The Ides of March (2011)

“Nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing.”

Directed by George Clooney

Part-time actor, full-time handsome, George Clooney brings to us a new aspect for which to praise him in the form of film adaptation The Ides of March: a foray into the world of politics. But before we start in on the praise we have to all first set aside our lust for him so that we can comfortably discuss the merits of his work with dry panties. We good to go? Cool, cause I’m issuing a nationwide spoiler alert and if you don’t like it, don’t vote for me.

Governor of Pennsylvania Mike Morris (Clooney) is a presidential democratic candidate. I buy that; Clooney has the jawline to be President, I’m into it, what’s next? Well, Stephen Meyers ( Ryan Gosling) is the Junior Campaign Manager for Morris, to Paul Zara’s (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Senior Campaign Manager. You get slapped in the face with the dynamic between these men right out of the gate.

The film features all of your political hallmarks. A sassy brunette journalist, Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), who won’t stop until the story is in her pocket. She’s got the in with the politicians, and her character represents how the media interacts with politics, or rather how the media is an integral part of politics. The facilitation and control of the flow of information to the public determines not only the way people think, but the way people vote, the way politicians act, and the way shit gets done. Check.

You’ve got your run of the mill political banter. The character sum up the state of the modern political landscape in charming one-liners. They’ve got the classic juxtaposition of an exceptionally noble candidate against a world of compromised, unprincipled, corrupted little politicians. Alongside that exceptionally principled candidate is a loyal hive of worker bees. Zara being the queen bee. Meyer being the most photogenic and charismatic bee. Check.

George Clooney as PA Governor Mike Morris

Then the most central themes: corruption. We all walk into a movie like this knowing that it is going to end up being about corruption. In that way this is a predictable story. But predictability doesn’t determine the quality of a film, at least not all on it’s own. So we saw it coming, but it still hits hard. Along with Meyer we all start out admitting a series of truths to ourselves while watching this film:

  1. Politics are corrupt
  2. Politicians lie
  3. The standard for public servants has dropped
  4. The electorate is wildly uninformed
  5. The media, large corporations, and special interests have too much influence

But like Meyer, we buy into the idea that even in a sea of seemingly incurable diseases in our political system there only need be one person with the integrity to stand up against it all and demand better. To be better. The Ides of March isn’t a story of the political world, of election year, of a Presidential candidate’s shot at being elected. The film is ultimately about Meyer traveling from the periphery of politics, right into the storm’s eye. But this isn’t the story of a kid who just learned Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s too simple to describe Meyer as naive. Goslings expert portrayal of Stephen Meyer illustrates a down spiral sparked by the last hallmark: sex.

Stephen Meyers: You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns. They get you for that.

Evan Rachel Wood as Molly Stearns

The bombshell that was Molly Stearns’ (Evan Rachel Wood) brief affair and subsequent pregnancy was the game changer. This is when Meyer breaks, and launches a chain of events that tells the story louder and clearer than anything else in the entire movie. The shining beacon of light that was Mike Morris was A) a cheater B) a liar and C) a soon to be father to the child of an intern working on his own campaign. Not only does this failing in Morris’ character change everything for Meyer, it highlights an proven truth in politics: when it comes to holding office, the personal stuff matters. Sex matters. (Ahem, Clinton anyone?)

The cast was a collection of competent actors in undemanding roles. So in terms of acting, veterans like Hoffman, Clooney, Tomei and Giamatti gave solid, convincing performances. Up and comer, and solid 9, Ryan Gosling stunned in the main role, further demonstrating his versatility and ability to be well-received by varying audiences. Evan Rachel Wood played a convincing intern. Which isn’t very high praise, but maybe I’m just bitter about the fact that she appeared in at least 10 scenes in the movie and no one thought ‘hey, maybe we should dye this girl’s roots’. Tacky bastards.

The value of the film is in it’s clean and digestible approach to discussing politics. However, this film doesn’t do much to add to the conversation about the current state of politics. It doesn’t provide any new revelations. It simply serves to tell a story of characters through commonly understood political themes. Where the film goes wrong is that is pretends to be a a revelation. Instead of putting more weight on the characters (charming as they are) Clooney allowed the film to be driven primarily by the plot, which itself was very predictable.

For what it was, it was a solid movie and it was well orchestrated. I enjoyed it very much, myself. But then, I don’t know how much of that is due to ovary overload with Clooney and Gosling. Anyway, if you’re into politics, watch it. If you’re not into politics, watch it, learn something, then make damn sure to do your homework afterward.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by Wes Anderson

“I hope the roof flies off and sucks me into space.”

Said Walt Bishop, played by a classic from the Wes Anderson arsenal, Bill Murray. Wes Anderson’s latest work of divine theatre, Moonrise Kingdom does something that his previous films have come quite close to, but have never fully succeeded at. That thing can only be fully described through the rat maze of ramblings that are about ensue. Proceed at your own peril. [SPOILER ALERT]

MK had a cast that anyone with eyes and a brain would die for. Bill Murray is a fucking champ. Tilda Swinton is her own magnificent species of bird. Jason Schwartzman, like Murray, is an Anderson trademark. Sprinkle our visitors from the A-List, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Harvey Keitel on top of that and we have some sort of strange moth ball filled sundae. With nutmeg.

Walt Bishop: What am I looking at here?

Laura Bishop: He does watercolors. Mostly landscapes. Some nudes.

In addition to from the wondrous cast, the film features Anderson’s famous panoramic landscapes and wide shots brought to life with blindingly colorful impact, the likes of which Dr. Suess himself would have tipped his hat to. The fantastic thing about this is that somehow there is another story happening that can only be communicated through color, and contrast, and framing. As if the film could be watched without sound and become another thing entirely.

Wes Anderson has a way of confronting the viewer with demanding, yet accessible framing/imagery. Every scene looks like a picture. Character stare into the lens. They look into you, and you look back. It’s strange actually. Almost interactive. And utterly engaging. When Suzy (Kara Hayward) looks through her binoculars, she is looking at you. Or you are looking with her.

Sam: I love you but you have no idea what you are talking about.

Kara Hayman and Jared Gilman

The love story of Suzy and Sam is one that will become classic. It’s timeless, in that it documents the experience of falling in love. It is the story of two people in love, two people that happen to be children, that misunderstand themselves, are misunderstood by their peers and guardians, and that misunderstand each other. All that, and you somehow watch and get the feeling that you’ve misunderstood your own life. Misunderstood what it means to be happy, and close to another person.

The role the adults in the film play is very interesting. Wes Anderson has successfully found a way to validate the children, through telling their story from their point of view, and by mobilizing the story around them. But he has done that without reducing the adults to bickering nitwits. The dynamics in the film happening higher than 4ft. off of the ground are just as interesting as the love story between Sam and Suzy. The infidelity between Laura and Captain Sharp. The abandonment felt by Walt. The confused commitment and dedication of Scout Master Ward. All very captivating.

Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis was stunning to watch as Captain Sharp. I always remember him from Pulp Fiction. Muscular and handsome. Strong and commanding. Anderson’s Captain Sharp is a smaller man. One who has accepted love from a married woman into his life; someone who would rather have half of someone than be alone. His journey from that man to the man that implants himself into Sam’s fate is one that could have survived center stage in any theatre.

This entire film, from the very beginning with the gnome-ish Bob Balaban narrating, gave me the feeling that there was a world around me that I hadn’t seen or touched. One whose name never lived up to its glory. A kingdom. In a world of brilliant color and arresting candor you feel as though you have been sung a song. You’ve been taught how to see again. Moonrise Kingdom is a film, but it is also a gift. To those who see, to those who love, and to those who wish to continue on in that way but haven’t the slightest idea how to.

Rating: 10/10