Maybe I need to hire someone to write blog posts for me so there aren't these gaps between posts. Anyone want the job? Keep in mind that I can't afford to offer you actual compensation so you'd be, in effect, an unpaid intern. The good news is that some of these are Oscar nominees so if I work really hard this will be posted before the awards are given out.
Three late-year releases took on serious events in different ways. The Big Short tried to inject humor into the story of the 2007-2008 financial meltdown caused by Wall Street shenanigans and the federal government's failure to regulate the financial industry, with wry narration and interludes where celebrities explain financial concepts. The most-discussed of the latter is actress Margot Robbie in a bubble bath (playfully sexy if you're into women in bubble baths). Amusing, but ultimately what happened is still too confusing, and it fails to enlighten or enrage viewers into pressuring politicians to prevent another fiscal disaster. My grade: B-minus.
Concussion is much more earnest. The National Football League would have you believe this movie is a menace to the sport's existence. The real menace: the fact that as more and more players are discovered after their deaths to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), parents may not allow their kids to play the sport, meaning the pool of talented athletes dries up. The NFL need not worry. The movie didn't have much impact. It's a good movie, but gets a demerit for depicting an incident involving ex-Eagle Andre Waters -- who killed himself and whose autopsy found he had CTE -- that didn't occur in reality. Despite Roger Goodell's awful record as commissioner, players beating women and children, killing dogs (and people, for that matter), fighting in bars, etc., and all the concussion worries, TV ratings and revenues continue to rise. The money will ensure the kids keep playing football. Unlike some of the financial institutions bailed out in the aftermath of the events in "The Big Short," the NFL may actually BE "too big to fail." My grade: B.
By far the best of these three is Spotlight, about the Boston Globe's 2001-2002 investigation into the cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese of sexual abuse by its priests. The film focuses not on the crimes themselves, but all the work the editors and reporters do to get the story published, even as their work on the project was temporarily derailed by the September 11th attacks. The film is superbly acted all around, and the story is so compelling. Yet it also makes me a little sad. Good investigative journalism requires dedication, passion, a desire to fight to find the truth -- and resources. Sadly, the state of the newspaper industry is such that we're going to see fewer and fewer reports such as this, unless the NFL wants to finance it. My grade: A-plus.
As for the rest...
Sisters was a little disappointing at first, even though Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a winning duo, playing sisters throwing one last party before the house they grew up in is sold. It took quite a while into the film before I started seeing the humor in it. My grade: C-plus.
Joy is carried by the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence in the title role, telling the story (with some embellishments, naturally) of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, among other items, becoming a QVC mainstay and a wealthy woman in the process. The film is really uneven, though. My grade: B-minus.
The first film I saw that was released in 2016 is Hail, Caesar!, a comedy with an mostly all-star cast from the Coen brothers set in the 1950s, when the Hollywood studio system still ruled, where "fixers" (in this film, Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin) keep scandals such as pregnant, unwed starlets and homosexual actors under wraps. (Oh, the 50s! The era the GOP nuts want to take us back to!) It drags a bit at times but is mostly entertaining, especially the film-within-the-film segments. Do not miss the song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum and a bunch of guys in sailor suits for a film called "No Dames!" My grade: B-plus.
Next time I do a film post: Deadpool!