Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Disappointment at the Movies

November and December. The time of year when we get our winter coats out of the closet. We eat turkey and anticipate Santa's arrival. We see the first flakes of snow. We see trailers for smarter, more intelligent movies than a summer blockbuster can ever hope to be. Yes folks, it's Oscar season. Movies for adults with grown-up tastes. Heavy hitters, hoping to score nominations and dreaming of taking home gold, get released for public consumption.

Early in the Fall, trailers for some of the films begin to air. Trailers that are so beautifully edited and strikingly presented that the viewer can't wait to see the film. The problem is: sometimes the best part is the trailer.

"The Lovely Bones" was one of those instances where I couldn't wait to see the film every time I saw the trailer. I read the book of the same title on which the film is based. I enjoyed it. I didn't love it. But Peter Jackson, director of "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" directed the screen adaptation. I wanted to see his vision. The film is narrated by a murdered girl who is stuck in the in-between. Her own personal heaven or purgatory. That in and of itself would benefit from Jackson's CGI expertise. It cried out for a fantasy world. He had already created an amazing fantasy world with "The Lord of the Rings." The cast boasted 2 Oscar winning actresses and Oscar nominee for "Atonement," Saoirse Ronan. It's not that everyone doesn't do a fantastic job in their roles. Especially Stanley Tucci who was creepy enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck, but there was no driving intensity to the film. The act of the murder, not shown, was terribly sad, but I never wanted to cry for any of them. I wanted the murderer caught and that didn't even really happen. Justice was served by wrong place/wrong time fate, but at the expense of the family ever knowing. The CGI in-between didn't always work for me either. I knew it would be fantastical, but I think I wanted a more heightened sense of our world. I left as soon as the credits started. When I don't stay for the credits that means something.

"Nine" was so hotly anticipated on my agenda. I couldn't wait to see it. If fact, I was trying to decide the night before it's release if I might attend the next day at the 11am showing at the Ziegfeld Theater or the 1:45pm. I ended up at the 4:30pm. I purchased my ticket a mere 30 minutes in advance and headed to the Au Bon Pain to wait inside out of the cold for seating to begin at 4pm. There was a line halfway down the block when I found myself at the theater to be seated. Not to worry, it didn't take long to get inside. None of this is nearly as important and how excited I was to finally see the film.

My History with "Nine" reaches back to the day I discovered that the stage musical version won the Best Musical Tony Award over "Dreamgirls." My reaction was one of dismay. Having never heard the score though, how could I possibly judge. I promptly went out and bought the original cast album. I made myself finish listening to it. At completion, I was amazed that this piece was deemed the winner over what I thought was the more fun, extremely exciting, highly innovative "Dreamgirls." Of course, this is all based upon hearing and reading as those were my only choices for learning about either production. Jump to 2003, when "Nine" is revived on Broadway starring Antonio Banderas. I saw the production and fell in love with it. I was moved to tears. I still have a strong opinion about the original beating "Dreamgirls," but seeing a production so beautifully realized, I found an understanding in the piece I hadn't had before. I began to listen to the recording of the revival regularly. Then I began comparing the original to the revival. This led to a greater appreciation for the original recording and the feelings I felt hearing those voices sing the score. Now, in 2009, I got the opportunity to see "Nine" again, directed by Rob Marshall of Oscar winning "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" fame. There was no doubt in my mind that the film would be beautiful to look at. At that was true. It was gorgeously photographed. However, that was not enough to keep boredom at bay. The opening was glorious in my opinion. It made me salivate for what I knew was to come. What I wasn't prepared for was the snooze fest. The musical sequences perked me up. The opening as I've already mentioned, followed by Kate Hudson's number and Fergie's number. I enjoyed Penelope Cruz's number. I just couldn't believe it. I was bored at this movie musical. Then I began to realize that I didn't care about Guido. What a piece of work. Wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I wanted to play my imaginary violin for him. My question to myself is this: Did I care about Guido in the stage version? I don't know anymore. There are more songs that flush out the story. The songs on stage are not used as fantasy, in-the-head moments. They are communication between the characters. The fantasy moments worked so well in "Chicago," but I wanted to characters in "Nine" to communicate their inner most thoughts with each other, not just to me. Where was the heart? I felt like I was not involved in the story. I was on the periphery watching. I would rather have been at a coffee bar drinking espresso myself than watching Guido drink espresso.

There is a line from the stage version of the song "Folies Bergeres" cut from the film which sums up my experience with these two films hoping for a Best Picture nomination: "Thanks to [Contini] we have boredom at the movies." Acting categories aside, I think I can say with some certainty that both will go home empty handed come March 3, 2010, save for the possible technical or artistic win.