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March 14, 2006

What Happens When Movies Stop Being Polite, And Start Getting Real?

Oh man, Mickey's gonna flip his shit:

The day before the Academy Awards, a swarm of the people behind this year's amazing crop of politically conscious films were enjoying a warm day in the courtyard of Bob Bookman's Hancock Park home, scene of the CAA agent's annual celebration of his agency's Oscar nominees. In one corner was "Crash" director Paul Haggis, not far away from Grant Heslov, producer of "Good Night, and Good Luck," while across the way were Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, the screenwriters of "Munich."

But what really struck me, as I roamed around, was that virtually every filmmaker I stopped to talk with was at work on a socially conscious film — and these were the other people at the party, not the guys preparing Oscar speeches. Maybe it was the tangy spring air, but it felt as if the '70s were back again. For years, film lovers have waxed nostalgic about the heady days of '70s cinema, when, inspired by the trauma of Vietnam and Watergate, a seemingly endless array of movies offered a bracing critique of American society.

Suddenly that era doesn't seem so distant at all. The socially engaged atmosphere that dominated the Oscars this year is not going away. In fact, the next crop of films aren't low-budget releases bankrolled by indie financiers but, by and large, movies fully financed by major studios, geared to reach a mass audience.

The article then goes on to list a few of them off. I'd tell you which I'm excited about, but having missed every single one of the best picture nominees this year -- even though I genuinely wanted to see all but Crash -- I feel rather disqualified from opining on this sort of thing.

On a related note, I caught the end of 50 First Dates on HBO last night. That has to be the saddest set-up for a movie I've ever seen. And to see such a dark comedy presented as a piece of whimsical fluff is pretty jarring. As for the arc, what's supposed to be a joyous finish seemed unrelentingly cruel to me: cruel to Sandler, whose wife will never remember him; cruel to his wife, who'll have to acclimate to an accelerating life she doesn't remember choosing; and unbelievably cruel to the glimpsed daughter, whose mother will have to meet her anew each morning. I've never seen such a tragic happy ending.

March 14, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

It's a huge, jarring, painful conceptual error. I watched the end of that movie with my jaw on the floor.

Posted by: djw | Mar 14, 2006 1:06:12 PM

unbelievably cruel to the glimpsed daughter

Geez, "SPOILER ALERT", dude!

Anyway, do you really think it's so cruel to the daughter? As long as her father's happy with the situation, she'll grow up in a happy, though nonstandard, home. You sound like the people who grew up with siblings who think it's cruel to raise an only child.

Posted by: Allen K. | Mar 14, 2006 1:11:07 PM

Dude -- you don't think it'd be painful for a kid to have her mother forget who she is each morning? I mean, call me old-fashioned, but damn!!

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 14, 2006 1:26:25 PM

Spoiler alerts for 50 First Dates?? Surely you jest.

Posted by: djw | Mar 14, 2006 1:39:56 PM

Forgive the lack of spoiler alerts, but a) the movie is several years old, and b) come on, it's a movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, of course, there'll be a happy ending. You might as well ask for a spoiler warning to Wedding Crashers.

50 First Dates is cruel? ... meh. Sad and touching, sure, but cruel? Given the implausible setup, how much happier an ending could you have wanted?

The end of Romeo and Juliet is cruel. The end of Great Expectations is cruel. The end of 50 First Dates is a shallow guy (if I remember correctly; I liked the movie but I've only seen it once) maturing so much that he chooses a committed relationship with a woman with a kind of brain damage no one could be prepared for, and a woman who probably would otherwise have spent her life in a mental institution having some kind of a happy family life.

Hard on the kid? Sure. Harder than an alcoholic parent, or a learning impaired parent, or a schizophrenic parent (assuming for the sake of argument that medication isn't a factor), or an abusive parent? Not in my opinion.

And others may disagree with me, but I wouldn't have called it a dark comedy. A romantic comedy, maybe a tragic comedy... if there's one thing I'd compare it to it's Patch Adams, though I certainly didn't like the two movies equally.

Posted by: Cyrus | Mar 14, 2006 5:02:16 PM

Fifty first dates happened to be the second date (and first movie date) I went on with my girlfriend of two+ yrs. So it has a fond place in my heart and to me its a great movie.

Posted by: Lavoisier1794 | Mar 14, 2006 6:25:39 PM

I agree.

Really sad, microscopically sweet, but jeez, what a life that would be.

Worst of all for the Drew B , character. Like Kafka without the lesson, like The Prisoner, without the metaphor.

Posted by: SteveAudio | Mar 15, 2006 4:54:33 AM

cf the real life Clive Wearing (http://tinyurl.com/o9rn5), whose Memento-style amnesia is so bad that the only things he remembers are how to play the piano and his wife, Deborah. Every time he sees her he thinks it's the first time he's seen her in twenty years.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Mar 15, 2006 6:43:05 AM

Every time he sees her he thinks it's the first time he's seen her in twenty years.

Well, at least he is appreciative.......or maybe not.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 15, 2006 8:51:58 AM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 6:58:12 AM

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