Friday, February 13, 2015

"Fifty Shades" of Intentional and Unintentional Comedy

Fifty Shades of Grey
"This elevator is only the beginning, Ms. Steele. There will be helicopters and planes!
Maybe even a boat ride some day. Just don't try to get me to engage in any human behavior."
My name is Eric Harris, and I have seen Fifty Shades of Grey. Sorry, but I feel like I might need a support group after that experience. This isn’t to say that the movie is bad (I didn’t think it was very good, but it’s not the worst thing ever, either), it’s just that the Thursday night, 30:1 ratio of women to men audience wasn’t for me. The support group analogy is relevant for two reasons. 1. The plot of the film is essentially about a woman figuring out what mental disorder a man she is obsessed with is suffering from. 2. As I heard the bursts of maniacal laughter before and during the film, I couldn’t help but start to psychoanalyze the audience and ask why any of them were there. I was there because my wife wanted to see it (and a few people on Facebook have been [jokingly?] requesting a review). This will be a review, but there will also be a focus on the phenomenon of the film, as well.

My knowledge of the source material of Fifty Shades of Grey is minimal. I know that the book is extremely popular (even though it began as Twilight fan fiction) and contains graphic BDSM (if you don’t what this means, do your own research; a simple definition would “rough stuff”) sex throughout. I guess I get the popularity; it’s “forbidden” and edgy. Also, the popularity itself lends to more popularity. A lot of people are going to watch it, I believe, simply because a lot of people are going to watch it. Based on this sparse knowledge of the material, I assumed the book had a very serious tone. So I was a bit surprised when it turned out the film was intentionally comedic many times (and unintentionally a few times too, but more on that later).

I’ve been told the book has comedic elements, but is not meant to be comedic in general, but I can see why the filmmakers decided to play up some of the more absurd moments. A basic rundown of the story is necessary to understand what’s so absurd about it. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), an English major about to graduate, has to interview (she is subbing for her journalism major friend) notoriously single and secretive billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). There’s a love at first sight moment (that I don’t buy), and they begin a cat-and-mouse game of romance. When things get serious, Christian reveals that he’s into BDSM to the point that he wants Anastasia to go over a contract about what they will and will not do together. That’s where it gets absurd. There is an actual meeting in which they go over the terms. Thankfully, it’s played for laughs, as are most of the strange demands of Christian. This, to me, is the saving grace of the film. By acknowledging the crazier parts, it at least becomes a self-aware, albeit still silly, movie.

My problem with the movie isn’t that it attempts to be funny; it’s that it doesn’t go far enough with the humor. Fifty Shades of Grey could have been a satirical dissection of romantic movies in general, but instead falls into the same clich├ęs that keep that genre down. It turns into a “Will they, or won’t they?” story. There are moments where the film almost rises above it, though. For example, Christian sets up a date then quickly says Anastasia should stay away from him. It’s as cheesy as can be, but she later (literally) calls him out on it. Moments like that perked my interest, but they were few and far between.

No one is going to this film looking for a dissection of the romantic genre, though. Most people are going for the sex. Honestly, the sex scenes were some of the most boring moments of the film. It’s all very standard R-rated stuff, for the most part, just much more of it than in most films. I was reminded of The Room, the notoriously so-bad-it’s-good film from Tommy Wiseau which features sex scenes that seem to go on forever. Perhaps others will find something exciting there, but the sex scenes ended up feeling pretty empty to me. And that should be a problem for any audience member. There isn’t any emotion attached to any of this. These two characters claim to be on the cusp of falling in love with each other, but aside from a helicopter and plane ride, all these two do is have sex. Sure, they’re both pretty, and they are physically attracted to each other, but nothing happens in the film to show that they have anything more than physical feelings for each other. It’s fine for a movie about a woman’s sexuality to not have love in it (check out Nymphomaniac Vols. 1 & 2 from Lars von Trier if you want that; it even features much more explicit sex than this), but these characters claim that love is part of it.

This is why the movie is unintentionally funny. The helicopter and plane rides stuck out to me as the funniest moments. It’s something out of The Bachelor (let me get this out of the way: My name is Eric Harris, and I watch The Bachelor). When Anastasia is in doubt of the relationship, Christian takes her for a helicopter ride, and she’s in awe. She gets a bit upset later on, so what does Christian do? “Plane ride, honey! Don’t you feel better about things now?” And she does! That led me to conclude that Anastasia is simply a moron (as someone who graduated with an English degree, I am offended by her portrayal), and Christian is a sociopath. Perhaps this is more on the actors than the characters. Johnson doesn’t seem capable of doing much more than biting her lip, and Dornan might simply naturally look like a shifty-eyed weirdo.

I found the film’s attempts at developing a relationship between these two unintentionally funny, but a portion of the audience I saw it with found plenty of humor in the sex scenes. This confused me. I can see being bored by the scenes, but I didn’t find much humor in them. The laughter I heard was reminiscent of junior high kids seeing a sex scene they’re not “allowed” to see. It was nervous “I don’t know what else to do” laughter. I don’t know if that means the movie was a failure for the women in the audience or not. This film has been set up to be the steamy movie event of the year, yet all I heard was laughter. I will admit that I do not fully understand women or know exactly what they want (especially when it comes to romance in movies), but I can’t imagine they want to laugh. Or maybe they do. I will say this, despite the opinions the audience might leave with, it appeared that the majority had a good time.

That’s all Fifty Shades of Grey is, really: an excuse for women to have some fun at the movies. This was never going to be some transcendent cinematic sexual experience. It’s an event movie aimed at an older female audience, and there’s nothing wrong with that since we live in a world in which the only big movie events are aimed at fanboys and teenagers. That said, not all women are going to enjoy this one even as an event. People showing up to see what the fuss is about are going to leave even more confused about the phenomenon.

As for me, I’m glad I saw it because I had no idea it would inspire this much analysis from me. I thought my review would be: “Not for me, but women might like it.” That’s still partly my review, but I came away with a lot more to write about than I expected. So as a social/movie experiment, Fifty Shades of Grey is a success. As an actual movie, it’s an overlong, mostly boring sex-filled tonal mess about two bland characters trying to figure out if they should be in a relationship. Will they or won’t they? Who cares? But one things for sure, we’ll be finding out in the two inevitable sequels. I’m not sure I’ll be taking part in any further experiments with this franchise, though.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Top Ten of 2014 (Even Though It's Already February of 2015)

This past year I kind of gave up on reviewing movies (took a bit of a hiatus from March to about August). This was partly due to being a bit bored with the process and because not many movies had been released that truly excited me. One movie really brought me out of that funk (Snowpiercer) and made me realize that 2014 was a pretty great year for movies. Here are my top ten picks and a few honorable mentions that, if I was in a different mood, might have been in my top ten.

One more thing, I know it’s kind of crazy to release a top ten of 2014 almost two months into 2015, but I figured if the Academy can wait that long, then so can I. Plus, I needed a bit of extra time to see everything.
1.    Snowpiercer
As I stated above, this movie brought me out of my movie funk. The world created for this film felt so lived-in, and that’s what makes me want to keep watching it. I love the performances and the weird elements of the film, but it’s the feeling of the film in general that sticks with me. When “Snowpiercer” starts, you believe that these people have lived most of their lives on a train, no matter how stupid that sounds. This is the film from 2014 I will return to most in the future.

2.       Birdman
Definitely my favorite Oscar-nominated film of the year. The cinematography gets most of the attention, but the acting is the best aspect of this surprisingly funny film. This movie is the total package for me: great performances, impressive visuals, interesting theories, realistic drama, and actual comedy.

3.       Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite director. Pretty much anything he makes will end up in my top ten. I don’t recommend this movie to anyone who doesn’t care for Anderson’s films. Even then, I’m wary of recommending it. It’s weird and hard to follow, and that’s what I love about it.

4.       Interstellar
I’m a sucker for science-fiction, and Christopher Nolan’s surprisingly emotional sci-fi film worked for me on every level.

5.       Guardians of the Galaxy
Did I mention I like sci-fi (for the record, this makes three of my top five films science fiction)? The Marvel movies, while great, needed a jolt, and this is definitely that jolt. Sure, it still follows the basic plot of nearly every comic book movie, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.

6.       Gone Girl
David Fincher is another director who can do no wrong in my eyes. He took what would normally be a TV movie and made it respectable. The great performances from the two leads helped out quite a bit, as well.

7.       The Guest
This is definitely one of the weird ones that I liked this year. I recently described it as an ‘80s slasher flick pretending to be a standard thriller. Anything modern that’s reminiscent of an ‘80s slasher movie definitely has my attention.

8.       Whiplash
Show up to see J. K. Simmons’s performance. Enjoy it for the overall great movie that it is.

9.    American Sniper
Forget the controversy (which shouldn’t exist anyway) and just watch this effective portrayal of an American soldier on and off the battlefield.

  10.    John Wick
There are at least five other movies that I would put in this last spot, but I’m going with John Wick because it reminded me how great action films could and should be. This isn’t thoughtful art or anything, but it is a movie that I had one of the most enjoyable reactions to while watching.

Honorable Mention - Here are the five movies that easily could have been in the top ten: The Grand Budapest Hotel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Noah. I also really enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury, The Babadook, and A Most Violent Year.

Review Roundup - All the Movies I Should Have Already Written Something About

The past year was definitely my laziest as a critic. I watched nearly every single substantial movie released (Still Alice, Mr. Turner, and Cake are the most notable ones I missed), but I didn't come close to reviewing them all. This post is an attempt to run through the films of note I watched over 2014 but failed to properly review. These still won't be proper reviews, but I felt obligated to at least briefly state my opinion about these movies, especially since some of them end up on my top ten list. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on the last crop of 2014 movies.

Note - As with my last roundup of reviews, I will simply write the rating I give each film.

Boyhood - Okay, I wanted to start off with the big one. This film has been racking up all the awards and is favored to win Best Picture in a couple weeks. Because of that, some hate is starting to form (check out the latest Honest Trailer for evidence). I watched the film months ago and came away impressed. The filming style is a gimmick, but it was interesting to me. But I do not find this film good enough to be considered among the year's best. I agree with all of the complaints about the lack of story. That said, it is enjoyable, and Richard Linklater made something very interesting. I just don't think it should be considered the best film of the year. I give it a Chigurh.

Whiplash - This film somehow made jazz interesting to me. On paper, it sounds pretty boring: a jazz drummer faces off with a demanding conductor. But the music is great, and the editing creates a visual music to match the actual music. Miles Teller is great as a determined, and slightly disturbed drummer, but J. K. Simmons (the runaway favorite for Best Supporting Actor) steals the show as his psychopathic band leader. The message of the film has raised some eyebrows, but that's what I love about it. Also, any film that let's Simmons cut loose with insults is automatically entertaining. Definitely one of the year's best that deserved a much larger release. I give it a Chigurh.

The Guest - I remember hearing about this movie very early in the year, but I forgot about it until I happened to rent it one weekend recently; I am so glad I rented this because it ended up being one of my favorites. People are comparing this to Drive for some reason, but that's unfair. The violence and music are similar to that great movie, but the tone of The Guest is much different. This is a very strange, violent dark comedy that you are either on board with or not. It plays like a slasher film disguised as a regular thriller. Dan Stevens (an actor I am barely aware but is famous for Downton Abbey) is great in the cheesiest possible way. This is just one of those movies that is tailor made for me. Writing about it makes me want to watch it again. I think this is one of the 2014 releases that will get re-watched by me for many years. I give it a Vader.

Blue Ruin - I came across this one on Netflix and was very impressed by it. It's your basic revenge story, but it is very minimalist and (I guess) realistic. The realistic element makes it kind of a dark comedy. This is what happens when a regular guy tries to exact revenge...he messes up. It's not one of my favorites, but it's worth a watch, especially if you have Netflix. I give it a Kurgan.

St. Vincent - I thought this Bill Murray movie was going to be sappy, and it was. But it was effective sappiness. The movie really drew me in emotionally. Some of it is too sentimental, but overall, it was a pleasing, emotional experience. I think it got brushed under the table a little too quickly. If you were on the fence about this one, you should give a try. I give it a Kurgan.

Ida - I generally do not watch foreign films the year they come out because they rarely see a release in America in time. But Ida is on Netflix already and since it's up for Best Foreign Language Film, I decided to watch it. I liked it, but it is exactly what you think when you hear "foreign film." It's in black and white, it's depressing, there is a lot of brooding, etc. But I liked it. The Cold War-era Eastern Europe setting appeals to me for some reason. Also, the way the film was shot was interesting. The shot selection is odd in that in many shots the main character's eyes are at the bottom of the frame while the rest of the focus seems to be on the ceiling. I'm not sure if that's meaningful in any way, but it certainly gave the film a certain style. I give it a Chigurh.

Force Majuere - Another foreign film I watched, but this one didn't get nominated. I really only watched it because I thought it would get nominated. I'm glad I watched it, though. It's such a strange film. It's about a family on a ski trip. When there's a near-avalanche, the mother protects her children while the father runs away. The rest of the film deals with the fallout of that reaction. It's interesting and at times darkly funny. It does drag on a bit, though. I give it a Kurgan.

A Most Violent Year - This movie is erroneously being compared to The Godfather. I don't write "erroneously" because it isn't good, but because this film doesn't attempt to be a classic gangster movie. I really enjoyed this one because of the originality of it. It takes place during 1981, one of the most violent years on record in New York City. It's about an immigrant (Oscar Isaac) who has risen up to be a power player in the heating oil industry. He wants to accomplish things legally, much to the chagrin of his mobster-daughter wife (Jessica Chastain). As I watched, I assumed this was based on some sort of true story. Who just makes up a drama about the heating oil industry? But this is an original screenplay from J. C. Chandor. Chandor has made a very slow burn type of movie reminiscent of the era it takes place in. It's not The Godfather, but it isn't trying to be. So leave that expectation behind, and you should come away pleased. I give it a Chigurh.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - This isn't making my top ten or anything, but I really enjoyed it. I was lukewarm about the first film, but this one turned things around in a big way. It turns out I like Captain America in the modern era much more than his actual timeframe. The action is great, and all the comparisons to '70s-era conspiracy movies are apt. Definitely one of Marvel's best. I give it a Kurgan.

X-Men: Days of Future Past - This film deserves respect simply for existing. It plays like a comic book movie fan's dream. The combination of young and old cast members and the time travel plot are great. This was a very fun film that seems to have been largely forgotten already by the equally fun Guardians of the Galaxy. I too like Guardians more, but the X-Men will always have a place in my heart. Also, the Quicksilver scene is probably my favorite action sequence of the year. I give it a Kurgan.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - The improbably good series gets better with this installment. Hats off to the filmmakers for making the beginning part of the film ape-centric. The action is relatively sparse, but the main set piece is great. Matt Reeves keeps his long-take streak alive with a great sequence from the perspective of a tank cannon. I give it a Chirgurh.

Edge of Tomorrow - The awesome Tom Cruise sci-fi movie that apparently not many people wanted. It didn't bomb, exactly, but this film should have been huge. It's funny, there's awesome action, it's original, there is star power, etc. I guess the title was wrong, which is why you can now find it called Live. Die. Repeat. I don't care what you call it, it's awesome, and you should watch it. I give it a Kurgan.

Noah - This film has largely been forgotten as well despite the controversy upon its release. Darren Aronofsky's retelling of the popular Bible story is definitely weird, and it's better for it. I loved it for all the weirdness. Others may find it silly. This is the movie I loved this year that many others either hater or shrug off. That said, it still didn't crack my top ten. The reason for that is because I have come to expect so much from Aronofsky. I loved it, but as time went on very little of it stuck with me like Aronofsky's past work. I give it a Chigurh.

So there you have it: my jumbled thoughts on a bunch of good movies. Now I can write that top ten list finally...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review Roundup - True Stories

I recently wrote an article about all of the awards-contending movies that are based on true stories. As part of that article, I initially planned to include my thoughts/reviews on most of them. That article ran a little long, and it didn't make sense to tack on reviews to the end of it, so I decided to make a separate post.

These are my (thankfully) short opinions about most of the recent "true story" movies. I tried to focus mainly on their qualities as films (which was kind of the point of my article about true story movies). There are a few exceptions. I have already reviewed American Sniper, so I won't repeat any of that here. Also, I was unable to watch Mr. Turner. There might be one or two others I didn't get to see that I'm forgetting, but oh well. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few year-end movies as I get closer to being done with 2014 films. (I know it's already February, and I'm still finishing up "year-end" stuff, but hey, if the Academy gets to wait until the end of February, why can't I?)

Final note - instead of uploading pictures for each rating, I'm just going to type each rating (because I'm lazy, and who's reading this anyway?).

Unbroken - This film divided critics almost down the middle. Some claimed that it was uninspired and derivative of better work by Spielberg. I'll admit that there's nothing, cinematically speaking, special about this film. Despite that, I was engrossed in the story of Louis Zamperini. If it wasn't based on a true story, you would feel manipulated as bad thing after bad thing happens to him. It isn't a very stylish film, but it is effective. People who wanted more of an explanation for Zamperini's resolve missed the film's point that sheer will is what got him through the hardships. There's no need for some made-up reason for Zamperini to survive while others did not. He's just that rare person who won't give up. I'll give this one a Chigurh.

Selma - This film inspired my previous article because so many people took issue with LBJ's portrayal. I'm not a fan of the changes myself, but I didn't find them all that damning. It seems to me that people are afraid to dislike this movie without having some arbitrary excuse like the legacy of LBJ to back them up. My reaction was lukewarm. It is a well-made depiction of an important part of our history, but it comes across more like a film that is more concerned with being a historical document than a movie. Selma will live on in history classes from here on out, but as a part of cinema, I think it will be largely forgotten. I'll give this one a Commodus (giving the thumbs up).

Foxcatcher - I was expecting to love this movie, but came away underwhelmed. The performances are great all around. Carell and Ruffalo have been rightly nominated, but Tatum deserves some credit too. The film seems to drag, however. It's immediately clear that Carell's John du Pont is strange and probably dangerous. The film plays out for two hours with the viewer waiting for what we is going to happen. Even if you don't know the true story, it's painfully obvious that something bad is going to happen. I found myself wishing for the movie to just hurry up throughout. Perhaps I would feel differently if the film was 30 minutes shorter. Either way, it's worth watching for the performances alone. This one gets a Chigurh.

The Imitation Game - This is one of those historical movies that gets everything right. It features good performances and an interesting, largely untold story from history. Much like Selma, however, there's nothing about it that really stuck with me. A good movie, but not one that should necessarily be discussed as one of the year's best. This one gets a Commodus (giving the thumbs up).

The Theory of Everything - See review of Imitation Game. Oh, and Eddie Redmayne is very good, though I don't think he's better than Keaton or Cooper in this year's Best Actor race. This one gets a Commodus (giving the thumbs up).

Wild - I was expecting great things from this film since it was made by Jean-Marc Vallee, the director of one of my favorites from last year, Dallas Buyers Club. I liked it, but not nearly as much as his previous film. Perhaps it's the subject matter. The story of Cheryl Strayed is interesting, and the film works as a portrait of a woman dealing with a multitude of problems, but it felt a little too much like an exercise in getting Reese Witherspoon another Oscar. That said, this movie is a masterclass in transitions. Vallee effortlessly jumps back in forth in the narrative with great little transitions throughout to creative a very fluid experience. I'll give this one a Chigurh.

Monday, February 9, 2015

This Article Is Inspired by Movies that Are "Based on" True Stories

I'm just going to assume that everything said in this scene is exactly what happened in reality.
"Based on a true story" can make or break a movie. For horror films, it usually makes it. (Stupid) people like to watch horror films and talk about how it really happened to get themselves even more freaked out by it. True story: at the end of Paranormal Activity, I heard an audience member react to the credits which thanked the San Diego Police Department with, "You see, that was a true story." This blew my mind. Let's assume it is actual footage and follow that line of thinking. We have video evidence of demonic possession, but it is only used as entertainment? Wouldn't the world be freaking out a bit more if Paranormal Activity was real footage. Not to mention it is also video footage of a death used for entertainment. None of that occurred to this guy. He just thought, "Wow, that's really freaky, and it really happened!" Maybe I'm overreacting and the guy was just trying to mess with whoever he was with, but there are enough people that think at least some of it is real to the point that an FAQ on the IMDb page is "Does this film feature real video footage?" This is similar to what happened with films like Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project, but what makes it doubly infuriating now is that we have instant access to the truth. With films in the past, it was harder to confirm if a story was made up or not.

So what, right? Some idiots believe in scary movies because it adds a level of enjoyment to their experience. That's fine, but, unfortunately, that same line of thinking is applied to films that are actually based on true stories. And that is a problem because too many of these people will just accept what they see as fact and not investigate it further. Now, the FAQ at IMDb is evidence that people wanted to know for sure, and that's a good sign, but people are probably more likely to take a historical film's word for it over a horror film. We know (at least subconsciously for the dumber folks) that scary movies are trying to mess with us. The "Based on a true story" message is akin to a jump scare. It might get people at first, but a little thought will dismiss it as just another scare tactic. 

Special thanks to the San Diego PD for releasing this evidence of demonic possession and murder.
If a historical film claims to be based on a true story, we don't see that as a scare tactic; we see it as a badge of authenticity. We're about to watch a historical document. Of course, this is wrong. How could any narrative film tell a 100% true story in a standard two hour running time? A lot of people do not realize that, though. When they see American Sniper (a movie I liked, by the way), some will come away thinking there really was a rival sniper that Chris Kyle came across, and there really was a man called "The Butcher" that he and his team were tasked with stopping. While there are elements of truth to these aspects, they are largely fictionalized to make a more traditional story for the audience. Alterations like that are likely to be taken as fact by some of the audience. Changes like, say, (SPOILER) killing Hitler in Inglourious Basterds, are blatant enough that the audience knows it's fictional. 

Tarantino's films don't claim to be true stories, of course, but even if they did, the audience for a film like that knows what to expect. Audiences for "legitimate" historical films expect the truth, even though they shouldn't. There's not much that can be done for this, but I think an attempt should be made to remind the audience that a film is not the whole story. This has been attempted before. For instance, with Oliver Stone's Nixon, that film began with a disclaimed stating that the film was partially based on an "incomplete historical record." Sure, this is more of a dig at Nixon regarding the missing Watergate tapes, but it's something we should consider for all "true stories" today. Just put something at the beginning reminding people: "The following film is a slightly fictionalized account of a true part of history. For the entire story, you should do some research and reading." I'm sure there's a better way to word it, but the gist is that people shouldn't take movies as fact. With this warning, maybe people would stop overreacting to films like Selma and American Sniper
I'm sure the real Nixon would have loved 19 minutes of silence instead of the
speculation Stone created, but that would have been much less interesting.
Studios aren't very likely to add any new disclaimers, though, because admitting that changes were made makes a movie appear less substantial. When a horror movie claims to be true, it's for the scares; when a historical film claims to be true, it's for the Oscar. Who can blame the studios? Look at this year's nominees: American Sniper (Picture, Actor), Selma (Picture), The Imitation Game (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress), Foxcatcher (Actor, Supporting Actor, Director [but not Picture for some odd reason]), The Theory of Everything (Picture, Actor, Actress), Wild (Actress, Supporting Actress), not to mention awards-hopefuls like Unbroken and Mr. Turner that came away with a few lesser nominations. 

The Academy Awards are not really all that important aside from the fact that they add prestige to these movies. That's when people get up in arms. "You mean to tell me that the Academy means to reward Selma's inaccurate and unfair depiction of President Lyndon Johnson?!" As if being nominated for an award retroactively changed how the film was written and made. When a movie is presented as awards-worthy, people like to assign responsibility to it. Films start getting labelled as "reckless" and "dangerous." It's all hyperbole, of course (as if it is truly dangerous for a junior high student to come away from Selma with a slightly negative opinion of LBJ), but it's something to consider. There is a middle-ground to this debate. Films should not purport to be based on true stories if they plan on making intentional changes. Filmgoers, likewise, need to realize that movies are not 100% true. The main point needs to be that these films should be judged on their merits as films and not necessarily on accuracy. It's time for us to put some responsibility on the viewer, which is why my proposed disclaimer encourages the viewer to do some research. Odds are a lot of people would not take that advice. Researching is boring, tedious work. I suggest that for those audience members unwilling to take the time to look up factual information we come to this conclusion: screw 'em. 

Honestly, who cares what an ignorant person thinks? If someone comes away from American Sniper believing that the Iraq War was a direct response to 9/11, then it is likely that that person was stupid before they watched the film, not after. Why worry about people who don't care enough about something to look into it for themselves, especially when there are websites that do all the work for them? Well, maybe we should worry about an uninformed public, but Hollywood and the Academy Awards is not the place to start. Not to get too political or anything, but if we're worried about the knowledge of our citizens shouldn't we be focusing on our education system instead of Hollywood? It seems like any outrage over historical accuracy in film is meant more to distract us from real issues than it is to deal with any so-called problems created by the films.

If anything, I think movies sometimes adhere too closely to the true story. It's far more interesting when a film like Walker (the criminally underseen Alex Cox film) inserts cars and other anachronistic elements into a film set in the 1850s, especially when it's done to service the theme connecting it to (then) modern issues. Or take JFK, a film that should be seen more as a visual essay of conspiracy theories about the assassination rather than a historical document. I watched that film as a teenager and came away wanting to do research about the subject. It inspired me to know more about it. I didn't just assume that the film was everything. The most important thing about these two examples is that I found them to be endlessly entertaining. They were, in my opinion, good movies. It's fine to fault a film for being boring, silly, poorly made, etc. But to bash it because they took liberties to create a potentially more interesting experience? That seems lazy, especially when anyone truly interested will find out the truth on their own. As for everyone else, let them be scared and amazed by that "Based on a true story" claim. As for the rest of us, we'll just enjoy the movie.