Ok, back to stupid stuff. I always like to pretend I'm a critic,and have decided to institute the AIAC Awards on this blog, which I'm sure will be coveted after for years to come. So, here's the first installment of the AIAC (As If Anyone Cares) awards. First up, movies. Books, TV, and music will follow. And yes, I realize I am not actually qualified for this. But I was an English major and we're used to writing papers and pretending our opinions mean something.
I have not seem very many movies in the theatre because unless it's animated or has some type of talking animal or another we usually don't get to the movies to see them. But that hasn't stopped me from assembling my list of the best movies of 2006. I'm only choosing three this time, because choosing 5 would put an inordinate percentage of the movies I actually saw on the list.
3. Happy Feet
This one is on the list despite the fact that I actually missed the last ten minutes of it because my son was getting a little restless. It wasn't that he didn't like it. He's just ... like that. Anyway, this one received the ire of the baptists for many reasons, so I was, therefore, predisposed to like it on that basis alone. So, basically the child of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe just wants to dance. Only, he's a penguin and he's the type of penguin that mates for life by matching its song to the song of a penguin of the opposite sex, and finding their rhythms blending together. But this penguin CANNOT sing, he dances instead, so he goes on an epic quest throughout Antarctica to find himself, to win his love, and to eventually save the continent from the human oil despoilers. There's also a valuable message in here, both about environmentalism and also about how we treat people who are born differently from everyone else, including those whose differences are found in the mating process (this is the part that pissed off the Baptists. Because ... in a children's movie? How dare people preach acceptance to children! It's an outrage! Oh, come on, Baptists, I kid because I love. Actually, not really. Except for you, Jennie! And possibly Kim! And my parents! )
This movie does have, as a very mixed blessing, Robin Williams as the voice of not one, but two saucy latin penguins, and the most gorgeous animation ever produced for film. And it takes a cuddly sea otter and shows it for the vicious predator is actually it. It's preachiness does get overwhelming at times, especially in the ending, which I missed, but see this one. And no, the lead penguin is not gay. It's a metaphor.
2. Superman Returns
Yes, I finally saw it. And I wished I had seen it in the theaters because the first time i saw it was on our little computer monitor in the bedroom and with the non-visibility and the strings and the sleeping child on my lap, I must confess I went to sleep. Like, a lot. And at first I blamed the movie, but then watched it again and realized that no, it wasn't the movie. And yes, It is probably too long, and bit ponderous, and Brandon Routh is not ... quite ... right somehow, as Superman. It's not the performance, he just looks too young, I guess, but the movie really works for me. Especially as I had recently re-viewed Superman 2, which is this actually a direct sequel to. It takes those first Superman movies, so wonderfully campy, and updates them, and you get to see the tragedy of Superman having finally gotten what he wants, Lois, and having had it taken away, and taken so far away that she doesn't even remember what happened. Hence the kid, who was confusing for a lot of people.
This kid could have been the most annoying part of the movie. I was actually not a fan of this plot development when I first heard about it, but in the movie, the kid works. Mostly, I think, because it provides a reason for Lois not to just go running into Superman's arms. And the actor who played the kid was really good. I usually don't say this about kid actors, but he hit all the right notes. I still wonder how that math works out for the kid to be the age he is, but I am also good at fanwanking, so it's not that much of a problem. Kate instructs me that I am good at constructing bridges so that the massive trucks don't fall into the plot holes. It's a gift.
But it was a good Superman movie. It looks beautiful and there's a lot of emotional heft there.
1. Stranger than Fiction
The ultimate meta movie about the relationship between writers and their characters. It has Will Ferrell, which is usually an umm...no for me, but it also has Emma Thompson. And the trailer did its job of honestly showing me what kind of movie it was. (most of the audience I was with did not pay enough attention and had expected another Talledega Nights. They were annoying.) But the story of Harold Krick and the author who created him, and who is suffering writer's block because she can't find the right way to kill him off, mostly because she doesn't want to, is a hysterical metafiction detailing the relationship between art and humanity. And the performances of Ferrell and Thompson seem totally flip-flopped in their relationship to their regular filmic personas. Thompson is manic, panicked, and over the top and Ferrell is quiet and restrained. And all the characters are named after famous scientists, for some reason, which I sure was a level of commentary I was not getting. It made me feel smart to notice that. Actually, It made me feel smart to understand it when my wife pointed it out to me.
It's a sweet little romance as well, as sweet as it can get between a boring, lumpy IRS agent and a tattooed, angry-grrrl baker, but I will never look at flour in the same way again. (I mean -- who knew there was more than one kind?)