Below is this week’s schedule and thoughts about the week’s films at the State Theatre and the Bijou in Traverse City.
But let me first say this:
It seems that part of my job lately is to debunk misconceptions or allay fears of certain movies that sure as heck seem like something no thinking person would want to waste 90 minutes and eight bucks on seeing. And on first take, I’m with you. I don’t want to go see more of the same old formulaic crappola. I want a good movie, dammit — no, I want a great movie! Where have you gone Mr. Altman and Mr. Kubrick — a nation of filmlovers turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo…
This longing for the glory of cinema past, and my prejudices against so much of what Hollywood has to offer, though, often causes my knee to jerk wildly and I then go on to issue indignant pronouncements to myself and others like “I have no intention of wasting my time watching Sandra Bullock fly at me in outer space 3D!” – only to later get my comeuppance after having watched a modern masterpiece.
The latest of my “cinematic last stand” bloviating took place a month or so ago when I heard that there was something called “The Lego Movie” coming out. “You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me!,” I declared. “A movie about pieces of plastic children stick together to make toy houses? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph has the world I live in been lowered to the lowest possible common denominator where everything — everything! — about the movies now is just nonstop product placement and selling stuff, stuff, and more stuff to our kids? What’s next – ‘Return to Play-Dough’? ‘Tinker Toys 3′? ‘Etch-a-Sketch Saves the World’? This is truly the end of cinema as we know it,” I declared. I’m packing it in and moving on.
And then I said, “Mike — you were full of the same consternation about ‘Gravity‘. You’ve got nothing better to do tonight (this episode of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ is a rerun), just roll your first-ever doobie and go watch the dancing red plastic pieces on the silver screen.” And so I did.
Folks, I’m long past trying to cover up my shame and embarrassment over things I thought were one way but turned out to be another. Yes, I’m an idiot. We’re all idiots on some level, I’ve just attained a higher level than most of you.
“The Lego Movie” is the best movie of 2014!
I know the year is young, but it’s going to be awfully hard to top the humor, the politics, the smarts of this brilliant confection of what looks like a mindless kids movie but is actually the most subversive thing I’ve seen in a theater since the invention of seasoned salt shakers at the popcorn counter.
Not a minute passed in “The Lego Movie” where seriously annoying audible laughter didn’t come bellowing out of my mouth (no, I didn’t smoke anything). Satire this sharp, this cutting, is something we just don’t see anymore at the movies.
In a nutshell, “The Lego Movie” is about a world where everything is made of Lego pieces — and where corporations now no longer to pretend to run the country, they just do — and with a vengeance. The population has been turned into a bunch of mindless, unquestioning worker bees who only find true happiness when their corporate masters get richer and more powerful. In Lego Land, you wake up every morning singing “Everything Is Awesome” — when, in fact, nothing is. You’re just another cog in the wheel. You’re a consumer, not a citizen. The president of your country is “President Business” (yes, that’s his real name — the authors of this movie have clearly decided not to hide their message in some subtle metaphor that would bring them nods of approval from faux intellectuals at The New Yorker).
And if you step off the assembly line of life and attempt to be your own person — and, in doing so, you risk your life to better everyone else’s lot — well, my friendly little red concoction of plastic, get ready for the melter!
I know I’ve asked you way too much this year to just take on faith my sincere belief that you should go watch a movie neither you or I would EVER think of seeing. Yes, it’s a kids movie. It’s got all the requisite car chases and action sequences and explosions and blah blah blah. That’s just the honey to draw in the masses. Once inside, the kids — and their soon-to-be very grateful parents — are about to be not just entertained, but enlightened about the ruse that is being played on them at work, at school, and on the TV.
I asked a friend at Warner Bros (once again, the studio that is historically Hollywood’s most progressive when it comes to telling stories of social importance, from “The Life of Emile Zola”  to “A Clockwork Orange”  to “V for Vendetta” ) just how in Swift’s name did this Lego movie get made? Who makes Legos, anyway?
“Lego is from Denmark,” he said. “They’re a Danish company.”
Oh, well, why didn’t you just say so? Damn socialist Scandinavians!
Wait — aren’t those the same people who settled here around this Bay and why everything here is called Lars or Oleson?
Maybe most of you didn’t need this lecture after all!
Please, come see “The Lego Movie.” I’m not showing it in 3D. It doesn’t need it. Just as long as your mind has that extra dimension.
Everything Is Awesome!
P.S. The great British member of parliament, Tony Benn, passed away last night. I featured him in “Sicko” and loved what he had to say about us being citizens and not consumers and other cool things about the common good. You can see a clip of him from my movie here… http://mmflint.me/1kQOraH