New Year’s Weekend Movies: Save Your Noisemakers

Yes, there are movies opening between Christmas and New Year’s. Why, I’m not entirely sure. Oh wait, when you look at them, you’ll understand – Oscar qualification! In fact, one of the bigger, more important movies to be released over New Year’s weekend isn’t even opening in New York City. It’s a Los Angeles exclusive. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but there you go. Anyway, let’s look the movies you’ll be watching alone if you have no one to kiss on New Year’s Eve. Hopefully I’m not alone in that… What? I am? Whew.

So, back to less depressing matters than my social life. ‘The Way Back‘ is the true story of a bunch of Siberian prisoners during World War II (among them Jim Sturgess and an even-more-grizzled-than-normal Colin Farrell) that escaped and walked (WALKED!) all the way to India. This is Peter Weir’s first film since ‘Master and Commander‘, and it’s really great to have him back. It’s beautifully shot and emotionally wrenching. But it’s also, well, it’s kind of a slog. That’s depressing to report. It’s a cold, blistery film that’s rarely engaging in the ways it should be. (Truth be told, it didn’t even chart when I was tabulating my favorite movies of the year.) Still, it’s worth seeing. Just don’t expect the second coming, or even another ‘Master and Commander’.

There are a couple more movies that you can file under the Emotionally Searing tab. The first is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Biutiful‘, starring Javier Bardem as a low-level thug dying from cancer. On the one hand, this is overwhelmingly grim, but at the same time sort of brilliant and bracing and odd. It’s Alejandro González Iñárritu’s most beautifully shot movie. (He also made ’21 Grams’ and ‘Babel‘.) Bardem is unbelievably good. There are also really strange elements of the supernatural (or maybe magical realism is the better term), with Bardem being, amongst other things, a psychic medium who helps families reconnect with their families. It’s beyond weird, but ultimately quite rewarding.

Then we have Derek Cianfrance’s ‘Blue Valentine‘, a romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. I’ve seen this twice now. It’s the kind of raw, uncompromising drama that Hollywood rarely makes anymore. In it, you see two sides of the relationship between Gosling and Williams. Half of the movie is the present day, in which their marriage basically in shambles. The other half is a flashback that shows them lovingly uniting the first time around. It’s really wonderful how the two halves of the movie intersect. It makes the present day stuff even sadder when you see how blissful the couple was at the beginning. As much as the director wants to talk about how natural and realistic everything he’s going for was, this movie is an uncanny bit of filmmaking, expertly structured and put together. It’s a great, great movie that very nearly received an NC-17 for reasons that I’m still not quite certain of.

Also opening is Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere‘, a self-indulgent snooze starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning. It’s really boring and pretentious. Then I met and interviewed Coppola, and she was just as boring and pretentious. That is all.

The only new film opening this weekend that I haven’t seen is Mike Leigh’s ‘Another Year‘. It’s been getting raves and all sorts of critics’ awards. And it’s a Mike Leigh movie, so I assume that it’s going to be wonderful. Go see it and tell me how it is.

Happy New Year, everyone! See you in this space in 2011!

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