So this past weekend, my partner and I had to trek on down to Texarkana for a wedding. It’s interesting…every time we leave town, we always wonder why? I mean, it doesn’t matter if we are going to a large city (which we do love) or a small town, we are always ready to return to our beloved Fayetteville.
So anyway, the wedding was at 4 pm and was pretty much over by 6 pm on Saturday. After going out to eat and checking on the dog, we decided to see a movie. I know that I was in the mood for a little “Get your ass down to the welfare ‘Precious,'” while he wanted something a bit spookier. Now, nothing sends shivers down my spine more than the image of Mo’Nique chasing that poor kid around a kitchen with a frying pan, but I digress…
Truth is, not much was playing in Texarkana, and so we bit the bullet (okay, I was actually kind of excited) and went and saw “Michael Jackson’s This is it” Apparently we weren’t the only ones, as it did fairly well over the weekend and made a ton internationally. In fact, it’s the highest grossing concert film ever…though, really…this is important?
Anyway, it was actually fairly good. However, it brought forth a pretty good point…why do we have to wait so damn long to get quality movies in Arkansas? With the exception of Rave in Little Rock, we normally have to wait till February to get the same movies that the rest of the country gets to enjoy in November and December.
Case in point, the latest Coen Brothers movie “A Serious Man” and the highly publicized documentary “The September Issue.” Neither of these movies has made it to Northwest Arkansas yet, despite being released in larger markets. Now, I know that Northwest Arkansas isn’t considered a major market, but one shouldn’t have to drive to Dallas to see a high quality movie. The truth is, the highest quality movies simply don’t make the sort of money that blockbusters make. However, we aren’t in the thick of summer here…so why can’t we have a more even mix?
I thought I would take my inaugural column here with the Flyer to highlight some films (that we may have to wait until February to see) that should be highly praised and may even get the chance to dance around with that little golden guy. Speaking of the golden man, this year marks a return to the stupid idea of having ten nominees for Best Picture. After serious pressure last year following the failure to secure a nomination from “The Dark Knight” and “Wall-E”, the Academy made the choice to dilute their prestige and increase the Best Picture options to ten. What that means for the average Oscar watcher is that you will now have even more movies to sit through in order to catch up by February. What that means for Fayettevillians is that we will have about two weeks to see a ton of movies. Here are five or six to keep an eye out for:
“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
First off, when did it become okay to only have one name? Are we talking Cher or Madonna territory here? Either way, I would simply like to be referred to as “Wanye” now…as in my favorite microphone grabbing angry rapper. Anyway, my friend Nathan is a huge fan of spitting out the line “Get your ass down to the welfare Precious” line that is auto repeat during the trailer for the film. However, this movie has the opportunity to become a big hit. The movie tells the story of an overweight, illiterate, abused teen trying to make it in the eighties while surviving her horrific mother, played by the comedian Mo’Nique (another one named wonder). The film has been winning festivals left and right and should have a fairly good chance with Oscar. Keep in mind that the Academy is overwhelmingly white and may have difficulty relating to the material. Plus, Mo’Nique isn’t nearly as likeable as their last awarded African-American actress, Jennifer Hudson.
“A Single Man”
Directed by first-time director Tom Ford, “A Single Man” tells the story of an English professor who tries to get back to life after the tragic death of his partner. The film stars Julianne Moore and Colin Firth, two actors that have been winning raves since the film’s debut at the Toronto Film Festival. In fact, the film was snatched up by the Weinstein Company. You know, the same people who turned “The Reader” into a best picture candidate and best actress winner last year. Tom Ford is the same Tom Ford that you might remember from his previous role as creative director for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. This might come to bite him as some have complained that the film looks like a fashion perfume ad. However…I remind you of two words “THE READER.”
Okay, a caveat, no self-respecting gay man isn’t ready to admit that they are ready to wet themselves over this film. The trailer alone makes me want to do that thing where I look across the couch and say, “Doesn’t that look FABULOUS,” without realizing that I am sitting alone. “Nine” comes to us from “Chicago” director Rob Marshall. It tells the story of Fellini trying to manage the nine different women in his life. Okay…that’s enough about plot. The movie stars Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Marion Cotteliard, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, and Fergie (YES…that Fergie). Let’s see…by my math, that represents eight Oscars and eighteen nominations in the primary cast alone. Oh and did I mention…they are singing!!!
I’ll be the first to admit that I jumped on the “Mystic River” train and drank the “Million Dollar Baby” Kool-aid like a sweaty teenager on a summer day. However, I am getting a bit sick of the new mantra…”If Clint Eastwood makes a movie, it must be fantastic.” Lets be fair, “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” weren’t all that. However, the Academy drank it up. Now in all fairness, they saw through “Gran Torino” and thank goodness for that. What does this all have to do with us? Once again Clint has a last minute entry generating a lot of buzz. “Invictus” tells the story of a South African rugby team trying to overcome its record with the support of Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman). The premise makes me want to roll my eyes. Matt Damon’s African accent makes me want to laugh. However, Clint has proven us wrong over and over again. This could go two ways…a big public disaster or (I fear) “Chariots of Fire” meets “Gandhi” meets “Slumdog Millionaire.” For those of you who can’t remember, “Slumdog Millionaire” was that contrived little thing that beat deserving films like “Milk” and the painfully not-nominated “Doubt.”
“Up in the Air”
Okay, did I miss something? When did George Clooney go from hottie doctor/Batman to Oscar winning actor? Yes, I know technically it occurred with “Syriana” but it wasn’t a one-trick pony. Clooney has also received nominations for “Good Night and Good Luck (director)” and “Michael Clayton.” The former, I actually think he was damn good in. It’s just that I find it very strange that most everything that his name attached to it is now considered a serious contender. Could he be the new Clint? Anyway, “Up in the Air” tells the story of a man who travels around the country pink-slipping people and then suddenly has his life turned upside down when his own company grounds him. The film co-stars “The Departed”‘s Vera Farmiga and is directed by Jason Reitman, who spun gold with his indie-film “Juno.”
So there’s a small sampling of just a few of the films that we have to look forward to in Fayetteville when the Malco finally stops showing “Paranormal Activity” and “Couple’s Retreat.” Hopefully I will be able to bring you some more of the fare that we have to look forward to in the next few months, scattered in with some commentary on all things cultural including fashion, books, theatre, music, and TV? If you have any suggestions, hit me up…and get your popcorn money ready.
[Original Oscar photo by grebo guru via Flickr and Creative Commons 2.0.]
Wayne Bell is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Masters Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.