I try to mask my insatiable love of Oscar season as much as possible on this blog, but unfortunately for all of you, I can’t hold out too much longer on writing a lengthy Oscar predictions post, which will be forthcoming this week in advance of the announcement of the nominations on January 25th. I know in the past I have promised columns and not gotten around to writing them, but you can bet the farm that I will be writing this one in the coming week.
In the mean time, for today’s Film Friday, I wanted to write a little bit about a few films that will not be (or weren’t) anywhere near the Academy Awards; cause, you know, they occasionally (rolls eyes) miss some good movies from time to time.
Another movie that was a total surprise for me this year. It probably won’t end up on my top-10 list for the year, but it was a really heartfelt comedy that manages to stay funny throughout the film while making an emotional connection with the audience—something that many comedies try to achieve but do not come anywhere near doing so.
The story centers around John C. Reilly’s character, a slowly recovering divorcee who somehow scores a date with Marissa Tomei’s character (only in movies). Unfortunately for Reilly’s character, she has a grown up son (Jonah Hill) still living at home and attached to her hip.
One of the things that makes this a solid film is the acting that directors Jay & Mark Duplass manage to draw out of Reilly and Hill, two actors who tend to play the same type of characters over and over, but here find themselves very comfortably inside the skin of the written characters while adding just enough of their own traditional flair to them. This movie went under the radar for a lot of people, but it’s out to rent now and I highly recommend checking it out. 7.5/10
“The Bicycle Thief” (1948)
This was a film that I watched back in the summer as part of my attempt to become a classic film snob. It’s an Italian film, so the combination of Foreign + Pre-1960 Film gets you a LOT of snob points.
It was immediately easy for me to see why this is regarded as such a classic when I was watching it. It has the simplest story: A man looking for work in post-WWII Italy finally gets a job that requires him to have a bicycle to ride around on. After selling sheets and blankets in order to purchase the bike, it is tragically stolen from him. He then embarks on a journey with his young son around the city to find the bike and the thief, and to bring them to justice. What ensues is a morally ambiguous and politically-driven narrative that is well-acted and SUPREMELY directed. It’s on Netflix Instant and has a mere 90-minute runtime, so do yourself a favor and watch it. 8.5/10
For my film that I do NOT recommend, I chose this Ben Stiller vehicle driven by highly regarded director Noah Baumbach. I’m sort of sticking my neck out here in proclaiming I didn’t like it, because apparently a lot of people did like it as it is getting nominated for a lot of awards.
Ben Stiller stars as Roger Greenberg, a boy in a man’s body who apparently is obsessive-compulsive (one of my least favorite character devices in movies unless we’re talking about Nick Cage in Adaptation), and who is staying at his brother’s LA home while the brother is out of the country for awhile.
Roger Greenberg is a bitter man that manages to piss off pretty much every other character in the film at some point, particularly Florence, his love interest, played by Greta Gerwig (one of the only good aspects of the film is her character). It’s not that I’m inherently against a-hole characters in movies, it’s just that Greenberg has almost literally zero redeeming value as a human. He has no character arc, never learns from any of his lessons. It makes little sense that anyone, especially Florence, would want to keep spending any time around him. I know I didn’t.
I’ll give this a generous 5/10.