Short and Sweet

Strawberry Shortcakes

I like my movies how I like my cake

Given the spirt of the subject matter, this will be a shorter post than my previous. In taking the time to watch as many movies as I have been, working two jobs, maintaining a personal life, and keeping my free time as well as sanity, to be given the opportunity to watch a movie with a 90 minute runtime is a treat. It just so happens that a few weeks ago I felt I deserved a treat for all the “hard” work I’ve been doing and came across Ida, a Polish film clocking in at 92 minutes. I’ll get to my review of it in a bit, but first let me reflect on the experience.

I truly appreciate the grandiosity of film as a medium of art as well as entertainment. Cinema has proved itself many a time in its potential to outdo and transcend itself that I can name numerous titles to act as contradictions to the point I am trying to make. For instance, I have no problem sitting down to watch epics like Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, or Lord of the Rings because they’re able to endure with the hand of ambitious visuals and storytelling that still leave me in awe and wanting more. But even so, when a smaller film is able to grab and leave you with emotions in the time it takes you to hand-write and send five thank-you notes to people who support you, it may even become a greater achievement.

About four years ago, Collider posted an article with the statistics of how a Best Picture has been made over the years and found that “nearly 70% of all Best Picture winners at the Oscars are over 2 hours long”. Since then, this trend has succeeded to continue with an average runtime of 123.5 minutes for the current nominees (thanks, Boyhood) and 125.67 minutes for last years nominees (thanks, Wolf of Wall Street). At the time the article was written, only four Best Pictures had been won by films with an 90-100 minute runtime: The Broadway Melody (1929), Marty (1955), Annie Hall (1977), and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Since then, The Artist (2011) was able to join the group 22 years later. But how can this be explained? Maybe because movies become intimidating when they have so much to say and it becomes hard not to like them. They tower over you like a the bully in the schoolyard that will punch you and make you eat dirt if you don’t. On top of that, it becomes even more intimidating when a movie is praised by critics for it’s spectacle and you’re left wondering what it’s all about.  When done right, a shorter movie may lead to a much more enjoying experience.

After watching Madonnas performance at the Grammy’s online as well as Katy Perry’s 13 minutes of psychedelia during that game of American Football two weeks ago, I realized how nice it is to sometimes just crank the Ramones and let the blitzkrieg bop, or hear how Jack White fell in love with a girl, or perhaps even allow the The Beatles to Eleanor their Rigby. They’re free of excess, they’re refreshing, exciting, and allow you reflect over them with a clear mind. After sitting in a theater for two hours or more, maintaining the average adult attention span of 8 seconds, your brain has been given so much to process that your opinion is left to fester and boil into a cultivating stew of emotion. So at the end of it you think, ” There was so much it had to say. I have so many thoughts. I have so much to say. I liked it.” It becomes a question of what you liked better, the film itself or the experience of it.

I may jump around with my opinions so I hate to criticize movies for merely their length because there is no problem with enjoying the experience of sitting down to be amazed by a moving picture. It’s how this whole business started, anyway. What it boils down to is my frustration with the act of giving out awards, because it’s the  long runtime spectacles that receive the attention. It is what has made the Oscars predictable.  However, and this is a big however, there is still a chance for myself to be proven wrong. Perhaps this will all be shoved in my face if Wes Anderson takes home a much deserved award for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which just makes the cut at 100 minutes. But, taking down Boyhood will be a mighty feat of strength.

So here it is,

My TOP 5 < 90 Minute Movies 

  1. Waltz With Bashir (90 min.) It’s incredible how much is packed into this film to create it’s level intensity, emotion, and trauma. It’s also an animated documentary, of sorts.
  2. This is Spinal Tap (82 min.) Christopher Guest and Rob Reiner had the self-control to create one of the funniest movies of all time and not overdo themselves.
  3. Searching for Sugar Man (86 min.) An incredible journey of discovery and history wrapped with a bow.
  4. Airplane (88 min.) A gatling gun of jokes.
  5. The Lion King (89 min) I was more surprised to realize this was only 89 minutes long.

Wild Cards: They just missed the cut.

  • Trainspotting (94 min.)
  • Kids (91 min.)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (91 min.)
  • Good Night, Good Luck (93 min.)

And now, my first review of this blog.

A Review: Ida (2013) ☆☆☆☆☆

MV5BMTU4MTQ3NTAyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIxNDI0MTE@._V1__SX1234_SY659_Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and streaming on Netflix.

“What sort of sacrifices are these vows of yours?” This is the question asked to Ida, a young Polish nun preparing to take her vows, by her sinful Aunt Wanda who she has just met for the first time. Before she devotes her life to the Church, Ida is sent to meet Wanda and comes to learn that her family was Jewish and killed in the invasion of Poland. From there, they make the trip to find the remains of Ida’s parents so she can learn more of her past.

But this is not your typical road-trip adventure film. Far from it. In fact, it is quite sad. Along the way Ida is faced with the temptations to contradict her values, which she silently refuses without hesitation. But her inner turmoil is displayed within director Pawel Pawlikowski’s shot composition which provides a massive amount of head room that hangs a weight over this film. Dealing with themes of family, loss, and sacrifice, the burden of Ida and her distressed aunt is projected in black and white and leaves no smiling faces.

In the end, the audience is also left with it’s own questions of value: Knowledge v. Ignorance. Is Ida better off knowing what she is giving up? Is she better off knowing the fate of her parents? Is Wanda better off knowing the circumstances of her son’s death? The burdens that these answers bring will hang their lives in the balance.

That is all.

Thanks for reading this week. Now it’s your turn to disagree with me. Post your Top 5 in a comment or even engage in discussion. As always, my Letterboxd link is here. I’m a little behind but leave me alone! (P.S. If you enjoy film as well as social media, I’d highly recommend this site. It’s a lot of fun) Until next time, goodbye and frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.

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