Where Did the Year Go…

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— Ryan Beltram, EDN

Greetings EDN readers. I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and didn’t party too hard on New Years Eve. The end of years is always a little strange to me. In one instant, it’s an entirely new year and for a few seconds I feel a little different, like time has reset itself and I’m starting over again. But after a moment everything goes back to normal and I realize it’s just another day except with a new year attached to it.  But it does help to start with the Ducks winning the Rose Bowl.

Every year we like to come up with New Year’s Resolutions. Why do we do this? It’s because every year at this time we reflect on what we did the previous year and more importantly what we didn’t do that year. Why didn’t I exercise more or read more books? We’re looking for some sort of change so that the new year doesn’t resemble the last one too closely.

But it’s about experiencing new and different things so that when you look at the book of your life there aren’t too many dull chapters to skim through. So when you’re thinking about New Year’s Resolutions don’t think of them as changes or improvements but new experiences. Then you might not quit them after two weeks.

Year-End Movie Recommendations 

It was a very disappointing year for studio films this year. The summer was filled with disappointing sequels (The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2), boring action movies (Green Lantern, Cowboys & Aliens Sucker Punch) and movies I forgot about soon after watching them (Larry Crowne, 30 Minutes or Less, The Change-Up, In Time).

But it was a strong year for smaller films. The ones unburdened by big movie studios wanting large profits. In this day and age when we know about almost everything that’s coming out, it’s nice to discover something that takes you by surprise. Here are five movies worth seeing that you might have overlooked or weren’t aware of.

Drive

The coolest movie of the year was Drive which was released in September. Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks, this low key crime drama follows a man known only as Driver (Gosling) who by day is a stuntman for movies and by night, a hired getaway driver for criminals.

As the movie opens he informs his dangerous employers what he will and will not do. “You give me a time and a place and I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in those five minutes and I’m yours. I don’t carry a gun, I drive.”

Driver lives a quiet, somewhat lonely life until a new neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), moves in next door. It’s just her and her son as the father is still in prison. Driver and Irene become friends but when the father is released form prison, he becomes involved in a botched heist which Driver volunteered to be apart of. Now a hit has been put out on Driver and he must end  this feud and protect Irene and her son.

Gosling’s performance is mysterious and simple. There scenes where he barely speaks and perhaps in the hands of another actor might come off as boring, but Gosling is mesmerizing. You don’t quite know what he’ll do next. Another performance worth mentioning is Albert Brooks. The normally funny Brooks is psychotic as a violent hitman out to find Gosling and the girl.

The film is affectively unHollywood. It’s slow paced and has a European vibe to it. Some viewers may become impatient by it’s pace but based on the performances and the cool soundtrack, viewers should see this.

Beginners

Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) is a lonely artist living in Los Angeles. He’s recently lost his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) to cancer and gained a dog. In flashbacks, Hal admits to his son at 75 that he is gay. The remaining time he has left is spent being openly gay and dating a much younger man.

Oliver doesn’t have a problem with his father being gay, but to learn that his father has lied to him all these years greatly affects Oliver as he tries to form his own relationships. Following Hal’s death, Oliver becomes despondent and unaware of his surroundings. As his depression worsens, his coworkers decide to invite him to a costume party. While there he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress in town filming a movie.

The film intercuts between the present (Oliver and Anna’s relationship) and the past (Oliver and Hal’s relationship). The movie perfectly balances the two chapters in Oliver’s life as he deals with loss and love. McGregor and Laurent have great chemistry onscreen and Plummer gives an Oscar-worthy performance.

Submarine

Oliver Tate is an odd young man. He’s antisocial, very observant and wise beyond his years. He seems to have two objectives presently; lose his virginity before his next birthday and rekindle his parents marriage as an ex-lover of his mother moves in next door.
Years and years of seeing his parents unhappy has made him determined to be the best boyfriend in the world. But after he meets the unpredictable Jordana, his plan begins to change. Now he has to balance his parent’s relationship and his new girlfriend.

This is Richard Ayoade’s first feature-length film as a director and he is heavily influenced by older filmmakers like Francois Truffaut and new ones like Wes Anderson. The film is easily comparable to The 400 Blows and Rushmore in the way they interpret adolescence in an unconventional way. Submarine does lose some of its energy in the second half and becomes a little more melancholy, but it’s still different from anything released in the US this year.

Page One: Inside the New York Times

The world of print journalism has been in decline for years but could the biggest and most regarded newspaper in the country fall victim too? Page One: Inside the New York TImes follows a group of reporters for a year as they struggle with fellow journalists being let go due to budget cuts, new forms of media such as social networking becoming more and more popular and the usual daily issues from working at a newspaper.

What makes this film interesting like any documentary is the characters the camera follows. In particular, David Carr is probably the most fascinating. He’s a former drug addict who’s been working for the paper for years and a strong advocate for the Times‘ credibility and continued good work.

Different perspectives are covered from editors, bloggers and writers both seasoned and fresh. One reporter in particular struggles with the prospect of going to the Middle East to cover the war. A film about a group of men sitting at cubicles writing and talking on the phone might seem boring, but Page One is an interesting look inside the daily workings of a media empire.

Win Win

My favorite film of the year came out in May and was little seen. The film stars Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a small-town lawyer struggling to pay the bills. He’s also a volunteer wrestling coach at a local high school. Desperate and with a wife and kid to feed, Mike becomes the legal guardian of a client who is mentally unfit to control his own money. With this questionable arrangement, Mike is able to collect a check from the old man as his guardian and not have to worry so much about money.

But when the old man’s grandson shows up on his  doorstep, Mike’s seemingly quick money fix turns into  family drama. The boy has run away from his drug-and-  alcohol abusive mother and he wants to live with his  grandfather. Now Mike and his family must take in the  boy until his mother arrives.

Not knowing what to do with the kid, Mike takes him to a  wrestling practice where he discovers that the boy is  extremely talented. His struggling team has suddenly  become good and he realizes maybe having this kid  around isn’t so bad after all.

 Win Win could easily have fallen into a sentimental  underdog sports movie but it doesn’t. It’s a timely story  about a man struggling to provide for his family who sees  an opportunity to better his situation. When the situation  becomes complicated, he makes the best of it and learns  something along the way. Win WIn is a funny, character-  driven film with a lot of heart and likable characters.

2012 looks like it will be a great year for movies especially the blockbusters. But just in case they don’t live up to our expectations, we still have smaller surprises to fall back on.

Bad Year for Netflix

I think Netflix CEO Reed Hastings would like to forget 2011. He couldn’t have anticipated as much backlash as the company received when they decided to separate their DVD-by-mail and online streaming packages and raise prices for their subscription plans.

Then following this embarrassment, Netflix decided to create a new name for their DVDs called Qwikster thinking that would make customers think of their service plans as two different things since they’re named differently. This didn’t work either. Customers were still pissed off.

Now the company has to deal with an expiring license agreement with Starz and continue competing with fellow streaming services like Blockbuster and Vudu. Their stock dropped significantly, they lost a lot of customers and now they have to find a way to remain the leading streaming service. Good luck!

 

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