I don't intend to give you a list of the 10 best films of the year (there are plenty of those lists floating around and the Oscar nominations will be released January 24 and yes, I will be posting them); I do intend to provide you with an anthropological analysis of what the films that were made this year mean and say about life in 2011.There have been a lot of patterns and overlapping in films and it all means something.
Contagion best summarizes what all the others films of the year were saying: we are terrified. "Nothing spreads like fear," and the fear has been spreading (the Doomsday Clock has moved one minute closer to midnight, for example).
Contagion is being released on DVD this week, so if you haven't watched it yet, you need to (my review is Contagion: Bats and Pigs). Just as Contagion has about every character role filled by a major Hollywood star, so it covers all the subplots found in major films of 2011: disease, fear, chaos (including initial conditions and entropy), blurred lines of identity, re-establishing friendships and collapse.
|This is quite a frightening scene for a modernized society. Mitch (Matt Damon) protecting his daughter resembles Curtis in Take Shelter protecting his daughter and both instances translate to the same concern: protecting the future.|
But first, 2011.
|Bryce Dallas Howard as villain-ness extraordinaire, Miss Hilly Holbrook in The Help.|
|As in Contagion, Curtis tries to save his daughter in Take Shelter; and, like in The Artist (scheduled to be released near me this month) Hannah, who is deaf, cannot hear sound, just as The Artist is silent.|
The Skin I Live In shows us Norma who wasn't "normal," and it's not just her obvious mental illness under examination, rather, all the characters, watch in their own way; J. Edgar took it upon himself to rid society of all it's "ills" (and that is exactly how he described it); very artfully, Martha Marcy May Marlene suggests that Martha may be ill, or maybe she isn't? (Transgenesis-: The Skin I Live In, Villains & Heroes: J. Edgar and Water For the Sand: Martha Marcy May Marlene). The ultimate film bringing disaster to the forefront, I mean besides Contagion and Take Shelter, is the Lars von Trier psychological horror Melancholia about a new bride burdened by depression who knows a rogue planet is coming to collide with the earth and incinerate all living beings, and it does.
|I haven't gotten the chance to see this one yet, but I will the moment it comes out, there are just too many interesting symbols at work in this film to not be saying something highly controversial, and very interesting!|
|There's more significance to this is romance than (American) Steve and (British) Peggy realize. Significantly, Captain America seeks to not only revitalize the British-U.S. Alliance, but further strengthen it with|
Imitations: The Thing, Water For the Sand: Martha Marcy May Marlene and Transgenesis: The Skin I Live In). Even Hollywood is exploring who and what it is and the role it is willing to take in Hugo (where Hollywood came from in the silent film era), The Artist (which I should be able to finally see this month) and My Week With Marilyn. It's not silent films Hollywood is examining, it's how silent Hollywood is going to be with this upcoming election year, and if it wants to contribute to the upcoming debates and, by the films coming out next year, the answer is yes (please see below).
Whether it's the social boundaries of a Southern city in The Help, or a baseball team in Moneyball, a nuclear warhead being launched in Mission Impossible, or an actress who can't get herself together to make it into work on time because of depression (My Week With Marilyn), a tremendous number of films explored "collapse" in small and grand detail (another film I have been waiting for nearly a year to see, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I will finally get to watch this weekend, and centers upon a double-spy and the possible collapse of British Intelligence). Two great George Clooney films this year, The Descendants and The Ides of March, both revolve around collapse (the collapse of a family and the collapsing of a political identity) but, like Moneyball, Warrior and Contagion, also points the way to rebuilding, and that's the most important characteristic of the collapses we have seen in films this year: recreating.
Moneyball and the Great American Economy and The Debt and the Theory Of Chaos).
It would be absolutely correct to argue this, however, along with these themes have come an important characteristic: ground-breaking new techniques. One way to say something new, is to find an unexpected way of saying something old and familiar, and the films of 2011 have done that. Who would have thought that a silent film would not only make a huge splash critically (and be nominated for a ton of awards) but even be made in today's market? Yet The Artist is doing just that and it's because we need new ways to express ourselves, and that's always a good sign because we're doing just that.
The most obvious trend in the trailers being released is an examination of the fairy tale genre: Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, The Lorax and Jack the Giant Killer. Why are fairy tales, generally considered to be naught but children's stories, important? Fairy tales contain the seeds of social norms expected of children when they grow up and the consequences of breaking those norms (this understanding of fairy tales is very standard in academia and one of the reasons why theoretical groups wanting political power or to demonstrate society's inherent intolerance of them will turn to fairy tales in examinations of why they don't have power). If you haven't seen it, here's a trailer for one of them:
There are too many disparate elements I'm seeing in this, and I am going to wait to comment until I see the film, due to be released June 15; it will be interesting and, above all, I am expecting this (among most other films) to be about class conflict and, even class warfare.
Very similar to the the fairy tale genre is the comic book which compounds the number of "fairy tales" being released and the most important ones are The Avengers, The Amazing Spider Man and The Dark Knight Rises. This is the recently released Russian trailer for The Avengers; it contains some visual footage previously not seen and Robert Downey Jr. "speaking Russian":
What do these films have in common with other films being released?
The written word.
Fairy tales and comic books are based on original, authoritative written texts; undoubtedly, a film such as Snow White and the Huntsman will adapt its story line to the original fairy tale of Snow White, however, certain elements have to be retained in order for the audience to recognize the character, but what elements will be retained are decisions that will ultimately reflect culture and society--and the lessons the film will teach us--and the direction we should be going.
If you have not yet seen the trailers, please enjoy these, for Mirror, Mirror and then Snow White and the Huntsman:
There is going to be a tremendous amount of political presence both films serve up for the audience and, as we can see, it's the adorable 7 dwarfs being replaced by first a group of "rebels" (hardly the king's miners of great gemstones from beneath the earth as in the Walt Disney version) and in Snow White and the Huntsman it's an army and that army will want power.
|I am far more interested now than initially.|
|Kristen Stewart as Snow White; it's interesting that the white tree emblem upon the shield resembles the white tree of the Stewards from The Lord of the Rings.|
In the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman, it's the Huntsman who presents a far greater active role in the trailer and, given the attention the Occupy Wall Street has received, most likely it will be a class issue (a Huntsman as a worker vs a prince as a member of the nobility). This brings us to the question of how Snow White will be presented (in terms of class) as closer to the people or of the nobility and there will be consequences for both versions depending on their choice of depictions, but let us make no mistakes, these will be carefully chosen political roles because of affairs in Washington, not some far off and distant land.
But speaking of class" we need to take a look at Bruce Wayne, one of the richest men in the world and who it is that's coming to get him:
What undermines the information in this trailer has being purely about class struggle?
"You are as precious to me as to your own mom and dad, and I swore to them I would protect you," the BUTLER says, and this is symbolic of the sharing of the classes in the future of America (the young boy, symbolic of the future, singing the national anthem) because Alfred is the working class whereas the Waynes are the upper, 1% of America; it looks like a class film, but Christopher Nolan is far too clever to release too much too soon and , although 2012 is an election year and films will all seek to play a deciding factor in the election's outcome, the most subtle and important voice will probably come from The Dark Knight Rises.
Two films about Abraham Lincoln are set for 2012, one from Steven Spielberg and one called Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and it's the later I'm most interested in: the most popular character in film and television (and even books) are vampires and Abraham Lincoln, as the Emancipator of America and the last president who, because of his sacrifice and political positions can be called a "founding father" although he lived so long after the Revolution, is going to be taking on these demons occupying American art... who kills a vampire with an axe? That's the point, you don't kill vampires with an axe, but it's Abraham Lincoln the log-splitting, poor farmer from Indiana who is taking on vampires, and that changes everything; while Steven Spielberg's Lincoln will probably reflect his Democratic and pro-Obama administration political viewpoints, Abraham Lincoln the Vampire Slayer will probably examine how (if at all) the "vampires" are those "sucking the blood out of America" (which could be any number of groups, honestly) and it will be with his poor farmer background as a politician that symbolically, Honest Abe does it.
The Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's interpretation of the Constitution will all play, in greater of lesser degrees to the films presentation of him, but by far, the greatest American writer, Edgar Allan Poe, will be presented by his writings and the only question is, who is being butchered and who is doing the butchering?
The Raven, set for release March 9, juxtaposes America's greatest writer with (possibly) America's greatest president (Lincoln in the previously discussed films) and it's not by accident: examining what is "greatest" about America is a deliberate act of self-examination in preparation for, not only the election in November 2012, but those collapses discussed in 2011 films. We don't know where we are going until we know where we have been, and now that 2011 is done, we can stand firm and know that we are in for a ride, but we have choices and we have our past strength and great deeds to have faith and confidence that we, as a country, will make the best decisions and, in spite of what may happen, we will be stronger for it.
|Also based on the original texts, The Hunger Games should provide a much needed scathing critique of American society, and I expect great things from it.|
My next post is the very close examination of the chess game between Moriarty and Holmes.