In Praise of B Movies

I have of late been on a B-movie bender. And oh, how it has helped keep up my mirth in the short, dark days of winter. (Or, winter as it is now, which is hardly anything, even here in MN, which is still short and dark, if not that cold or snowy.)

In years past, I’ve gone on Oscar-nominee benders, seeing movies like Capote, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men. This year, for now, I have no taste for the deep and meaningful award-winning movie. Flight, about a plane crash? The Master, about a delusional cult-starter? Lincoln, a Spielberg Important Film? The Impossible, about a tsunami? No, thank you.

(I do still plan to see Zero Dark Thirty because: Jessica Chastain, Kathryn Bigelow, and Chris Pratt.)

Of this year’s Oscar contenders, I have seen The Silver Linings Playbook, which I enjoyed (as I had the book it was based on) Argo and Les Mis, all of which were crowd-pleasing but Silver Linings is the only one I’d recommend highly. The other two were overtly emotionally manipulative; I could feel the buttons being pushed and the puppet-strings being pulled.

When I look back over the movies and DVDs I watched in 2012, I can see the same pattern of enjoying B movies, but being disappointed in so-called Important ones. Will it last? I don’t know. Is it that the Important Movies don’t look good enough to justify the pain they portray? Or am I just looking for a balance between Complex and Involving/Engaging (e.g., Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker), and if I have to choose between Important and Entertaining, I’ll take the latter.

In December/January, Friday Night Lights sent me on something of a Taylor Kitsch (Riggins!) bender, which I then followed with a Channing Tatum bender, and accidentally (but happily) wound up with a Fass-bender. (Sorry).

Have I become a stereotypical cougar in my 40’s, ogling pretty boys young enough to be my son? Um, perhaps. (Wait, no! I looked up Kitsch, Tatum and Fassbender, and while they’re younger than me, they’re not young enough to be my sons! Woot!)

Friday Night Lights Seasons 3 to 5. My sister and I watched this in tandem so we could phone and email. I loved, loved, loved this series, and its portrayal of a loving, complicated, supportive marriage. I don’t like Texas or football particularly, but I adored this series. Also, Wire alums: Wallace! D’Angelo! So glad to see you guys again!

Savages. I loved the gonzo, over-the-top violent book, and figured the adaptation directed by Oliver Stone would either be a perfect match, or a clustercuss. I choose perfect match, though critics didn’t like it. I thought it was visually arresting, and kind of a blast. Caveat: choose the rated, not the unrated version. It’s Oliver Stone, and the unrated version had me looking at the ceiling a lot till my husband told me it was OK to look back at the screen. Benicio went over the top with scene chewing, but I thought Salma, Travolta, and Taylor Kitsch did some great work.

John Carter
. Not as bad as I’d feared, with really impressive effects. Fun to watch. Reminded me strongly of the original Star Wars, and I think my two boys, 7 and 9 years old, would really enjoy it as a sci-fi epic. It might seem derivative but only because it was what everything since has been based on.

Battleship. Swear to you, I was doubtful, but this is a fun movie that will occasionally surprise you (its inclusion of real military vets). If you were a fan of FNL, then it’s directed by Peter Berg and has both Riggins and Landry, and a terrific funny long opening scene. Rihanna shouldn’t quit her day job.

Haywire. I will watch anything that Steven Soderbergh directs. It may not be great, but it WILL be interesting. This one about a female assassin was involving to watch, then the extras elevated it. The star is a real-life mixed-martial-arts champion, and is impressive to watch fight, though her acting skills weren’t enough to really carry the movie. Channing Tatum (whose Magic Mike can be seen as a companion to this, for messing up the gaze and who we cheer for and what we want for them) was solid, plus, Michael Fassbender! Love him. For the fight scenes alone, this worked for me.

Step Up. OK, bear with me here. I saw this mentioned in Entertainment Weekly as part of a reminder that Wire alums were in it. This one had Deirdre Lovejoy as a mom. It’s Romeo-and-Juliet-ish, though it took that analogy a little too far in its final 30 minutes. My husband G. Grod and I watched the first hour and he agreed that it was decent, and it’s fun to watch Channing Tatum dance, and in some scenes, pretend like he can’t dance. But when we watched the last 30 minutes the next night, we were groaning. So, the first hour and the dancing, thumbs up. Plot developments toward the end? I can only shake my head.

X-Men First Class. My husband swore it wasn’t that bad and since I’d made him watch Step Up, this only seemed fair. And again, this was a perfectly good, entertaining B movie! Kevin Bacon seems to sink his teeth into evil, McAvoy can’t quite cover up his Scottish accent the whole time, January Jones can’t act but looks pretty, while Jennifer Lawrence does both, and, again, FASSBENDER! A few nice, geeky cameos, too.

I’m not sure if our B-bender is going to continue, but it’s been nice to lower my standards, and embiggen my enjoyment.

2 Responses to “In Praise of B Movies”

  1. Jennifer Reese Says:

    I think we have the same taste in boys.
    I saw Side Effects over the weekend, definitely a B movie and a really good one. Based on the evidence of this list, I bet you’ll like it.

  2. Patricia Says:

    If you decide to raise your standards I do recommend Lincoln. I liked much more than just as a “Spielberg Important film.”