Thursday, December 31, 2015

Auld Acquaintances

The eve of the New Year is inevitably a time to cherish old friends, and for the last two weeks movie audiences have been taking that cue by turning out in droves for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For fans of the original trilogy, it plays like a long awaited reunion with cherished characters from the past, whilst introducing a new roster of charismatic heroes for the younger generation.
The whole thing unspools more or less as an affectionate retread of the 1977 mega-hit that spawned the series, with enough slight variations to satiate the geeks. And if there are plenty of earnest nits to fondly pick (and there are), at least they never feel outright dumb or insulting, which can't be said of another franchise rehash which earned serious bank this year.

Truthfully, J.J. Abrams and company deserve a lot of credit for pulling it together. He has an innate first-person understanding of the appeal of Star Wars, from the wondrous special effects to the intangible camaraderie of its players. That same underlying spirit that has made the property a 38 year old cultural phenomenon is omnipresent in this new outing, and for that, how can we deem it anything other than a resounding success? Kudos to all.

On a more small-scale, though no less ostentatious note, Paolo Sorrentino's Youth examines some auld acquaintances chilling out in the Swiss Alps, reflecting on their lives and careers and the ramifications of old age. Michael Caine stars as a retired composer, and Harvey Keitel his film director friend aiming to make one more picture (his "Testament") before calling it quits.
Sounds right up the Academy's alley doesn't it? If they can stay awake through the whole thing. Like Sorrentino's previous works, Youth amounts to an empty stylistic exercise which suffers from an odd pace and a blunt superficiality. He's a grand provocateur of the senses (his photographic and musical choices are often interesting), but not of thoughts. I struggled to invest in it, but maybe I'm too young?

Anyway, a new year lies ahead. Though I still have numerous films to catch up on before announcing my preferences, I've at least started cobbling together a top ten. Stay tuned in February. As for the immediate future, a whirlwind of guild nominations will start next week, leading up to Oscar nominations on the 14th. The season is truly upon us!

3 comments:

  1. Kinda surprised you gave Youth that high a rating, but whatever.

    And yeah, with every Star Wars film comes a legion of people complaining about it, and with this movie, people seem to dislike it more than the prequels if that's even possible, and it's all the more saddening especially since it has 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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    1. Um, not sure what circles you're running with who like the prequels more than this one. Haven't heard anything nearly that negative about it.

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    2. No real "critics" per se, just some people whom I talk to on the GoldDerby.com forums. Some even think that it should be Razzie-worthy, which is quite ridiculous if you ask me.

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