“Ford v Ferrari”: The Little Best Picture Nominee That Could

Ford v Ferrari!

Stars of the hot new motion picture White Men Can’t Brake.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in a personal record, I saw eight of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture before they were announced on January 13th:

…which brings us to the ninth and final nominee, Ford v Ferrari — director James Mangold’s salute to auto racing pioneers and big middle finger to self-absorbed corporate executives who think they know best. Brought to you by Twentieth Century Fox, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.

(Fox greenlit this on purpose as a parable of how their 2019 went, didn’t they?)

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Vice” End Credits

Vice!

Jason Alexander IS Charles Foster Kane!

Writer/director Adam McKay’s The Big Short remains one of my favorite Best Picture Oscar nominees from the past few years, and not just because I was thrilled to see our mortgage companies getting dragged on the silver screen. I was less enthusiastic when I saw the trailer for Vice because I’ve developed an anti-partisan revulsion to the sight of 21st-century politics anywhere outside Twitter, which, despite careful curation, is roughly 85% all about 21st-century politics on any given day, even on slow news days. Sooner or later every discussion finds a way to go there, even in the sharing of cute animal GIFs.

Cross-pollination into movies was inevitable in this climate, what with the creative arts being one of the more profitable forms of protest and dissemination. But it’s a Best Picture nominee, so I stuck to my tradition and here I am.

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“The Big Short”: Mortgages Most Foul

The Big Short!

“Hi, yes, I don’t have a question. I’d just like to point out for the record that no one has ever produced a single shred of evidence linking paper companies to the 2008 recession. So SUCK IT, BANKS.”

The first time I saw the name Adam McKay, he was a writer on Saturday Night Live who occasionally appeared in short films that helped kill time during the show’s after-12:30 wasteland. Those never did much for me, but he moved on to helming Will Ferrell comedies that attracted much larger audiences, of which I’ve not been a part. Fourteen years after his SNL stint, he’s now co-written a Marvel super-hero movie (last summer’s not-bad Ant-Man) and directed a Best Picture nominee in The Big Short, which ought to be mandatory viewing as an ethics cautionary tale in all future finance classes ever.

As Hollywood careers go, that escalated nicely.

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“American Hustle”: Liars in Love

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, American Hustle

The years have been rough for Batman and Lois Lane…

My annual Oscar quest concludes at last! David O. Russell’s layered, fascinating American Hustle was the ninth and final film on my playlist, saved for last because I correctly guessed that all the other nominees would exit our local theaters first. A healthy U.S. box office gross of $144 million (and counting) ensured that Hustle would stick around exactly as long as I’d hoped. This week has arrived just in time — after this month-long marathon, my local theater and I could really use a break from each other for a while.

But enough about me; more about the film…

“Dark Knight Rises”: in Three Hours Batman Will Rise, But Results Will Vary

The Dark Knight Rises was a flawed but perfectly apt capper on Christopher Nolan’s Batman miniseries, a true trilogy in the sense that it’s an integral continuation of developments and themes from the first two films and wraps up loose ends we didn’t even realize were unraveled. Its marathon length was no deterrent to me, but some of its minutes could have been used to better effect.

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Batmania Returns, Preempts Avengermania One Week Ahead of Schedule

Please allow this old newcomer to practice inserting video links. Chances are you’ve already seen this one. Nothing for you to lose if I screw it up, then.

I was viewer #303 when that landed on YouTube circa 11:30 p.m. EDT Monday night. Bragging rights for being slightly ahead of the curve for that brief moment are mine.

And yet…my head failed to explode. I’m trusting the finished product will be exciting and as vital as any other Nolan film. Maybe the ads for this year’s Best Picture winner, Marvel’s The Avengers, have desensitized me to awesomeness. Whatever the reason, I have yet to burst into Caps-Lock cheers or pound my exclamation mark key until it cracks.

Mostly what I see is:

Bale grimaces and suffers. His two previous Bat-performances were much more than that, especially when he wasn’t being outshined by all those elderly Oscar vets. The evidence for this installment is thus far concealed. Again, I trust all the meaty soliloquies and jump-cut brawls are being saved for the actual viewing experience.

Bane sounds stilted instead of garbled. I’ve enjoyed Bane as a comics character in recent years, particularly as a demented father figure among younger villains in Gail Simone’s unfairly canceled Secret Six. There, he was well-spoken and had a twisted sense of honor that spurred him into the most unpredictable decisions in any given situation. In this trailer, his two lines wouldn’t sound out of place in any other Batman film or TV show. Any of them.

Anne Hathaway does martial arts. I’ve had a hard enough time coping with the reality that Princess Diaries graduated to nude scenes. Seeing her perform snippets of rehearsed chop-socky was only slightly less disorienting. In her defense, it doesn’t help that I’ve never cared for Catwoman as a character, not even Julie Newmar’s version. It’s one of my many secret shames that bars me from attending all the really good comic conventions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mysterious beat cop. I suspect his average-Joe character will bring unto the film Great Meaning. Either that or he’s undercover Dick Grayson, and/or by film’s end he’ll be the new Batman. His nebulous nature frightens and confuses me. Let’s hope it was worth walking away from playing Cobra Commander.

Batplane Returns. Whether live-action or animated, nine out of every ten Batplane appearances follow the same pattern: Batman flies somewhere he would normally drive. He activates one or two weapons. He fails to win. Sooner or later, it explodes. Spread across his appearances in various media, Bruce Wayne by now has spent hundreds of billions on single-use disposable Batplanes. The Nolan version looks sleeker than most previous versions, but is doubtlessly just as fragile.

Midair plane stunts! Between Bane’s apparent jailbreak and the BatKamikaze, TDKR looks to stay airborne at length. After the accomplishments we’ve seen in the occasionally intersecting oeuvres of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, are there truly any new stunts left to perform above the horizon?

There shall be Occupying. Please, no.

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