A film’s (and its filmmakers’) sense of commitment to its premise and setting is often a tricky thing to fully deal with. On the one hand, the establishment of a milieu and a truly lived-in world is fairly important for the majority of films (certainly all commercial films) in order to draw the viewer into a more organic and visceral experience of the narratives developed. On the other hand, said milieu could very well feel toxic or put-on to a particular, simply by virtue of the events and figures it depicts.
Few films in the past few years have displayed this tenuous tendency as strongly as Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel-length paean to video games, ’80s pop culture, and fandoms in general. Set in the year 2045, it depicts two worlds: the “real world” of a decaying Earth, principally the impoverished slums of Columbus, Ohio, and the limitless, virtual reality of the OASIS, filled with innumerable worlds and areas to explore. Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) functions as the viewer’s medium between these realms. As might be implied by his avatar’s name, he is on a quest: following the clues of the virtual world’s deceased creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he aims to uncover an easter egg that grants the finder full control of the OASIS. Through this process, he discovers foes – the megacorporation IOI– and friends – most notably Samantha Cook/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), member of an underground group opposed to IOI – alike.
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Steven Spielberg’s latest couldn’t be more obviously a grasp at contemporary relevance if it was titled The Post #TheResistance. Like his last film, Bridge of Spies and 2012’s Lincoln, it’s a procedural about the levers of American power, in this case the argument within the Washington Post about whether or not to publish excerpts of the Pentagon Papers, the lengthy report on the history of American involvement in Vietnam which was leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the New York Times in 1971. The hero is Katharine Graham, beloved socialite, who finds herself unsteadily in the position of Post publisher after her husband’s death (he had inherited the position from Graham’s father). Pushing her to publish is Ben Bradlee, editor-in-chief and old school newspaperman, while an army of relatives, board members and advisors urge her to be more concerned with the bottom line (the controversy around the Pentagon Papers could threaten the paper’s IPO). With Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the leads, and Spielberg’s unparalleled felicity with composition and movement, The Post has everything Liberal, Elite America could want in a movie about itself.
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After ten days in Vancouver and another couple of weeks trying to recover from ten days in Vancouver, I’d fallen quite a bit behind on the early stages of autumn multiplex season, the time of year when superheroes and cartoons recede from Seattle Screens to be replaced by middling movies for grownups, long shot award hopefuls, and films that star actors people like me (old people) grew up with. So over three trips to the multiplex this past week, I caught up with five of the first wave of what will amount to the (self-proclaimed) best Hollywood has to offer in 2015. More of the same will follow between now and then end of January, when the stragglers of Oscar season will finally make their way onto Seattle Screens, but if the early returns are any indication, this is shaping up to be a solid year for the American cinema. And when you consider that it’s also a banner year for international film, the year in film 2015 is shaping up quite nicely indeed.
Continue reading “This Week at the Multiplex”