OK, the Oscars — where it was decided that 12 Years a Slave made itself — are over, so now we can start worrying about next year. Something tells me that nothing coming our way this week will be involved. We have but two mainstream titles and one art title, though the art title is so long that it’s in two parts and perhaps should count as two movies. It will, I imagine, come as no surprise that it’s the one film I’ve seen. The other two … well, we’ll see about those. And, no, despite what you may have heard, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel won’t make it to Asheville till March 21.
Before getting down to this, I suppose a few words are due about the Oscars. I toyed with doing a post-mortem piece, but quickly found that I had very little to say. Apart from being pleased that Catherine Martin picked up Oscars for The Great Gatsby, that The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language Film, and that Mr. Hublot snagged Best Animated Short Film, nothing exactly surprised me. It went down about as predictably as might be imagined — though this business of Best Picture and Best Director going to different movies seems wrong-headed. I didn’t and don’t get all the gush over Gravity — even as a “ground-breaking” technical achievement … well, it ain’t no 2001. Giving Her a screenplay Oscar strikes me as ludicrous. Oh, sure, it’s got an interesting premise, but the execution is another matter. Otherwise, I can’t really fault anything, but the show itself was stiffer than Kim Novak’s face. Oh, yes, some of the speeches were nice, especially from Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o.
Now, about this art film that’s opening at The Carolina — it’s called Generation War and was originally shown in Germany (where it was made) as a three-part miniseries. What we get is a two-part film weighing in at over 4 1/2 hours. Don’t be misled by its TV origins. It looks and feels like a feature film. The scope and the production values are definitely that good. And it’s a good — but not great — movie. The question is whether America is ready for a film in which the heroes (flawed as they are) are mostly on the side of the Nazis in World War II is another matter. Some feel the film is a whitewash job, but I didn’t feel that way. I don’t even think it’s especially sympathetic, merely that it tries (without always succeeding) to understand these characters. If you want to invest the time, I think you’ll find it effective and thoughtful entertainment. Read my review in this week’s paper for a more thorough take on it. (I have yet to be able to find out if the two parts require separate admissions. Apparently, they did when the film was shown in Los Angeles.)
Otherwise, our first mainstream candidate is 300: Rise of an Empire, which is not, for some reason, directed by “visionary” Zack Snyder, though he is a producer and co-writer of the screenplay. The directing chores were turned over Noam Murro, whom you probably don’t know unless you had the grave misfortune of seeing the inaptly named Smart People (2008). I have to say I have no desire to see this, having intensely disliked 300 — and having been called all sorts of names (and told that the Spartans died for my freedom) because of it. I expect this to be more of the same. (Am I the only person who think that from any distance, the poster looks like the silhouette of a spectacularly pregnant woman?) CGI blood, gleaming torsos, lots of shouting, etc. I believe Mr. Souther can have this and I’ll take the option.
The option is Mr. Peabody & Sherman — a computer animated take on the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments from the Rocky and His Friends TV series (1959-61), and syndicated under other names ever since. The concept, if you don’t know, was that Mr. Peabody is a super smart scientist dog with a boy pal named Sherman. With the aid of Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (Way-Back) machine they time traveled to somewhat unlikely historical events. The film would appear to have Mr. Peabody adopting Sherman (I think he was more like Mr. Peabody’s pet on the show) and then recruiting a girl as a playmate for the boy. When nothing impresses the girl, Sherman shows her the WABAC and the two of them predictably damage the fabric of time, etc. Ty Burrell gives voice to Mr. Peabody and Max Charles (TV’s The Neighbors) does the honors for Sherman. The movie was directed by Rob Minkoff, who not surprisingly is being touted as the co-director of The Lion King (1994) and not as the guy who made The Haunted Mansion (2003).
The only thing of note we lose this week is In Secret, which was pretty much a given. In fact, thanks to the Oscars both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity have gone back to full schedules.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is a double bill of Bela Lugosi — Ben Stoloff’s Night of Terror (1933) and Wallace Fox’s The Corpse Vanishes (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 6 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing David Lean’s Hobson’s Choice (1954) on Friday, March 7 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all movies in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
The biggie this week is, of course, 12 Years a Slave. though if you haven’t seen it, I really do suggest catching it on the big screen while you still can. Otherwise, we have The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Grandmaster — and for those of you who have to see for yourselves why it died before making it town, Spike Lee’s Oldboy hits DVD this week.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM is doing a Mary Astor month, and to this end, on Wednesday, March 5 they have William Wyler’s magnificent Dodsworth (1936) at 8 p.m., Edmund Goulding’s engaging soaper The Great Lie (1941) at 10 p.m. and Alan Crossland’s silent John Barrymore swashbuckler Don Juan (1926) at midnight.
Late night, on Friday, March 7 at 2:30 a.m. (technically Sat. a.m.) TCM is showing Ken Russell’s breakthrough film of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love (1969) — I assume with all its nudity (including the wrestling match between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed) intact. (When we screened this film last year, the lady sitting next to me merely said, “Oh … my …”) If you have never seen this, it’s a must. Sadly, the film is only available on an old, non-anamorphic DVD, so it’s becoming relatively rare. (Climbs on soapbox.) This film really needs a proper Blu-ray release — are you listening, MGM? Seriously, this is the movie for which Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar. The film itself was nominated, as was Russell for director. It’s a major work from a major filmmaker — and it deserves better treatment than it’s been given. (Climbs down.)