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Home » Culture and Criticism

Cinemarch Madness: Campion Division Poll

Submitted by on March 20, 2013 – 10:37 AM15 Comments


grunge film background

It's funny, the clusters you get on a randomized list — and I don't mean Hereafter and The Sweet Hereafter both in the same flight. Here, it's films that, on a different day, might have hit me the way they hit some of you, and vice versa. If I'd seen The Illusionist on a sunny day, in a good mood, I might have found it merely sad and sweet. That didn't happen, and the two-punch of the soundtrack simply destroyed me.

So what can I definitively rule out? Hereafter is one; Eastwood's tendency is increasingly to go with very obvious visuals that take me out of things tonally, and he did that here. Just never quite caught fire.

Schindler's List is another. The subject is dark, of course; the scene where the shower is actually a shower is amazing and memorable and tough; I just really don't think it's bleak, though. Spielberg is capable of bleak, but this is, like, one of three stories to come out of that entire period in Europe that gives you any hope at all. It has difficult moments and I think it'll sweep through the division in first place, but it didn't put me on the ground.

But the rest of the list? Like I said, it might not have laid me out, but I can see how it could have on another day. Children of Men, My Life Without Me, Milo & Otis…totally get it. Closer almost gave me a hangover, emotionally, so it's a tempting vote, but I'm going with Illusionist, plus — and here's that clustering again — the Andrew Garfield entries. Boy A is thoroughly discouraging on the idea of redemption, of/for anything — juvenile offenders, society, the heart's capacity to heal — and Red Riding 1974 is not just discouraging but confusing, murky, scary, and determined to argue the audience out of believing in justice. Or sunshine. Or filtered cigarettes. Or that Sean Bean's laudably disgusting performance is not contagious. You know how Elvis basically had a heart attack on the shitter and pitched face-first into his shag carpeting? That's what I did after RR74 ended, except with more sisal and less poo. See it, with a friend or licensed psychiatrist. (The movie, not me face-planting.)

It doesn't move on, though. Schindler's, Children, and probably Sweet Hereafter. (Another weird thing; directors win other divisions, but not usually their own.)

Campion Divison: Vote for the THREE (3) harshest films.

  • Children of Men (21%, 106 Votes)
  • Schindler's List (15%, 75 Votes)
  • The Sweet Hereafter (12%, 59 Votes)
  • Red Riding 1974 (8%, 40 Votes)
  • Closer (7%, 35 Votes)
  • Awakenings (7%, 35 Votes)
  • The Illusionist (6%, 32 Votes)
  • Boy A (5%, 23 Votes)
  • My Life without Me (5%, 23 Votes)
  • Milo and Otis (4%, 20 Votes)
  • The Painted Veil (3%, 14 Votes)
  • When the Wind Blows (2%, 12 Votes)
  • An Angel at My Table (2%, 11 Votes)
  • The Safety of Objects (2%, 8 Votes)
  • Hereafter (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 201

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Not sure what's going on? You'll fit right in around here (heh) but in the meantime, the Cinemarch Madness FAQ is here, and a poll overview is here.

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  • Sarahnova says:

    OMG! Boy A AND Children of Men on the same list. I love both films, and have to admit to having watched them multiple times despite finding them heartbreaking. But Boy A has a certain elegiac sweetness to it, I think, and CoM always keeps that spark of hope just – barely – alive.

    I'd love to see you review Boy A some time if you ever get the time, Sars. Now that he's Spiderman, he probably doesn't need it, but still – show my boy Andrew G some love!

  • Tarn says:

    I'm glad to see that Closer provides a gut-punch to others as well. I feel like kind of a lightweight getting all emotionally strung out over a Julia Roberts movie, but damn. That double breakup scene with Clive Owen ripping Julia a new one and Natalie Portman ripping the audience's heart out with her earnest tears…intense stuff.

    I see now that you guys are talking about the animated The Illusionist, which I haven't seen. I was thinking of that movie with Edward Norton and Jessica Biel of the same title, which I recalled as being more sweet than sad. I was confused, but now I kind of want to see it again.

  • cayenne says:

    I agree, Sars, that a lot of Schindler's List is harsh, but as a survivor's narrative, it's inherently hopeful. For Spielberg's harder-to-take oeuvre, I'd push Munich or Empire of the Sun.

    Or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but that's nauseating for entirely different reasons.

  • Lis says:

    We're talking about the 2010 Illusionist correct? The Animated version … not the one with Edward Norton from 2006. I'm just confirming that, I did follow the link to your write up but in just looking at the list I forgot that there WAS an animated movie and was confused about the bleakness (though, I guess the Norton one may be bleak, I can't remember because I always get it and the Prestige confused because magician movies from 2006 is apparently a thing), anyway, sorry for rambling. Just wanted to be clear.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Hee, yes. 2010 verzh.

  • Tarn says:

    Ooh, good call on Munich, cayenne. I was gutted enough by Schindler's List to vote for it, but Munich knocked me out too. Though I think that had more of a political thriller feel through nost of it, so I guess it isn't necessarily bleak, even if its driving force and surrounding issues certainly are.

  • Ellie says:

    Awakenings, wahhhhhhhhh. I need a hug just thinking about it.

  • Lindsay says:

    I actually haven't seen most of the movies, and some of the films I've seen just didn't strike me as that bleak. I couldn't vote for Awakenings, because I have an irrational hate-on for Robin Williams, and I really didn't think Children of Men was so hopeless. Schindler's List, on the other hand, completely gutted me — I was fine until the very end, when rocks were placed, and then I cried non-stop for about 4 hours. So, my lone vote in this round went to Schindler's List.

  • cayenne says:

    @Tarn – I guess it's kind of a political thriller, but I found Munich really bleak, starting from the initial massacre, to how utterly pointless the whole mission was, through the personal stresses, paranoia, disenfranchisement, and deaths of the team members. The scene with Avner hiding in the closet, afraid of his own agency, is heart-wrenching, and knowing how the whole effort actually made things worse in the long run is depressing.

  • attica says:

    @Lindsay; hee, my aversion to Awakenings is my loathe-on for DeNiro — in general, but specifically in that role. Williams never got enough credit for the accuracy of his Oliver Sachs impression, if you ask me.

    After being treated to Garfield bum in RR74, I was expecting a more upbeat ending. Boy, was I wrong. Yikeseroni.

  • Kristin says:

    Oh, man. The Illusionist… destroyed me. The note at the end was bad enough to get my chin quivering, but his interaction with the kid on the train at the end? Even thinking about it gets me reaching for a hanky.
    I did love how accurately Edinburgh was portrayed, though – I've been to the pub the boyfriend takes the girl to and they got it perfect, inside and out. You can admire that as you sob.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @tarn, I'm with you. I was all "Huh, I kinda liked the Illusionist, wonder why everyone else is so sad *clicks link* OH GOD THE RABBIT…"

    The Sweet Hereafter wiped me out, but more because of the terrifying implications of Sarah Pauley asking her dad how their relationship will change and you think about what you know and how she's really asking if he still finds her attractive and NOOOOO….

    Sars, did you watch the rest of the Red Riding Trilogy? It's worth it just for the performances, but if you're not interested in a precisely calibrated to the last diseased heartbeat rendition of how bleak and depraved humanity can be, maybe not?

  • Jenn says:

    I did a book report on The Sweet Hereafter in high school, right before the movie came out. After reading my report, my English teacher went to see the movie, and apparently had completely forgotten the plot from my report, because she told me she didn't realize it would be so depressing.

    This bracket puts Sarah Polley in the pool for poster girl.

  • Jane says:

    Sweet Hereafter for me because it hits at the primal, primal pain–you cannot save the ones you love and can lose them in a thousand ways.

  • Sandman says:

    Huh. I *totally* forgot that there was a movie from 2010 called The Illusionist. I was trying to remember what was so bleak about the one with Edward Norton. I was on the point of deciding that Jessica Biel just saps Sars' will to live, so, you know, thanks for the clarification, Nation.

    I hadn't considered Sarah Polley for poster girl because I had forgotten (or repressed) that she was in The Sweet Hereafter — I still can't bring myself to watch it. The bare idea of it is almost enough to make me stick my fingers in my ears and start trilling "Lalalalala…!"

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