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August 25, 2011

Book Notes: Two Oscar-worthy movies to watch


— Every once in a while Hollywood manages to make a movie that is so astoundingly bad it makes one wonder if there is any sanity left in the world. I mean, really, when so much money is riding on the success of a motion picture you would think the producers would make sure there is at least a basic quality to it. But sometimes brain-lock takes hold when there is nothing else to explain it.

The latest example of this phenomenon is the movie, “Just Go With It.” If you haven’t heard of it, consider yourself lucky. If you have, please don’t waste your time watching it. It certainly might qualify as one of the ten worst films of all-time.

The premise is naturally far-fetched but we’ve all seen worse. A young doctor discovers that his bride-to-be is only marrying him for his money so he cancels the wedding and heads for the nearest bar to drown his sorrows.

He meets a gorgeous woman who feels sorry for him and leads him to discover that his status as the jilted spouse gets him all the women he craves. He goes along with this ruse for 20 years until he meets a young “supermodel” who he thinks is the real deal.

Unfortunately, she discovers his “wedding ring” and chaos ensues because she can’t believe he is not married. So he tells her he’s getting divorced and uses his medical assistant as his fake soon-to-be ex-wife. If you think this plot is starting to break down, it is.

From there it only gets dumber and dumber. If there is one constant in the movie it’s that none of the characters are believable or likable.

There are even two kids who deserve spankings for being both spoiled brats and bad actors. And the “humor” is so sophomoric and contrived that even Mad Magazine wouldn’t be able to satire it.

The “supermodel” is Brooklyn Decker who in real-life is a supermodel. This was her screen debut, but it would be unfair to classify her as simply a bad actress. She had plenty of company including seasoned veterans Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

If there is one person to blame (besides the director) for this “disaster” flick it would have to be Sandler. He coproduced it so he has to take the bulk of the responsibility. He always plays the same type of character no matter what the film.

It worked in “Spanglish” and “Happy Gilmore,” but not in “Grown Ups” or this pile of manure. Sandler is proof that acting and producing are not always a good mix.

Fortunately, turkeys such as “Just Go With It” are not necessarily the norm. Hollywood is still capable of producing some outstanding films. We have two recent additions at the library that are Oscar-worthy.

Ironically both deal with the economic downturn and its effects on ordinary people. The first one is “Up in the Air” with George Clooney. It is nothing short of superb.

Clooney stars as someone who works for a company hired by other firms to let their employees know they are being laid off because they don’t have the guts to do it themselves. His company also offers outreach services to these suddenly unemployed workers.

Clooney’s job requires a thick skin because he is often verbally abused by his audience.

It also requires he travel all the time, a routine he has come to relish. The drawback  is that he really has no personallife or time to develop one. He doesn’t seem to mind until circumstances force him to re-evaluate his life.

The movie is a wonderful case study of someone facing a mid-life crisis. It also includes an incredible twist that keeps it from becoming your typical formulaic movie. It’s a feel-good film but not in the usual sense.

The second flick is a more recent release and even more intense. “The Company Men” has an all-star cast including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Costner. It deals directly with the Great Recession and how men who seem to have it made in life suddenly have it all taken from them.

How they react to the sudden loss of money and selfesteem is thought provoking. It shows how cold-hearted corporations can be when it comes to the bottom line.

There is real human suffering that occurs when corporate profits take a hit. It’s an extremely powerful and wellacted film.

It’s a good thing that Hollywood is still churning out movies the quality of “Up in the Air” and “The Company Men.” If “Just Go With It” represented the future of the industry then we may all be relegated to reality TV for our entertainment.