FILM FORUM: Oscars Edition #3
Let’s not get started about the travesty of Crash or any of the other tragedies in Academy Award history. If we do we’ll be here forever. I’m sure we’ll have more than enough gripes about this year’s crop of nominees and winners. There’s only so much negativity one can take, you know?
I’m with you on The Bourne Ultimatum. The entire trilogy has been great and this year’s installment really moved the Bourne movies into the pantheon of all time action flicks. Matt Damon is phenomenal as an action hero, even if all his dialogue in each film could probably fit on a napkin. But isn’t that part of what makes him great? The calm and focused demeanor vying to contain that explosive element brewing beneath is what draws me to Bourne. He is at once highly explosive and a study of control. The back and forth is what makes the character dynamic and the struggle between the two — how to control it, how it started, how can it be stopped — is what lends the character pathos. I can’t remember the last time there was an action hero that rose above the demands of the genre in quite the same way Damon does with Bourne.
I’ve heard people describe Jason Bourne as the thinking man’s action hero. I assume we leave that distinction to MacGuyver. Besides, it’s the visceral experience of watching the Bourne movies that I love. One of the most impressive elements of Ultimatum — an element inseparable from the experience of watching the film — is that for all the wild camera work and fast-paced editing Ultimatum is never confusing and never feels excessive. Which is remarkable. Much credit must go to Paul Greengrass, who directed both Supremacy and Ultimatum (and who directed United 93, the best film I saw two years ago). He does something in Ultimatum few directors ever do well. But it’s not for a lack of trying. So many directors have appropriate that style in order to make their films look more realistic. The inevitable sloppiness that accompanies spontaneity does suggest authenticity, but only to a point. You can’t just shake the camera harder and expect the result to look realer. The line between authentic and incomprehensible is thin and sudden. (The same thing is true of films that mistake confusion with complexity. Just because no one can understand your film doesn’t mean it’s smart, pretentious film school asshole.)
Speaking of action heroes: Daniel Craig kicked ass as James Bond. Casino Royal was fantastic. This might be the golden age of action movies.
As for comedies, I must speak up for Judd Apatow. I thought both Knocked Up and Superbad were terrific. I provided a brief explanation of why I liked Superbad in my Quick Hit review, and everything I said applies to Knocked Up. I don’t think I’d want to see another of his films anytime soon, though. They’re good, but only in doses. This isn’t necessarily a criticism. When I was a kid I ate a whole bag of coconut after enjoying just a taste. To this day the thought of eating coconut makes me ill, not because coconut grosses me out but because I can’t think of coconut in amounts that wouldn’t make me sick. Coconut = yum –> bag of coconut = gross. I don’t want the same to happen with Apatow films.
Sehban Zaidi is a Chicago-based filmmaker