Sarah 49, Death Race 7; 21 of 24 categories completed
(Stay tuned through the weekend for a Documentary Shorts roundup; a predictions entry, whose prognostications you should do the opposite of in your Oscar pool; and the Oscars live-blog I'm doing over at NPR with Monkey See poobah Miss Alli and the other half of Team Venti, Joe R.)
Eat many bees, Angelika Theater. I hadn't seen a movie there in ages and this morning's bullshit is why. They couldn't get the film threaded properly for a good 15 minutes (insert your own "Another Year is how long it took them to get their shit together" joke here) (except: not a joke) (…BEES), and then they turned on the air conditioning, plus Theater 5 isn't soundproofed so it sounded like I was seeing the movie from inside a washing machine. Filled with bees. Chilly, angry, delayed bees.
ANYWAY: Another Year. A recent discussion on the Extra Hot Great podcast centered on the sort of Saturday Night Live sketch that's entirely frontloaded: the title/concept is funny, and you may get a chuckle from the way it's presented visually, but the returns diminish to the disappearing point after about 13 seconds.
You could infer from that reference that I don't have much use for Another Year, but that's not the case. It's a character study, if the character is a single couple's social circle, and it observes various things in that biosphere extremely well — for example, the tendency of the husband to speak more impatiently to the bedraggled singleton's problems. I admired the performances, and I quite liked Imelda Staunton as Gerri's stubborn patient; the bleakly lit, elliptical afternoon Mary and Ronnie pass, and the sense that something has happened to her well beyond tying one on the night before; and of course the miserable, pitiable scene in which the entire family, including "Auntie Mary," meets Joe's new girlfriend.
But such care is taken with Mary and her specific breed of uncomfortable, the tone-deaf chattering, the needy flirting, the too-young wardrobe and accessories, but then it doesn't go much of anywhere, because it can't. It's a snapshot, almost more than a story. We all know people like Mary, and Ken; we all know couples like Tom and Gerri (…har), whose placidity can seem like a reproach; we all think about what becomes of the Ronnies of the world. The juxtaposition of the characters' various situations is very deft indeed, and at times I got such a strong sense of the atmosphere that I wanted to run either away or, in the case of tipsy Ken looming over the infant at the cookout, towards, to prevent a disaster. But: and? Yes, the film is screaming uncomfortable at times, in immediately recognizable and relatable ways. What else?
We do see one other friend of Gerri and Tom's, but beyond him, it's unclear whether they have any other friends — which I think is important. Leigh wants to say something about friendships and family, and compassion, but if the couple's relationship with Mary is as dependent on her as she is on them, what Leigh wants to say changes. And if it isn't, I don't think I know why he needed two-plus hours to show us that some older ladies drown their denial in Chardonnay.
"Especially when he could have just set up a webcam in your den" OH HA HA HA HA HA [slurp] I love you guyssshh.
Leigh's style of scripting makes the Original Screenplay nomination a little strange — i.e., shouldn't the entire cast share it? — but it could win. I have a bunch of questions about intent, as I've mentioned, but 1) maybe I'm supposed to, which is fine, and 2) the other nominees, with the exception of The King's Speech, aren't as strong structurally as AY.
Tags: Another Year bees Extra Hot Great Imelda Staunton Joe R lissen lissen lissen I love you guyssshh Mike Leigh Miss Alli movies Oscars 2011 Death Race