Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From the archives: December 2008

Double features, once a cherished constant of the movie-going experience, have all but disappeared.

Multiplex houses hardly ever show more than one film on a given screen; if they do, you'll need to pay separate admission for each. Art houses and independent theaters sometimes offer double features, but even here they're few and far between. Perhaps more tellingly, the mainstream "movie date" no longer allows for double features. Who has the time?

As a result, my rare opportunities for double features have been accidental, usually resulting from the nature of my job. So it was, on an otherwise average Thursday afternoon in November 2008, that I found myself in the pleasant company of colleage Jonathan Mumm — film critic for Sacramento's Channel 10 — at that city's Crest Theater. Thanks to that week's random assignments of preview screenings, both Australia and Slumdog Millionaire were being shown to us critics that day, at (as I recall) 1 and 4 p.m., respectively. Since Australia clocks in at 165 minutes, that left time only for a brief pit stop in between.

I couldn't have cared less. It was a magical afternoon at the movies: six hours (more or less) that encapsulated everything I love about the medium. The sense of wonder, the feeling of being carried away by stories well told, the admiration for all the many talents — in front of and behind the camera — who had collaborated so well to deliver these sumptuous results.

Australia, for reasons I'll never understand, tanked at the box office, finding favor neither with critics nor the public. Too old-style and corny, I guess, but I loved it nonetheless.

Slumdog Millionaire, however, was something else again: an absolute masterpiece that I knew, without question, would become a world-wide phenomenon ... and deservedly so.

Director Danny Boyle's film was the brightest spot among 2008's holiday movie season, although by no means the only gem; Milk — given an additional (and serendipitous) boost by political events of the moment — also earned a well-deserved spot among solid, fact-based dramas.

As for the rest ... well, not such a much. The month brought us numerous movies that were compromised by ill-advised business decisions. The usually dependable Will Smith and Tom Cruise stumbled, and rather badly; the former attached himself to a thoroughly depressing — and wholly unbelievable — melodrama, while the latter was completely miscast as a WWII-era German soldier. An otherwise engaging adaptation of a best-selling book suffered from an equally miscast Owen Wilson. Sloppy history marred the great music re-created for a profile of uppity Chess Records, which helped re-shape the radio landscape of the 1950s and '60s. A charming children's book became dour and even frightening when brought to the big screen. Disappointments, all.

Ah, but Slumdog Millionaire made up for 'em. And then some.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and check 'em out:

Cadillac Records

Marley & Me


Seven Pounds

Slumdog Millionaire

The Tale of Despereaux


Yes Man

No comments:

Post a Comment