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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

SUMO brings array of options in upcoming term: Student film organization proves Hollywood has not “gone bad”

<f the year. Isn’t it wonderful? Is there no better time for movies than this? I mean, if you take a look at the movies in Lakeville right now, a cinephile could just spend many, many happy hours there. For example: “27 Dresses.” “Mad Money.” “The Bucket List.” This is, without a doubt, the peak of 2008, in terms of movies.

Oh, wait – I’m getting mixed up here. Those movies all garnered less than 40% on (meaning, they’re really bad, and you really should skip them). Indeed, we’re stuck in the hard winter that is the Hollywood season – times that truly try movie fans’ souls; times when we really see just how bad – and it can be bad – Hollywood can be.

But here’s something really funny: two movies that will be at SUMO later this term – “Into the Wild” and “Michael Clayton” (7th weekend) each have a percentage on nearly eclipsing the total of “27 Dresses,” “Mad Money,” and “The Bucket List” (“Into the Wild” had 82%, and “Michael Clayton” had 90%).

Now, I could write on and on about why SUMO has an awesome lineup this term (starting this weekend with “The Lives of Others,” continuing midterm break with the great new 3:10 to Yuma, and then two weeks later with “Into the Wild” and “Michael Clayton,” and then 9th weekend hitting really hard with Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” and, fittingly, ending with “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Man, that’s pretty great. No doubt about that) but instead I wanted to take a look at – even though it seems weird to say this – what a great year 2007 was for Hollywood.

Starting a few years ago, critics started to announce that it was the beginning of the end for Hollywood. Movies that we were seeing were lackluster, weekend sales were failing, and the industry just seemed in pretty bad shape. But it wasn’t Hollywood’s fault, the critics said – after all, you can only generate so many original ideas before they start to become, well, unoriginal. 100 monkeys in a locked room couldn’t do any better; I mean, there’s probably some mathematical equation that spells out how many original ideas are possible in the universe, using Protagonist A, Antagonist B, and Setting X. I bet that such an equation would look something like this: (A^3 * B^6/4)= Plot, or Y. What? Doesn’t work? Hmm, well, keep with it. Anyway, the consensus was that Hollywood had simply run out of ideas.

And so they did. But Hollywood, being the resilient industry it is, wouldn’t lie down for anybody. So those Hollywood producers got their monkeys together and said, “Monkeys, what can we do?” And their monkeys, in their infinite wisdom, told those producers, “You need to adapt more screenplays from books and other sources.” Original Screenplays, they said, are nearing their end.

So true, monkeys, so true. But I don’t mean to generalize – they were certainly some great movies this year whose screenplays were original. “Juno,” for example, written by Diablo Cody, an ex-stripper from Minnesota who is already being hailed as the solution to Hollywood’s creativity woes. And then there’s 83 year old Sidney Lumet, who returned to form this year with his “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” a fast-moving, powerful train wreck of a movie (expect both of those to be in the SUMO lineup next term). And then there’s the aforementioned “Michael Clayton,” David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises,” “I’m Not There,” and “American Gangster.” All quality movies, to be sure.

But when we turn to the list of Adapted Screenplays, we see the best crop of 2007: to start, “Hairspray,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Persepolis,” “Away From Her,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Atonement,” which won the Golden Globe for Best Drama, based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” based on the Broadway play of the same name that won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, and got Johnny Depp the award for Best Actor in a Comedy; “The Kite Runner,” based on the book by Khaled Hosseini; “There Will Be Blood,” based on the book “Oil” by Upton Sinclair, which has been called one of the best American films of 2007; the aforementioned, wonderful (if I’m allowed a bit of subjectivity) “Into the Wild,” directed by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer; and, finally, this brings us to “No Country for Old Men,” directed by Minnesotans Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy.

There’s been a lot written about “No Country for Old Men;” some say the ending is frustrating, or anticlimactic (oops, I’ll say no more). Others say it’s slow. But there are some numbers you can’t argue with: In its two months of release, “No Country for Old Men” has won 37 awards and continues to rack them up – Spaniard Javier Bardem won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Anton Chigurh. “No Country for Old Men” could, quite possibly, be one of the best movies in a long, long time. Some – my brother, to be specific – said that it’s the best movie since “Fargo,” making it his favorite movie. Roger Ebert agrees, when he writes, “Many of the scenes in “No Country for Old Men” are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to simply continue, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene. Another movie that made me feel that way was ‘Fargo.’ To make one such film is a miracle. Here is another.”

Okay, I’m gushing. I tend to do that when I find a movie that is as incredible as this one. But my point is this: reports of Hollywood’s death are premature. Those monkeys just keep cranking them out, even if in five years every book in the Carleton Library will have a movie based on it.

*This week, The Carletonian features a student organization, SUMO, in the rotating column series. We hope to include the voices of various campus groups and academic departments throughout the year with this project. Please contact caffreyj or crowleye for submission guidelines.

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