Thursday, March 16, 2006

Just Like Heaven

So, we movie buffs find ourselves now past the non-event that the Oscars were this year ("The TV audience for Sunday's Oscars was 38.8 million people, down 8 percent compared with last year, making it the third-lowest-rated Oscars in 20 years." Salon, "The Fix," Mar. 07, 2006). Though I did like all the best acting awards.

Saturday before the Oscars, we sat down for a family movie night and fired up Just Like Heaven. It was one of the more enjoyable movies I've seen in a long time, which reminded me of what it was like to simply enjoy the hell out of a movie.

It brought into relief just how few really fun films I could remember from the past year, which made me wonder if my memory was accurate. Always a good question to pose to oneself at my age - not that my memory is fading, but I think after a certain age your memory is not so much a recording of every event as it is when you're young, but it's a more efficient recording of just the things you haven't seen before, sort of a compression and optimization scheme. And that brought to mind a recent thang Michael Blowhard said about movie watching in middle age and beyond:

I think it's natural for movie-watching rates to decline with passing years. Energy flags, for one thing. Plus, many people find that they lose some of their appetite for fiction experiences as time passes. My theory about this: To some extent, fiction is play -- it's both fun and rehearsal for life. The love of fiction is also, to some extent, a function of self-exploration. With age and experience, "fun" per se becomes less important, the rehearsal period comes to an end, and the self recedes in importance. Real life becomes more pressing, as well as more fascinating. Result: a lot of older people reading history and watching nature documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

I agree with this, but I still wondered whether if I was experiencing what's described, or if 2005 was just a bad year for movies, as I'd remembered. Last time I looked over the year, I had a different agenda and used a list that wasn't easy to peruse. This time, I found a much better list, and I'm throwing the net wider, looking for just good ole entertaining movies, and not limiting it to what the Oscars typically reward.

Here are the movies I pulled from the list that were good, meaning I finished them with that magical "I enjoyed that" uplift, in alphabetical order:

40 year old virgin
Batman Begins
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Chronicles of Narnia
Corpse Bride, The
Fantastic Four
(Yes, really. It was very much in the spirit of the original comics, one of my childhood faves.)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
March of the Penguins
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Upside of Anger, The
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Wedding Crashers, The

Of those, the ones I really really enjoyed were:

40 year old virgin
Batman Begins
Upside of Anger, The

And let's add Just Like Heaven to that short list.

So, it was a sucky year for movies.

Which breaks my theory about the Star Wars proximity effect. Until 2005, every year a Star Wars was released was a banner year in movies all around. Just look at the other movies that had legs in each of the years:

Oh well, it was a nice theory until it wasn't.

Anyway, Just Like Heaven, which takes its title from one of the best songs of all time, freakin' period, did well internationally, and will probably do well on DVD through word of mouth, did not do all that well in domestic box office. This is a movie that should've killed (mwha ha), so I Googled and Yahooed and found some good stuff.

*** Spoilers kinda sorta ***

The best theory I scared up had to do with its release date (Sept. 2005), which coincided with the Schiavo fiasco. We come to find out that Reese's character, who has been haunting Ruffalo's character who has sub-let her old apartment, is actually in a coma and not dead, as a haunting, wandering spirit would imply. This discovery is made days before the plug is to be yoinked, of course, so perhaps the collective fatigue over the Schiavo case kept away anyone who knew of the plot point. I makes sense to me.

*** END Spoilers kinda sorta ***

However, that may not be the case. It may have just been marketing gaffes. (Though, I disagree with this article's premise that romantic comedies don't do well. It makes the mistake of only quoting recent romance movie flops, and never discusses why they flopped.)

The trailer certainly represented the movie accurately. It sets it up as a date movie and not an all-out chick-flick.

The upshot is most of us missed a great movie. Rent Just Like Heaven next time you want to have a great time at the movies.

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