Closing the year with our roundup of news and observations that didn’t get a full post.
This year ends with a whimper in entertainment, the way most years do. Like too many of the previous years, we doubt 2010 will go down in the books as a particularly rewarding year for film or television, the occasional bright spots like The Social Network and The Fighter, and Terriers notwithstanding. (We’ll have our review of that second film up next week.) There was plenty to dissent about though, including The American and The Girl Who Played With Fire.
As this year shudders to a conclusion and the new one lurks just around the corner (beginning with the date 1-1-11, no less), here’s the news and other items we didn’t get around to blogging about this month. All opinions are our own, of course.
1. If 2010 concludes the decade, its last month in a sense ought to serve as a closing bell for the comic actors of the late 1990s. Both Jack Black and Owen Wilson had films that flopped this month – Gulliver’s Travels and How Do You Know, respectively – while Ben Stiller’s Meet The Fockers is making money but not fooling anyone about quality.
Ignoring for a moment that all three became paycheck actors years ago, each needs to start taking greater risks with their film choices again. (a couple of qualifiers: Greenberg was too mannered and too self-conscious by half; we’re not sure Black ever took risks.) By way of contrast, Luke Wilson has been quietly making offbeat work for several years now, even if most of his recent films (Middle Men, Henry Poole Is Here) have been neglected by the general public. We hope his contemporaries follow suit.
2. The Library of Congress announced its list of 25 inductees into the National Film Registry this week, including no-surprise cultural heavyweights The Empire Strikes Back and Saturday Night Fever but making room for a few dark horses, too. This year’s list of inductees includes The Exorcist, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Malcolm X. Perhaps the most surprising addition, however, was 1981′s disaster spoof Airplane!
Films included in the registry are preserved for future generations in environmentally controlled vaults. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington selected the movies from a list of 2100 films and short films suggested by the public. The complete list of 2010 inductees can be found here.
3. Speaking of films and awards, we’ll go ahead and start making our Oscar predictions now: The Social Network for Best Picture and David Fincher for Directing; Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor in The Fighter, Nathalie Portman for Best Actress in Black Swan.
The spirit of this year’s Oscars will no doubt reflect youth and change, with hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway presiding over a ceremony that will likely include potential nominees Jesse Eisenberg, Mila Kunis, Amy Adams, and Ryan Gosling, among others. We’ve said before the torch is overdue to be passed – maybe this year’s ceremony will signify as much.
4. Sooner or later, we think Patton Oswalt’s going to get some kind of Oscar of his own. It’s a strange world, and he’s a very smart guy. We came across his eulogy for geek culture in this month’s issue of Wired and want to pass it along. While we can’t agree with his tastes in all things geek, he’s pretty spot on about where fan culture and subcultures as a whole are heading, and (more importantly) where they need to go. As usual, he’s funny and candid too, rewarding geeks who’ll get his arcane cultural references but not making them necessary for his arguments to work.
5. We’re not sure where Kenneth Branagh’s film version of the Marvel comics hero Thor fits into the overall scheme of “all things geek” – like next year’s Green Lantern, the viking godling come to Earth is a perennial top-of-the-second-tier character. The trailer debuted on the Internet and in theaters this month, just slightly exceeding our fickle expectations.
On the plus side, star Chris Hemsworth seems to have natural leading man chops, and the production design looks like goofy fun in an Excalibur kind of way. On the downside, Nathalie Portman in a superhero movie is the answer to a question nobody asked, and the fight scenes seem suspiciously like standard action movie fare. At worst, the film can still serve as the warmup to The First Avenger: Captain America, which debuts later that summer.
Thor arrives in theaters nationwide May 6.
6. We’re reminded of a quote from the late, great Tip O’Neil: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Despite the second highest box office gross in history, 2010 will go down as something of a disappointment when compared to initial estimates by industry analysts. Entertainment Weekly‘s Keith Staskiewicz blames the letdown on a summer of disappointing tentpole attractions and an equally weak winter; much of the year’s first quarter, too, was buoyed by the carryover success of Avatar.
Final box office estimates for 2010: 10.55 billion dollars, down slightly from last year’s $10.6 billion. The highest grossing film, by the way, was Toy Story 3 with $415 million in ticket sales.
7. We’ve talked it up it a couple of times already, so we feel a little obligated to mention that Matt Damon’s The Adjustment Bureau is now scheduled for a March 4 release. Based on a short story by Blade Runner author Philip K. Dick and with a supporting cast that includes Emily Blunt, John Slattery and Terence Stamp, the film tells the story of star-crossed lovers engineered to remain apart by a team of reality mechanics, despite their best efforts to come together.
Universal had previously scheduled its release for last September, around the same time as advance promotion for Damon’s ultimately underwhelming Hereafter. We’re always in the mood for brainy, stylish sci-fi, and the delay is only fueling our expectations.
8. We’ll end the year with the same plea we made last year, to ask everyone to seek and demand better entertainment across the media spectrum – film, television, online, and so on. It seems to us that the general feeling, more and more, is that our culture is on the decline, becoming “schlocky and superficial” (to quote Boston Legal) while focusing increasingly on the regressive and the reductive. But that’s not going to change until we all agree to do something about it.
As a new year’s resolution, swear off the junk of reality television and other “guilty pleasures,” and resolve to see one classic film and read a classic book each month – twelve classic books, twelve classic movies in 2011. We promise you that you’ll feel good about it, and that the old junk will seem so much more meaningless in comparison. If you need a place to start, here’s a list of the American Film Institute’s Greatest 100 Movies.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back in the new year with more reviews and features each week than we had in 2010. Have a great holiday weekend.
- Michael Kabel