Monday, January 14, 2013

The Unreasonable Movie Project (Vol. 4): Introducing The Unreasonable Bag of Movie Candy

After I left the theater where I saw Argo with my Dad on Saturday (January 12), I had to make sure no one saw me transferring the 4-pound bag of candy from my Dad’s car to my car. My Dad had decided to stop and get us a snack for the Sam’s Club.

“You really can’t buy anything in small portions at Sam’s Club,” he said with a straight face, as if he hadn't shopped there for more than 20 years. I swear I can’t bring him anywhere.

I was rushing to the theater after just having played basketball that morning, and I was hungry. He stopped me from going to the concession stand by saying “ I've got something for us,” as he patted his coat pockets. As we’re getting comfortable in our seats, I expected him to pour a few Skittles into my hand, but he shoves 7 or 8 fun-sized Skittles packets in my direction, plus a few small packets of Starburst.

“I've got another full pocket of these things too,” he said, sounding way too excited. He didn't mention his treats were part of a giant bag of candy in his car until the movie was over, a bag he insisted I take with me because he’s on a low-carb diet. I guess I now have an “Unreasonable Bag of Movie Candy,” an unexpected, faithful companion for the next six weeks. It’s like Tonto, except more caloric.

Amid the eating, we did happen to see a movie too, a movie that just won Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes (January 13), which is a problem. Don’t get me wrong, Argo is a good movie, maybe even a great movie. Clearly some people think so. Everything was well-done; it was well-acted; the production design and costumes were excellent; everyone was smoking everywhere as everyone did in 1979; old news footage was integrated seamlessly and helped create a sense of the sentiment of the time.

The problem is I never felt like I was seeing something amazing, even though the real events on which the movie was based were definitely amazing. But the plot is essentially this: the amazing cannot be pulled off unless the people involved appear ordinary (real spycraft is boring). And the unfortunate consequence of any movie based on historical events is this: we know the ending.

Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, an exfiltration expert in the CIA who concocts a plan to pose as a Canadian movie producer, enter revolutionary Iran, and retrieve six American embassy employees who managed to escape becoming part of the Iranian hostage crisis in November of 1979. But there are no machine gun battles. Nobody is jumping roof to roof. An action scene in Argo is Affleck drilling the six on the details of their cover identities around a coffee table in the living room of the Canadian embassy. It’s tense, but it feels law-students-studying-for-the-bar-exam tense.

Relevant questions might be:
  • Have modern movies ruined me for realism on screen? 
  • Did I walk into the theater expecting a drama to be an action movie?
  • Will the Golden Globes influence my rating?
  • Why am I up very late at night talking to myself, then documenting it, and putting it on the internet?

Maybe. Maybe. Yes (I’m weak). I’m not sure. I’m giving Argo an $8.00.

That same day, after ingesting much fun-sized candy watching Argo, I watched Brave, which just won Best Animated Film at the Golden Globes, on DVD with my kids (6 and 8 years old).*

* It’s eerie how Argo and Brave won Golden Globes the day after I saw them, don’t you think? Maybe The Unreasonable Movie Project has some voodoo working for it. That’s cool. I’ll try not to get so cocky that my new-found instant karma hits me right in the face.

My wife arranged not to watch it with us because she’s not a fan. She and the kids saw Brave in the theater, and she thought the plot was a bit heavy for two young kids.

She put it this way: A princess rebels against her mother the queen, to the point that she convinces a witch to cast a spell on the mother, turning her into a bear. The father has a thing against bears, and tries to kill the mother-as-bear. Then she looked at me with that look, that how-does-this-not-sound-totally-inappropriate-to-you-too look. I nodded my head and slowly backed away. No. Sudden. Movement.

But Brave is an animated action/comedy for kids, right? Or is it a serious Greek almost-tragedy? Or a modern horror film? Depends. I cannot begin to understand the complexities of being a mother with a daughter, or how that shades a mother’s perspective on what she sees in the world. In the wrong moment or state-of-mind, Mamma Mia can seem like Saw VI. Maybe it was just a mother’s reaction to seeing her kids being genuinely scared.

I didn't find the movie quite so menacing, but my kids weren't scared either because they knew the mother would escape from Tehran...I mean, become human again. The possibility that the mother might become a bear permanently was far more frightening to me than the possibility the father might hurt her. The father’s pursuit of the mother-as-bear was treated comically, but the possibility of transformation and that the mother’s soul might be lost in the process, was treated as a serious race against time.

I’m not sure where I’ll rank Brave with the other animated movies of 2012, but I will give it a rating of $7.00. It’s funny, and sweet and well-meaning in spots, but I've always had a thing about characters making bad decisions as a way to create conflict and drive the plot. The kids in The Brady Bunch made bad decisions in the first five minutes of every episode, and the moral of every episode was “tell the truth.”

And after 6 years and 117 episodes, not one of those damn kids learned that lesson. What does it take? If Marcia magically turned Carol into a bear, and Mike chased her around with a shotgun, and Greg staged a successful exfiltration to save her, would they learn it then?

Next Post: A big day at the movie theater with my wife to see Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook back-to-back.

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