Here’s part 2 of our generally pretty random conversation about movies in 2012, where we get into Zero Dark Thirty, the Bond franchise, and even touch a bit on what a good year it was for stop motion films.
Sarah: What do we do with all the good movies of 2012? Are we going to be able to rank them in some sort of order?
Doug: I don’t know if I can do a real order this year. There is probably a good top 20-25, but can I put them in a real order? It’s tough. Like, I just saw Zero Dark Thirty, probably the best reviewed movie of the year. And, for me, well first of all are you going to go see that? I know you’ve said you have mixed feelings about seeing it.
Sarah: I don’t know, there’s two things working against me seeing it, at least until it’s nominated for an Oscar. First, the concept of it all is not necessarily something I’d want to see. And, second, the previews for it don’t make it look all that great. Remember Crazy Heart? That had the opposite problem. Great previews, not so good movie. I think you said Crazy Heart would get an Oscar for previews. But, it sort of stunk. Zero Dark Thirty, the previews are making it look kind of bad.
Doug: For me, having seen it, I may have been too swayed by the overwhelmingly fawning reviews. This is a really, really good movie. But with all the gushing, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “it’s not as good as everyone says it is” trap. Because it’s a great movie. But I know you’ve said you weren’t sure about how you’d feel about watching it considering the subject matter. Having seen it, your concerns are spot on. There have been a lot of movies made over the years based on real events that tweaked the truth a bit for dramatic affect. But for most Americans, there is probably no story more important or emotional over the last few decades than 9/11. And even though this is just about the hunt for Bin Laden aspect of 9/11 and not so much 9/11 itself, it still colors the way you watch Zero Dark Thirty. I mean, this movie is nothing if not riveting. If it weren’t a true story, you’d be sucked in totally. But you do find yourself wondering, “I wonder if this really happened this way?” and…
Sarah: And how would they know? Most of this stuff still has to be classified. How much of it could they really know they have right?
Doug: Yeah, and unfortunately before seeing it, I read enough conflicting information even about the Jessica Chastain lead character, she being the CIA officer that doggedly chases Bin Laden for years. Some things indicate areas where the film makers didn’t portray her correctly, and some reports even suggest that she isn’t even a she in real life. So, all of this does sort of cloud how you watch the film unfold.
Sarah: It’s got to be a fictionalized thing. And it’s interesting, in a way, to be able to do it in an effective way. Sort of cobble together true information and maybe some things you’ve got to fictionalize. But I do wonder how much I want to buy it or watch as a “true” version of events.
Doug: It’s a great movie to watch purely as a procedural. And even kind of as a pure workplace story, where Jessica Chastain’s character almost starts to be regarded as out there and delusional in her hunt for this one guy. In a lot of ways, the country itself had move on from Bin Laden. The movie portrays the CIA as not devoting as many resources to Bin Laden.
Sarah: He’s barely even relevant at a certain point. Some nice themes you’re talking about here. In some ways, kind of similar to Skyfall, the Bond movie.
Doug: We have to talk about that. With Zero Dark Thirty, as great as it is, I wonder if anything could be as edge of your seat, literally actually, as the famous photo of President Obama and Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton and others sitting there watching the actual raid. No fictionalized account can really make you grasp the seriousness of all of it as that one photo.
Sarah: Yes, just the looks on their faces is something I think you can’t help but be grabbed by. And for a movie to try to match that, it’s tough. And top of trying to do it at all, to try to do it so close on the heels of it actually happening makes it even tougher. How much of the information on what really happen is even non-classified right now. Think about how long it took for the information that Argo was based on to declassify.
Doug: Good point. It’s interesting, because I think part of this movie being made so close in time after the actual events says a lot about how quickly we are moving now as a society, how quickly we’re ready for a movie version of this.
Sarah: Well, and one big reason why I’m a little bit reluctant about seeing Zero Dark Thirty is that I’m not convinced I am ready to watch it. Maybe the rest of the country is, but I’m not sure I am. If I can convince myself purely that this is a fictionalized version of these events, then maybe it would be more acceptable to me to just say, “OK, I’m watching a movie here”, and that’s how I’d view it.
Doug: The problem is, intellectually you can tell yourself that, but you can’t always keep the thoughts about what is real and what isn’t from creeping in.
Sarah: Yeah. The whole time you’d be naturally questioning “is that how that happened?” or “was that person really like that?”. And what are they leaving out, and what are they embellishing?
Doug: It’s ultimately a 2 hour movie, so Kathryn Bigelow had to make choices. You’d likely be more interested in reading an exhaustive 500 page book about it all.
Sarah (laughing): You’d be more interested in reading a 500 page book about it.
Doug: Let’s talk about some more stuff. I know you really liked Skyfall. I did, too, so let’s discuss the return of Bond.
Sarah: I did like Skyfall. Probably in my top 5 for the year. One of the ways I judge how much I like a movie is to ask myself if I’d buy it on DVD when it comes out. And I would buy Skyfall. And let me just say I’ve already purchased Paranorman. That one is already in my house.
Doug: Is Paranorman your movie of the year?
Sarah: It might be close. But let’s go back to Skyfall.
Doug: Can I just say that another guy I really want to see with a nomination this year is Javier Bardem for Skyfall?
Sarah (laughing): His role is so bizarre in that movie. It seems like one of the themes we’ve developed is things are coming in twos. And there are two things about Bardem in Skyfall. The first is that he’s so not the typical Bond villain, at least I didn’t think so. The second thing is, he wasn’t even necessarily the major conflict in the film, which might be part of why I don’t think of him as a typical Bond villain.
Doug: That’s an interesting take, because one of the things I really liked about him is that I thought he actually was a bit of a throwback to some of the older Bond villain types.
Sarah: Well, I think you’re thinking he might be more like a SPECTRE type villain, the guy with the cat, Bardem had a little of that going on.
Doug: Bardem himself said he put a little of the guy who played Jaws in Moonraker, Richard Kiel I think was the guy’s name. The guy with the big grill of teeth. Which was great. And of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, this one was the most throwback-y, with a little tiny bit of cartoonish-ness here and there, even.
Sarah: Well, what they seemed to be trying to do when they rebooted Bond back around Casino Royale the Bourne movies were big, so there was a bit of a shadow there. And you had the Batman movies out there, too. And they were going for a grittier feel with Bond, with all those types of movies. But I don’t think they banked on how much people just kind of wanted their old, standby kind of Bond. Where maybe they were doing too much copying when Bond doesn’t need to copy.
Doug: And you’re taking a pretty big risk if you try to kind of copy, or at least take too much from, other movie franchises. Because you’re probably not going to be able to exactly duplicate what makes that other stuff good.
Sarah: Right, and now you’re getting grief for two things. One, you’re not a real Bond movie. And, you’re not as good as this other stuff you’re kind of trying to be like. I didn’t really think it was a smart move. It might be just one perspective, but I missed the old Bond style. But I’m someone who is willing to defend the Brosnan years.
Doug: Sure. I think Pierce Brosnan was a great Bond.
Sarah: He was a great Bond. Even if some of the Brosnan Bond movies were crap, he was still a great Bond.
Doug: Yes. I think Daniel Craig is a great Bond.
Sarah: I think he is now. But, honestly, after his first two efforts I was not convinced.
Doug: Really? That’s interesting.
Sarah: In fairness to Daniel Craig, I’m not sure it wasn’t that he was bad in Casino Royale, it was more that he was given a role that wasn’t actually Bond. He was given a role that was more like Bourne. You could say the same thing, in a way, about the latest Bourne, The Bourne Legacy. I like my Jeremy Renner, and there was some pretty good stuff there, but it’s not a Bourne movie. And they were trying to make Daniel Craig be like Bourne. But he’s supposed to be Bond. He needs his one liners, he needs his Bond girls. This isn’t supposed to be as deep of a character as they were making Daniel Craig play him. Where was the wit.
Doug: The scene in Skyfall that was classic for that, I thought, was when Bardem has Bond tied up and is getting, shall we say, a little frisky with him. And Daniel Craig plays it completely cool, with a little glimmer in his eye and says, “How do you this…”
Sarah: “Isn’t my first time?” That’s what I’m talking about. A great Bond line.
Doug: And can I say that the costume designer for Skyfall deserves to win an Academy Award purely on the basis of the orthopedic Velcro shoes the designer gives Bardem to sport.
Sarah (laughing): The Double Velcro orthopedic shoes! They were double Velcro. With what appeared to be some sort of janitorial suit on, as well.
Doug (laughing): Oh, my God. It’s gold.
Sarah: And combine it with the weird yellow hair that was just horrible. I don’t even…
Doug: All I know is I wanted more Bardem. That’s all I can tell you about Skyfall.
Sarah: But it’s Bardem with Bond that works.
Doug: You’re right.
Sarah: You can’t have it all work without Bond on the screen with Bardem.
Doug: For sure. But, of course, Bond is on the screen the entire time.
Sarah: Much of the time with no shirt on.
Doug: We can’t overlook that.
Sarah: Just have to lay that out there for the ladies.
Doug: Or the gentlemen, as the case may be.
Sarah: The Javier Bardem-esque gentlemen, apparently. They finally got it right for Daniel Craig with this Bond movie. I was totally all about when “Q” came on the scene. I was all about it. The perfect way to recharge Bond. Have the geek-y computer nerd sitting next to the old school Bond in his suit. That scene summed up for me the point of where they’re going with Bond now. There’s the old and the new and how Bond is going to make it all work. I loved it.
Doug: Paranorman, you loved it.
Sarah: Loved it. The stop motion, I’ll just do a list because it was a good year for stop motion. You had Paranorman, Frankenweenie, and even one I never reviewed but should have, Pirates: Band of Misfits.
Doug: We didn’t see Wreck It Ralph.
Sarah: No, we didn’t. I did see Brave, the Disney offering of the year. A lot of good stuff there. Some good archery in that one, another theme of the year with Hunger Games and its archery.
Doug: Are you a fan of archers?
Sarah: No, I’m not. But my nephew did get a bow and arrow for Christmas, and I was down in the basement trying to teach him how to use it.
Doug: Remind me to wear my protective gear when I’m around your nephew. Wait a minute, YOU were teaching your nephew how to arch? Maybe I need to wear protective gear around you.
Sarah: You might want to consider it.