Happy New Year (+ New Gosling, Bardem Films)

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Here’s my last blog of the year. And when I return it’ll be 2011 and we will have lots to look forward to, not the least of which takes place next Wednesday evening. So you get another few days off… a teensy bit more government-sanctioned You Time where one can relax, read, eat, catch up, and lament the fact that it’s New Years and you’ve never really understood – or enjoyed – New Years in the first place. Or, you can throw up your hands and hit the cineplex. Which is precisely what I’ll do. And exactly what I did last night. Before we get into the new movies opening this week (and there are three of them) let’s remember two things: 1) it’s awards season, and in order for movie studios to get considered for awards, their films must be released – if only for a nanosecond – before the end of the year. And 2) nobody wants to compete with big box office fare like Harry Potter or Tron or even Little Fockers on Christmas Day if their movie isn’t appropriate.  By ‘appropriate’ it’s gotta be funny or super intergalactic or ultra-silly or a bold caper (remember Sherlock Holmes last year?) Movies that don’t fit that bill get slotted in wherever, which means right now if they want Academy props, although they’re not exactly the kinds of flicks you wanna pile the family into the wagon to see on December 25th. This of course doesn’t mean they’re not good films. On the contrary, movies that get released during the week after Christmas tend to be a very smart and/or well made – if dark. The first one is called Blue Valentine. Which features the (apparently always) superb Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in a pretty searing drama. Plus it’s also got a  wonderful newcomer playing their kid. Suffice it to say, it’s all about relationships and they’re  explored intelligently, but this one’s not recommended for a First Date. Pretty heartbreaking stuff, although you’ll be riveted by the two leads’ award-worthy performances.  The second movie opening is an English one, called Another Year. Directed by Mike Leigh (who brought us Happy-Go-Lucky). This too is all about relationships and centers upon a married couple who have been that way for many, many years when our story begins. Another Year also stars Jim Broadbent, and if you’ve seen any Harry Potter or Bridget Jone-sy fare, you’ll recognize him instantly. Speaking of recognizable actors, we have the very popular Spanish leading man (and Mr. Penelope Cruz, BTW) Javier Bardem starring in the week’s other release, which is called Biutiful. This one’s the tale of a man confronting death in Barcelona, and it was made by the same guy who directed 21 Grams and Babel, so expect to be challenged and provoked, but not necessarily uplifted. Like I said, the three movies this week were made to confront us intellectually and maybe even spiritually; think more ruminations on the human condition, less feel good movie of the year and you’ll be just fine.  I plan to see all of them, not necessarily before year’s end, because they’ve each garnered good buzz. Then we have the PCA’s next Wednesday – don’t forget to vote on your Favorite New Shows. Already done it? You can always turn around and do it all over again, if you so choose.  We’ll see you next week and next year, and as always, thanks for all your comments and suggestions. Enjoy and  please have a safe and happy holiday. Cheers!

Today’s poll: which of this week’s new films will you check out first:

1)   Another Year

2)   Biutiful

3)   Blue Valentine

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