readers time with either out and out B.S. or lazy theory.

  • goodvibe61 | December 29, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    What references are specifically being discussed here? I've seen the movie twice now. I simply cannot imagine what is being said, that people walked out of the theater saying they didn't get the references.

    This is just some made up stuff by somebody who has a preconception of not liking the film.

    I've asked my entire family, "you've gone to see this movie. What part of any of it do you walk out saying, I don't get the refences".

    This is absolute garbage.

  • terence | December 27, 2012 11:40 AMReply

    After watching the movie (twice). I agree with the reviewers. QT manages to mix graphically 1- a horrible fact of our history (the first scene) 2 A mythology that allows the oppressed to punish the oppressors (rest of the film), and 3 Some dark humor to express the moral absurdity of slavery. I believe the reviewer got it right. as black parent of teenage boys we need black heroes

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  • jake | December 26, 2012 1:35 PMReply

    Worst analysis ever. Agreed with all comments already posted. You guys can do better than this..

  • BLOB | December 26, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    This whole article is a head scratcher. Django is a snuff film? Zero Dark Thirty is fascinating? I suppose it is if you enjoy your movies to be devoid of any personality whatsoever. ZDT is nothing but an overly simplified cliff notes version on the hunt for Bin Laden. Thorough it is not. However, to its credit it does continue the well-worn tradition of movies people enjoy in order to feel smarter than they actually are. You're in good company Ann and Carrie!

  • BLOB | December 26, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    This whole article is a head scratcher. Django is a snuff film? Zero Dark Thirty is fascinating? I suppose it is if you enjoy your movies to be devoid of any personality whatsoever. ZDT is nothing but an overly simplified cliff notes version on the hunt for Bin Laden. Thorough it is not. However, to its credit it does continue the well-worn tradition of movies people enjoy in order to feel smarter than they actually are. You're in good company Ann and Carrie!

  • Forrest Cardamenis | December 27, 2012 4:01 AM

    Nothing in the world is more ironic than someone saying people like ZDT because it makes them feel smart if that person is obviously a Tarantino fan and probably worships Pulp Fiction, a film that is presented out of order for the sole purpose of appearing smart despite having no subtext whatsoever (just like the rest of QT's filmography!)

    Anyway, more to Anne: You said a lot of men aren't taken with Zero Dark Thirty being a female-led procedural? Maybe it's a different circles thing, or because I consider myself to be acutely aware of and advocating for feminism in film despite being male, but I haven't noticed men not taking well to Maya. I'm working on a piece about ZDT regarding both the torture argument and, more generally, ZDT's depiction of this era where American Exceptionalism sort of comes to an end, where the country loses its moral compass and is stuck so far in the past that they can't even accept the idea of a woman being good at this kind of a job and picking work over family, and in the end it's sort of the realization of the enormous sacrifice that Americans, women especially, have made in the name of security. It's a very, very complex film, perhaps the only artwork thus far to really capture post-9/11 life in the way it has changed the position and outlook of America within the world. The only thing that really comes close is Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was actually leaked before 9/11 but took on eerie new meaning in the wake of the tragedy.

    Anyway, loved this conversation, though I did not like either Les Mis or Django (didn't hate them either).

  • spassky | December 26, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    As a film lover and Philadelphian, I have to voice my extreme displeasure in Indiewire having included Carrie Rickey in this discussion. Her writing is consistently subpar and her critical approach to films is fundamentally flawed.