Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cynic: Oscar-nominated Films and My [Apparent] Discontents

The only way I can describe my relationship with television and films is to shamelessly pilfer some words from the late and great David Foster Wallace's essay "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction": "[...] there's no denying the simple fact that people in the U.S.A. watch so much television basically because it's fun. I know I watch for fun, most of the time, and that at least 51% of the time I do have fun when I watch. This doesn't mean I do not take television seriously." I, for one, feel that the same could (and should) be said about watching films.

Yet, the last few movies I've [attempted] to watch have left me yearning for something more substantial. And these are Oscar-nominated flicks, the creme de la creme, if you will. Now, keep in mind that I've cried at episodes of Doctor Who and at certain moments in Harry Potter novels--not because they're the classiest brand of literary texts, but just because characters were so well evoked. I'll try to twitterpate the last two of these experiences--140 characters or less--to convey what I mean.
Juno: If I didn't adore Ellen Page and her snark, this would've flatlined before she finished chugging Sunny D.
American Beauty: Wait. Family Guy parodying a cheerleader unbuttoning her blouse is more poignant. Angst-enough to shame Holden Caulfield, who at least has some verve.

And I'm not being stodgy, "I've-got-a-lot-of-books" guy. Yet...there needs to be a bit more going on than simply the plot, and I feel that's what happens with a lot of these Academy Award nominees. They have good stories, and the stories are left hauling a lot of the tensions. In Juno, Ellen Page acts circles around the rest of the cast. In American Beauty, rose petals out-act Kevin Spacey's award-winning performance, IMHO.

Neither Juno nor American Beauty are bad films, but I wanted more in terms of character development and personalities--which I didn't quite feel in either flick.

So, here's the request: What are some films, faithful readers, that you've found in which a rich plot and strikingly-evoked characters evolve hand-in-hand?


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