The first time I ever heard the term “film geek,” I was watching Quentin Tarantino on the Letterman show, doing the promotional rounds for Pulp Fiction. At one point, in fact, Letterman screws up and refers to Quentin as a “film nerd.” When corrected, a bemused Letterman asked, “Well, what’s the difference?”
“A film geek has better taste,” Tarantino responded.
A few days ago, I wrote a piece outlining a dozen of the films that I’m really looking forward to in the coming year. Of course, there can’t be good without evil, so it would make sense that for every potentially great movie set to unspool in the coming 12 months, there’s something hideous lurking in the shadows. A lot of these titles don’t even yet have trailers cut for them. I may turn out to be completely wrong, and, if so, I will be happy to say so. Some of them I desperately want to work. I’ll hold out hope. But, these look like movies to try your best to avoid.
I’m a film geek from way, way back. Like most of us, I got interested in movies through genre films and then broadened my horizons as I got older. I really credit the old Siskel & Ebert shows for suggesting things that expanded my filmgoing palate. So, as we say so long, farewell to 2012, here’s a list of the dozen films I’m most looking forward to next year. Keep in mind that films can get bumped from release dates like The Great Gatsby did this year, and there may be something under the radar now that comes screaming out of Sundance or Cannes.
I’m a huge Law & Order fan. It’s quite sad, really. If TNT is running one of those Law & Order marathons they often run on holidays and whatnot, I’m sucked into it for the rest of the day. I think a lot of this is because Law & Order (and all of its TV spawn) is all about plot and absolutely never about character development. The ingenious thing that series creator Dick Wolf did was litter the proceedings with scores of great New York stage actors. If you think about it, the regular cast members on procedurals like Law & Order really don’t have much emotional stuff to play. They exist as exposition ATMs, moving the story from plot point to plot point. The guest stars almost always do the heavy emotional lifting. That the Law & Order shows have been cast well allows the regular characters to have an inner life because the actors bring that, the scripts never do.
In many ways, Kathryn Bigelow’s new film Zero Dark Thirty is the ultimate episode of Law & Order. It’s the mother of all procedurals. It’s almost all plot for two and a half hours with almost zero character development. And, it’s also pretty spectacular.
Geeks are weird when it comes to casting. When a property we like gets optioned into a filmed medium like movies or television, we can’t help but add our two cents for casting our beloved character. Often, our casting choices offer little insight into who would be the right actor for the role. We usually just go for lookalikes. Left up to us, Hugh Jackman would have likely never been cast as Wolverine. He’s completely wrong for the role physically, and many in our community would blanche at Jackman’s background in musical theater as inappropriate background to capture Logan’s essence. “The guy who plays Wolverine should be an MMA fighter, not a song and dance man!” would be the approximate sentiment. And, we would have been totally wrong. At this stage in the game, with four movies produced, a fifth one currently filming, and Days of Future Past on the horizon, Hugh Jackman simply is Wolverine.
Fans of Lee Child’s series of books featuring ex-military police investigator Jack Reacher had a similar reaction when a film based on those novels was announced. If you’re not familiar with the books, Reacher is described as 6’ 5” and 250 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. Reacher is a bada-- brute (he’s gone through extensive Army Ranger training), but he’s a brilliant investigator and usually the smartest guy in the room. He’s Sherlock Holmes crossed with a silverback gorilla.
I’m on record here of saying how I feel about spoilers. I hate them. The internet is full of them, and sometimes you simply can’t avoid them and un-read something you didn’t want to know. To some extent, Skyfall was ruined for me, because I had inadvertently read ahead of time who one of the new characters was going to be revealed as.
Having said that, it’s sometimes very hard to discuss a movie without giving something away. Such is the case with Life of Pi. I will be as vague and non-specific as I can, but if you want to go in not knowing anything, feel free to come back and read this once you’ve seen the movie.
Reporting from AFI Fest 2012 Presented by Audi
I hate romantic comedies. The truth is I despise them!
I don’t think that it’s because I’m a guy or because I’m too much of a cynic to enjoy the genre. I just think it’s because they’re almost always movies that are dreadfully terrible and oddly anti-feminist. It’s weird to me that a genre largely aimed at women frequently has a really low opinion of them. How often do you see rom-coms in which an ambitious woman with a great career is portrayed as an uptight shrew who just needs a free-spirited man to take her to bed and rid her of her aspirations? It’s really quite offensive. That a lot of these movies are written by men doesn’t surprise me. But, when they are written by women, it’s downright stupefying. O, Meg Ryan, what hath you wrought?
So, I’ll be interested to see how the traditional romantic comedy crowd responds to director David O. Russell’s new film, Silver Linings Playbook. At heart, Silver Linings is a screwball romantic comedy, but it’s been filtered through the point of view of a real filmmaker with a distinct point of view who has infused it with some genuine moments of drama.
Reporting from AFI Fest 2012 Presented by Audi
Perhaps you’ve heard this already, but last week George Lucas sold his empire (no pun intended) to the Walt Disney Company for just a shade over $4 billion. For those of us who self-identify with the geek community, Star Wars is probably one of the intellectual properties that most influenced us in terms of our consumption of popular culture. If there’s one artist whose work has fueled our imaginations as much as Star Wars, then that artist is Steven Spielberg.
As a kid of the '80s, Spielberg’s movies are an enormous cultural touchstone. Just look at the list: Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., the Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park. As a producer, he helped to bring us Poltergeist, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the Back to the Future films. As he matured as an artist, Spielberg would go on to make Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, and Munich. Not a shabby collection of films.
Like any significant artist with a robust and sizeable body of work, Spielberg has his detractors. Some of them are often quite vocal. Yes, he can be sappy and sentimental at times. Yes, he can sometimes hammer a point home when a gentler touch might be more effective. But, there is no question that he is a technical master of the craft with an almost unmatched sense of visual storytelling.
Which is one of the things that is a bit peculiar about his latest film, the very long in production Lincoln.
Reporting from AFI Fest 2012 presented by Audi
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for the site about being an active consumer of culture, to open your eyes and your mind as you’re watching movies or reading comics, and really see all the subtle nuances the art forms can provide. As geeks, we are prone to being obsessive with the things we love, and I really encourage all of us to be smarter viewers.
I was thinking about this a lot as I watched the enormously entertaining documentary Room 237 this weekend at AFI Fest.
“A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions,
and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible.”
- Stanley Kubrick
There’s a moment in the fantastic, new exhibit, Stanley Kubrick, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that will likely melt the brains of any bona fide film geeks. The exhibit is arranged thematically, and as you enter the space dedicated to The Shining, you see it: the Adler typewriter on which Jack Torrance attempts to write his new novel. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see there’s paper in the carriage with that chilling phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” typed over and over again. It’s thrilling to see.
And, it doesn’t stop there.