' Cinema Romantico: Countdown to the Oscars: 5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2015

Monday, February 22, 2016

Countdown to the Oscars: 5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2015

A few years ago my favorite film critic, David Thomson, put out a book titled “Moments That Made the Movies”, a compilation that focused, as you might surmise, on specific moments from specific films. In keeping with its spirit, the venerable web site Indiewire asked the incredibly esteemed Mr. Thomson to digress on the five moments that made the movies in 2013. He did not, however, appear to take up the same task for 2014 or 2015, which is where Cinema Romantico comes in.

To be sure, taking this torch from Mr. Thomson is an act of pure idiocy. I am essentially Nicholas Sparks to his Leo Tolstoy, and yet, like the fool I am, I must forge ahead, even as I suspect he’d look at my moments, his eyebrows raised quizzically, and query: “Those?”

5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2015


The American Dream probably was never much more than a huckster’s slogan to begin with considering that F. Scott Fitzgerald was taking it apart way back in 1925. Yet its myth survives because for so much cynicism inundating culture we nonetheless remain inherently romantic, the dueling notions at play in Brooke Cardenas (Greta Gerwig), protagonist of Noah Baumbach's Mistress America. She is introduced descending the staircase at the TKTS stand in Times Square, arms spread wide to greet her soon-to-be sorta protégé , exclaiming in the manner of a New World tour guide “Welcome to the great white way!” Alas, she’s misjudged the number of stairs and with several still to go is forced to wobbly maintain her starlet facade. And she does. She never relents; she never gives up on the persona; she will grin and bear it in the face of all obstacles. And in that moment, in Gerwig’s immaculate visage, we see The American Dream itself laid bare. She’s wholly sincere; she’s also full of shit.


When Carol Aird finds herself with a hilariously incredulous facial expression in lieu of taking forced council with the asinine, eager beaver salesman Tommy Tucker, whose motives, it turn out, are tied directly back to an insecure male, I thought of Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings. And I thought about how incremental change in America really is, and how even if we may well be on the verge of having a female President, we have not advanced all that far from 1952. In fact, the only detail missing from this moment in “Carol” is the titular character being told “to smile”. But then, that’s because she already is, with a spectacularly haughty derision I swear Hillary would have been copying if the movie had already been out.


When I left Colin Trevorrow's box office thresher Jurassic World in June I wondered if anyone else had noticed that moment when “Jurassic World's” titular theme park had fallen under attack and some nameless extra had made sure to save his two precious margaritas while fleeing the digitized terror. Sure enough, the next day while listening to Pultizer Prize winning film critic Wesley Morris discuss “Jurassic World” on a podcast he mentioned the Margarita Guy. Then I Googled “Margarita Guy” and learned not only that he was Jimmy Buffet, but that Margarita Guy was a social media sensation, shared by thousands in the form of GIFs and hashtags. And I realized that Margarita Guy beheld the future - one in which our most memorable movie moments are no longer organically built to or even emotionally palpable, but just deliberate little inserts designed less for the silver screen than social media afterwards. #WeAllLose


Throughout Frederick Wiseman’s astonishingly humane three hour documentary In Jackson Heights, about a New York neighborhood threatened by gentrification, two men go from small business to small business, explaining the big business threat and what their options are, which aren’t many or optimal. In one of these scenes, as a business owner details his helplessness, you become aware of a fashion magazine sitting on the desk in the foreground of the frame. Penelope Cruz is on the cover. It’s never mentioned; it’s just there. I have no idea if Wiseman put it there on purpose or just happened to wind up there as some sort of cosmic coincidence. I’d like to believe the latter because I’m a sentimental fool. But then, I’m also not, because the shot is a necessary reminder that for as much as we all love the movies and the stars who inhabit their fantastical worlds, often times those stars and their worlds are the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.


But movies are still movies and their power still holds sway, pulling us out of our respective mundane, miserable existences to allow communion with the Motion Picture Gods. Never was this more evident than in the most anticipated movie ever, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Lord, this thing could’ve gone so wrong in so many ways. But it didn’t. And as I realized it wouldn’t, a kind of exultation peacefully erupted within me, and I realized where I was and what I was watching and that I had waited so long to be back here, right where I was, and that movie magic, contrary to what the grinches eating gruel (and Tweeting) might claim, was real. And I didn’t want to leave, not ever, because soon there would be another Star Wars and another one after that and spin-offs, and the whole thing could buckle. And when Rey, that feminist Jakku scavenger rock 'n roller, took flight in the Falcon (oh, old Friend, how I’d missed you) and suddenly put the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy into free-fall so her new friend Finn could squeeze off a shot from his gun turret at the dastardly TIE fighters.....that free-fall spoke to my heart, my heart which was about to burst. I just wanted to hang with Rey and Finn and the Falcon in that instant forever and ever. FADE OUT

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