What does “deep blue” mean in this film, or in the Terence Rattigan play that has prompted a movie from Terrence Davies sixty years later? Deep blue is no small matter; it’s not just Miles Davis doing “Kind of Blue,” William Gass’s book On Being Blue, a nickname for IBM, or Lucian Freud’s painting, “Man in a Blue Scarf.” Four out of ten people name blue as their favorite color. So I have always wanted more from The Deep Blue Sea than it ever delivers. Rattigan was the leading English playwright during the war and into the early 1950s, before the disruptions of John Osborne and Harold Pinter.
There are several spoilers in this review of The Hunger Games, and I’ll get them out of the way early. The film shows precious little hunger and no sense of game. It’s a terrible movie, but it grossed $68.25 million on its first Friday. So that’s where your teenage daughters were over the weekend—or what they told you. And that’s why film critics sometimes feel their own futility. I know, or I have heard, that the series of books by Suzanne Collins, of which The Hunger Games was the first, have sold all over the world in amazing numbers since 2008.
In every way it is regrettable—that three horses have died in the making of Luck over a period of twelve weeks; and that the slowly developing series is going to be cut off, not exactly in its prime, but with glimpses of that glow in the distance.
Just over a week ago, at the Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio, a seventeen-year-old youth opened fire on fellow students: Six were wounded and three have died. A teacher said it was important to get the rest of the students back to school to “show that terror and evil do not win out.” Such things keep happening, and people make brave, encouraging, and ridiculous statements.
In the Cut is not a new film, but many of you won’t have seen it, and some who saw it when it opened in 2003, amid critical abuse, should think of seeing it again. Then it may become new, beautiful and very disturbing. So, in the wake of the annual hysteria over our current movies, let me recall an “old” masterpiece, all the more resonant in that it was largely missed by the people whose business it is to guide us in what to see. Frannie lives in New York where she teaches English at a run-down college.
You may recollect that at the Academy Awards show last year, the hosting job went to Anne Hathaway and James Franco. She was 29 and he was 33, and there was a vague hope that they were young and hot enough to pull in the junior crowd for the television marathon. It didn’t work: Franco seemed bored, while Hathaway was trying too hard. There was no chemistry between them, and very little fun. So this year the host was going to be Eddie Murphy, but he backed off when the producer’s job was withdrawn from Eddie’s chum, Brett Ratner, on account of anti-gay remarks.
Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.
Last Friday, the New York Times ran a double-page-spread ad for the new HBO series Luck. It featured quotes like “Sumptuous,” “Addictive,” “Compelling,” “Brilliant,” “Astonishing,” “Breathtaking.” (You know the sort of thing, you could write it yourself.) But after three episodes of Luck, I’m still hedging my bets and crossing my fingers—or just waiting to hear a line clearly. The show has plenty of credentials and promise.
The Iranian film A Separation, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, seems to me the best film of 2011. It is one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Picture, but by any sense of justice in any nation (let alone the self-assessed greatest in the world) it would have been nominated for Best Picture before anything else. The ways in which the characters in A Separation struggle for truth and honor, while yielding sometimes to compromise and falsehood, is not foreign to us. Few other films made last year give such a striking sense of, “Look—isn’t this life?