Something a little off the traditional awards path hit a few days ago which I've failed to discuss: The Heartland Moving Picture Award. The list comes from a non-profit group that aims to promote what some (i.e. jaded critics like, um, maybe myself) might dismiss as "pandering inspiration for the whole family!". Or at least that's how I was prepared to dismiss it when I saw Saving Mr Banks and 42 were up to. I like Mr Banks but that spoonful of sugar is more a bowlful and I'll admit I didn't make it all the way through the baseball drama from the sweaty handholding to make sure I was INSPIRED. But then I noticed that my beloved Short Term 12 and Alexander Payne's Nebraska on there, and both are a little thornier. So I decided to stop being such a tough customer and appreciate/share this list after the jump.
01 Saving Mr Banks
03 Short Term 12
04 The Book Thief
06 The Kings of Summer
08 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
09 Gimme Shelter
10 Monsters University
I still shudder when I hear the term "Heartland" because it reminds me of the nonsense political divisiveness about the "real America" and red vs blue and all that mishegoss. But I think the list is worth discussing so here it is. Yep, I'm getting a little softer with age -- I don't foresee living the "get off my lawn!" old man archetype at any time in the distant future. See, lately I've been weary of the the predictable critical "masterpiece!" response to bleak pictures that celebrate/condemn (it can be tough to tell the difference) the darkest aspects of human nature paired with the "meh" on most films/tv shows that don't wallow in cruelty or aren't anti-hero powered. (Recently I was hugely angered when the Globes honored Michael Sheen but not Lizzy Caplan for Showtime's Masters of Sex but then I remembered that he was the anti-hero of the show and who needs complex three dimensional women when there's another one-note prick around to celebrate ?! ... but that's a topic for another time)
Another example of arguable knee jerk critical response: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Ben Stiller's expensive adventure comedy, opening for Christmas, features some crass product placement, it's true. The commercial sheen (not just the product) makes it an easy target but the critical drubbing is far worse than it deserves. The central message, to really experience your life rather than dream about living it, is a beautiful and yes "inspiring" one. Sure it's yet another variation of "carpe diem" but there are worse messages to be regularly exposed to!
And I felt this way before I went on a trip to Iceland sponsored by Walter Mitty. But, full disclosure, I did that. I'll tell you about my adventures this week. Let's make the holiday week a Winter Wonderland theme so we can rope in Frozen and other chilly movies, too.