This week’s movie of the week over at the Film Vituperatum is Cabaret. Now, I didn’t submit a review for this because I watched and reviewed it during the period of my blog that I call ‘Reviewing for the Sake of It’ in which it was more important to me to watch, or at least sit through, a playing of the film, and record the briefest of comments upon it, as then I could get to the part I was most looking forward to, crossing it from the 1001 List (or whichever list it came from). a little while ago I decided this was ridiculous and wasn’t benefiting anyone, at which point I decided to try and expand upon my reviews. I’ve made the intention to go back and re-review some of the films I’d not given enough respect to in the past, but there are some films I’d really not rather watch again, and amongst those is Cabaret. If you really want to, you can read my 130-word review here, but personally I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway, I wanted to do a list that somehow ties in with the movie of the month (this won’t always be the case, but it seems to be working so far). My initial idea was to do my list of Top 10 Worst Movies I’ve Ever Seen, in honour of Liza Minnelli’s cameo in Sex and the City 2 (second place, after Home Alone 4), but instead I opted for movies with songs in them of the same name as the film, as of course the film features Minnelli belting out the titular Cabaret.
The movie of the week over at Film Vituperatum this week is Psycho, hence why I posted a review of it yesterday, and seeing as it is Mother’s Day this Sunday the two events seemed to coincide far too perfectly for me to not create a Top 10 list in celebration. I was a little unsure of which direction to take this in, but then I considered that the mother in Psycho probably wouldn’t have sat too well on a list of the all time greatest movie mothers, so forgive me but this is a more negative view of cinematic matriarchs. So here is my run down of the movie mothers that make me oh so very grateful for the one I ended up with, as opposed to any of these raving bags of lunacy.Now as it turned out Psycho‘s Mrs. Bates didn’t make an appearance on this list, as all she was really guilty of parenting-wise was maybe loving her son a little too much – something which a member of this list attempted to take a bit further. Also, any US readers who may have gotten terrified of the mention of it being Mother’s Day this Sunday should not be overly concerned; we celebrate it a couple of months earlier than you guys, so you’ve still got until May to buy those flowers. So, without further ado, here’s my list of mothers who would at best deserve a hastily purchased card from a petrol station, if that.
Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
On the surface, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) doesn’t seem to be too bad of a mother. She doesn’t do much wrong other than get herself kidnapped and wear the same forced, frozen smile on her face for the entirety of this intolerable movie. In fact, she’s done a fairly reasonable job of raising a son almost single-handedly, whilst maintaining a career along the way. Yes, that son has turned out to be Shia LaBeouf pretending to be Marlon Brando, but it could have been worse. Shia LaBeouf pretending to be Shia LaBeouf, for example. No, Marion’s crime is in denying her child, Mutt Williams, of the knowledge of his father’s true identity, that of [REALLY OBVIOUS SPOILER] Indiana Jones. What boy growing up wouldn’t want Indy to be his father? He’s possibly the coolest man in existence, and even with the lack of stability and large periods of time spent travelling the globe in search of historic artifacts and sexy historians, he’d still have been one hell of a father figure to look up to for any growing boy. Plus, she let her son go around with the nickname Mutt.
Jason Reitman’s third directorial outing, after the stellar Thank You For Smoking and the good-the-first-time-you-watch-it Juno takes two done-to-death plot conceits – the business-set rom-com and road movie odd-couple – and reinvigorates them to be not only modern, but impressively timely.
Up in the Air is much more in keeping with the structure of Smoking, as we follow a successful, charming but morally dubious and emotionally detached businessman discovering that his perfect life may not be as ideal as it seems once women step a little too far into it. Previously it was Aaron Eckhart’s fast-talking cigarette peddler Nick Naylor, here it’s George Clooney’s professional corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham, jetting around the country to fire people when their own superiors don’t quite have the balls. And with the economic climate and unemployment rates where they are now, no other film could be quite so prescient.
But it isn’t just that this film rings true with modern times. Clooney channels his inner Cary Grant in the role he was seemingly born to play, whilst Vera Farmiga is wonderful as his female equivalent, Alex. The real surprise though is Anna Vendrick. Formerly most famous as Bella’s best friend in Twilight, here she shows real comic ability and acting prowess as Natalie, the bright young whippersnapper brought in to downsize the downsizers, aiming to revolutionise the business by doing it all online.
The cast is rounded out by some Reitman regulars, including Jason Bateman, J. K. Simmons and Sam Elliott, as well as Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey and Zack Galifianakis, and a gaggle of non-actors portraying essentially themselves when they were fired, with Reitman instructing them to dwell on their own experiences in some moving moments.
The best scenes involve the principals just sitting down and talking. Be it Ryan and Alex comparing the weight of their loyalty cards, or Natalie learning that, as you get older, your expectations of life lessen to more realistic goals, the script is insightful, sparky and above all else funny. I was a little annoyed at seeing Sam Elliott in the opening credits, and seeing his cardboard-cutout as the Chief Pilot in an airport signposting that, at some point, his character was going to crop up somewhere, but that’s another of those things that only really hurts the film nerds. Some of the metaphors are a little heavy-handed (at one point Ryan’s family literally doesn’t fit into his suitcase) and the ending feels like a series of devastating gut-punches that kind of spoils the mood, but each one feels perfectly justified and necessary.
If you don’t settle too deeply into the subject matter this is a fun comedy with a great script, and even if you do it’s still thought-provoking and entertaining stuff. I await tracking down Reitman’s latest offering, the Charlize Theron starring Young Adult, with anticipation.
Choose film 8/10