Cinemarch Madness: Streep Division Semifinal
Full disclosure — I haven't been able to see the following films, but I've read the Wikipedia plot summaries: Amour, Jacob's Ladder, and Kids. Of those, only Amour seems to be a contender to me. Spoilers ahoy (and throughout): The "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" maneuver is extremely difficult to pull off and usually pisses off the audience, so I think Jacob's Ladder is out. Kids sounds horrible, but also somewhat dated. Amour sounds absolutely devastating. Just about everyone, including me, has a similar story of an elderly loved one's slow decline and will relate to this film. I think it would be a lock except that it's not yet available for home viewing, so a lot of people may not have seen it yet.
Children of Men: depressing and bleak as all hell, and in several other divisions "it coulda been a contender," but not here. Dystopian literature always has a hard job, because you can close the book/turn off the TV and go back to your nice life and remind yourself that it's just a story and humanity is not really going to die out because women stop giving birth (if anything, overpopulation is a bigger danger). So, can a story based on that compete with historical fiction like Sophie's Choice, or could happen to you/did happen to you/you know someone who went through this like Amour? I don't see it.
Pan's Labyrinth is out for the same reason. It's a fine film that succeeds on every artistic level I can think of; the little girl is terrific; it's definitely sad, but I don't see fairytale animation competing with a real-life tragedy.
Brokeback Mountain is certainly one of my favorite movies (fuck you forever, Crash), certainly sad, but devastating? No, not seeing that, especially not today as the Supreme Court debates gay marriage. Yes, it's a different time/different culture, and being "out" was probably not even a term yet, but Jack and Ennis's misery is somewhat of their own making. They could choose happiness with each other. Jack could choose to finally quit Ennis, and if not be happy, at least exit a relationship that's as much emotional torture as it is joy. And let's not forget entering into loveless marriages and bringing kids into it as well. I'm not saying I don't sympathize with Jack and Ennis or that the film doesn't make me cry, but do I find them as sympathetic as completely innocent victims like Sophie or the Bagbys of Dear Zachary? No.
Requiem for a Dream and Sophie's Choice. Ugh. I'm sure I'm the minority opinion, but I didn't find either of these that effective. Requiem for a Dream was over-the-top ridiculous sensationalist anti-drug propaganda like Reefer Madness. Just for starters, modern ECT therapy is given without informed consent only in very exceptional circumstances, and the patient is not conscious during the procedure. Also, by the fiftieth round of the diluted-pupil etc. shots, I wanted to choke Aronofsky with some black swan feathers while screaming, "IT'S ALL ADDICTION, WE GET IT! GOD!" Ellen Burstyn's performance was amazing; nothing else about the film is.
Sophie's Choice: The scene is as gut-wrenching and difficult to watch as anything else in the lineup and Streep is amazing, but the rest of the film…no. Kevin Kline can be great in the right role, but he's terribly miscast here, chewing every bit of scenery. And the ending did not work at all for me. The Emily Dickinson reading is too precious, and the final monologue…I'm paraphrasing here: "I let go of all the rage and sorrow not just for Sophie and Nathan, but for all…" Well, how nice for you, Pretentious Artsy McFeelings, but maybe let the people who were actually there decide that. The full passage in the novel isn't so tone-deaf, but it's all wrong here. Also, you are a grown male who goes by the name of "Stingo." Shut up times a million. However, it won its initial round by a wide margin even over Grave of the Fireflies, so it probably goes through.
Dear Zachary is my hands-down number-one pick for the entire contest. As I told Sars, even using the word "spoiler" in this context seems flippant, as if it was no more than dropping something from the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. But if you have managed to remain "unspoiled" and you don't know what's coming, as I didn't, it's an unbelievable gut punch. The first part of the film has certainly been sad, maddening at times, but kind of beautiful in a way that leaves you with hope. Then it socks you with the reveal and never stops punching till the end.
Will win: Dear Zachary and Sophie's Choice. ["I think Brokeback will place here, but my predictions' suckitude is legendary by now." -- SDB] Should win: Dear Zachary and Amour.
Streep Division: Vote for the TWO (2) harshest films.
- Dear Zachary (42%, 116 Votes)
- Requiem for a Dream (28%, 78 Votes)
- Amour (28%, 77 Votes)
- Sophie's Choice (23%, 64 Votes)
- Kids (22%, 60 Votes)
- Brokeback Mountain (17%, 47 Votes)
- Pan's Labyrinth (14%, 38 Votes)
- Children of Men (13%, 36 Votes)
- Jacob's Ladder (4%, 12 Votes)
Total Voters: 277
Tags: Ambrose Bierce Amour Andrew Bagby Brokeback Mountain Children of Men Cinemarch Madness Darren Aronofsky Dear Zachary Ellen Burstyn ferretrick Jacob's Ladder Kevin Kline kids Meryl Streep movies Pan's Labyrinth Requiem for a Dream Sophie's Choice The Grave of the Fireflies