News Column

The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Mike Sweet column

September 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 05--Maybe I'm more crotchety with age, but most movies that show up in theaters don't move me much.

No so many years ago. I would see 75 movies a year in theaters and rent dozens more to watch at home.

Now I rarely rally enough interest to go to a theater or the rental store. It's partly Netflix's fault. The online movie streaming company has lots of good movies. American audiences, including me, have never heard of many of them because theater cartels don't show them and the media ignores them. American tastes run toward big-budget, explosion-filled flicks, slashers, vampires, romances and cartoons with characters voiced over by actors who should be appearing in films, not reading scripts into a studio microphone. Who goes to a movie to hear a famous actor mouthing a cartoon car or an airplane? It takes work away from unknown, capable voice actors who don't work on screen.

Some of the best movies are made in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Unspoiled by Hollywood or dictated to by Wall Street, their directors and writers tell stories that are fresh, original and relevant, with characters anybody with a soul can identify with.

American filmmakers gravitate to films that can be franchised into sequels and prequels. They aim to keep the money rolling in long after the original story or premise goes stale.

Does the world really need 12 Star Wars movies? That's the plan now that Disney has bought that franchise from George Lucas, who created "Star Wars" almost 40 years ago. The first one, filmed on a shoestring with imaginative scenery and special effects in an age before computers, remains the best of the lot.

Social media and the Internet have endowed a younger movie audience with powers their elders didn't have.

Studios traditionally buy scripts, choose the actors and directors they want, make the movie and put it out there for audiences to like or hate.

Now prospective audiences scream bloody murder when they dislike the actors chosen for the leads.

Batman aficionados are raising a stink over news that Ben Affleck will be the next Batman, one among many over the years.

A fine actor, writer, director and producer, Affleck won this year's Oscar for best movie, "Argo."

He and longtime friend Matt Damon shared a screenwriting Oscar for "Good Will Hunting" while still in their 20s. They are triple threats as writers, directors and actors. In real life they also are nice guys with stable family lives.

Damon said of his friend and collaborator, "It will be terrific. I know there are a lot of people grousing on the Internet. I just think it's kind of funny. You know, he's not playing King Lear. It's Batman! Certainly within his skill set."

The other controversy is over the leads for the film version of "Fifty Shades of Grey."

It's based on a wildly popular book that actor Armie "The Lone Ranger" Hammer, who declined to apply for the 50 Shades' male lead, has described as "mommy porn." He said as an actor its plot line "doesn't do it for me."

Nor the other actors who declined the parts.

After rejection and speculation, the producers chose Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam to play Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Neither are well known and their hiring left some fans furiously typing their anger into cyberspace. Apparently readers have fantasized who they want to play the parts and think they should get a vote before they buy their ticket.

Like the Batman crazies, they have until next August to get over it.

Meanwhile in the here and now two excellent movies have magically showed up at West Burlington's theaters, which seldom show anything that appeals to anyone not a child or perpetual adolescent.

"Blue Jasmine" is Woody Allen's 71st movie. About a narcissistic woman who loses her wealth, her status and eventually her mind, it manages to be both serious and humorous. Like real life.

Cate Blanchett as Jasmine is a marvel. She works seemingly effortlessly in that same august league of brilliance occupied by Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren.

The sleeper of the summer is "The Way Way Back." It's about a timid teenage boy whose mother's boyfriend demeans him. The boy finds a mentor in actor Sam Rockwell, who plays the intelligent, funny, quick-witted, compassionate man-child owner of an amusement park. He hires Liam James (as Duncan), who learns self worth is not determined by the jerks in your life.

Allison Janney as the wacky neighbor steals several scenes. She and Rockwell deserve Oscar nominations.

Watching the story unfold is a delightful experience. It has something for everyone: Romantics, teens with angst issues and adults who remember what it's like to be 14 and unsure of everything.

It could have been a terrible movie if audiences had been allowed to pick the cast. It's fortunate they were not.

___

(c)2013 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

Visit The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) at www.thehawkeye.com

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