Happy New Year Folks, Harrison and I here at MovieDebaters hope that your New Year will bring health, happiness and hearty movie watching. Like many, Harrison and I are making resolutions this year.
1: We will strive to provide content that is both insightful and informative.
2: We will try to update the blog more frequently than 4 times a month.
3: We will go to the movies more often this year to make our posts a bit more timely.
Related to resolution three we decided to take a look back at the best films that Harrison and I saw in theaters last year. We get a little bit bogged down and we didn’t get to talk about Win Win as much as we (mostly Josh) wanted to… But definitely check out both films before commenting and fair warning… Spoilers lie below.
Harrison: The reason I loved Hanna was because it gave me a sense of movie magic. What is movie magic you ask? Well to me movie magic is that feeling you get when you watch a movie and it lifts your brain into the stratosphere. It’s that type of movie that triggers the same feeling you get when you see another person you are attracted to. A movie with movie magic makes you feel like you’re high as a kite.
I realize this might sound weird because Hanna is a movie about a pre-teen.
But it’s the truth. Hanna is a movie that reached down deep in my brain and hit all the correct synapses. I like revenge movies. I like martial arts movies. I like odd/weird camera movements and editing. I like when a soundtrack is really incorporated into the film. I like when a movie takes a turn for the unexpected.
All of the above exists in Hanna.
Josh E: If you look over the plethora of best of lists in 2011 you’ll see a bunch of people saying “there is no clear-cut favorite” or something to that affect. I came to a similar conclusion. I had a bunch of pleasurable trips to the cinema and I’ll list at the bottom of this debate a couple of other must sees from 2011. The film that rises above all others in my mind, (and the one that I happily saw twice) is Tom McCarthy’s Win Win.
Josh E: It’s funny that both of our films deal with unlikely parental relationships.
Harrison: I doubt anyone else shares this same opinion, but the relationship in Hanna seemed to be the more realistic of the two.
Josh E: You have to explain. I can’t let you just say that.
Harrison: I have an easier time believing a CIA agent went a little nuts and kidnapped a baby than a lawyer legally adopting a 16 year old transient.
Josh E: To contradict your point. I believed Mike Flahetry’s determination to do as little parenting as possible to a transient 16 year old. It might be because my dad looks more like Paul Giamatti than Eric Bana.
Harrison: Hanna was one of, if not the, most innovative movies I saw all year. Like you said there were a lot of great movies released this year. But none of them had that certain X factor Hanna did. Hanna has that certain je ne sais quoi (see what I did there?).
Josh E: Nope.
Harrison: It’s a movie that takes place in Europe. And I used a phrase often heard in Europe.
Josh E: Touche.
I agree that Hanna is definitely worth someone’s time. If they want to see the years second best action/thriller
Harrison: What would the first be?
Josh E: I think Drive eeks out a spot at the top, but it’s a very short distance between the two. This is also a tad tangential.
Harrison: Well certain people (me) live in certain towns (my town) whose movie theater didn’t have Drive. And certain websites (Netflix) aren’t getting it until Jan 31.
Josh E: I do agree that Hanna was “magical” in fact it had allusions to Alice in Wonderland, if Wonderland is a fascistic nation filled with super spies.
Harrison: Yes! In the wake of Kill Bill, Hanna might be seen as a movie riding on Bill’s coattails. But the second act road movie sequence and the end sequence at the theme park are two very unique turns that heighten the movie’s magic.
Josh E: I see Hanna less influenced by Tarantino and more influenced by Michael Mann or even Brian de Palma. It harkens back to an older style of action filmmaking.
Harrison: I partially agree with that. My comparison to Kill Bill was more about the badass female protagonist. The movie’s aesthetics screamed “European” to me. Amongst all the big budget, bloated comic book movies of the summer, Hanna towered above them.
Harrison: Or X-Men: First Class’ 160 million or Green Lantern’s 200 million.
Josh E: Comic book movies are expensive.
Harrison: Those plots aren’t gonna CGI themselves.
Josh E: I agree that Hanna is good, but what makes it great?
Harrison: What makes Hanna great is two things: 1) As I mentioned before, it’s ability to surprise and subvert. 2) I think modern movies place too much emphasis on explaining every little facet of the story. Hanna is a more simply told story. In its simplicity, Hanna becomes a movie that is far more enjoyable and less tedious for the audience to watch.
Josh E: I agree with point two, but can you give me a few examples of point one?
Harrison: To me one of the highlights of the movie is when it slows down during the road trip sequence and we get to see that yes, this girl Hanna is a badass killer, but she’s also completely devoid of any normal socialization. I wouldn’t necessarily expect that plot point to come up in other movies about badass assassins.
Another example would be that the villains in these types of movie are evil, but they aren’t nearly as despicable as Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander.
The actions those two characters take are surprisingly brutal.
Josh E: I found Cate Blanchett’s character the most intriguing.
Josh E: I felt like i got a lot from her. She’s definitely the wicked witch, who seemed to want to keep Hanna, but was feeling forced to kill her. It was like watching the most brutal custody suit ever.
Harrison: That’s an interesting take on the movie.
The visual aesthetics are amazing as well. I keep thinking about the scene where Hanna runs through the secret base and the camera rotates 360 degrees.
Josh E: I agree with all the points you’re making and it’s interesting because we both loved each other’s movies. But the only reason I have to say Win Win is better is that Hanna, for all it’s visual panache and movie magic, lacks a cohesive statement about the world we live in.
Harrison: Which is something Win Win clearly has. To contradict your point, I really don’t think Hanna A) needs to make a statement about the world we live in or B) fails because it doesn’t make said statement.
Josh E: I see film in particular as a reflection of our culture. Hanna is a film that will last because of it’s awe factor but it’s not a film that causes us to reflect on anything. In my opinion, great films cause that moment of reflection after the film is over. I’m not saying that Hanna isn’t good, it’s just not transcendent.
Harrison: I think it’s pretty obvious I liked Hanna. But I can admit it might not go down in the history of cinema as one of the quote-unquote “greats.” However, between Hanna and Win Win, I pick Hanna.
Josh E: I don’t blame you. Going with my definition of transcendence I guess a statement you could divine from Hanna would be the importance of honesty and allowing children to grow up by making their own decisions. But the film is way more of an allegory than any action film in the last 5 years has even thought of being.
Harrison: Ah. So you feel cheated that the movie so close to saying something but ultimately didn’t.
Josh E: I thought it could have gone a bit further, yes.
Harrison: To me this just illustrates our differing priorities on what we want out of movies. All I want is engagement. I want to be invested with the characters. I want to stay with them and see how everything turns out. It seems to me that you want to see what movies have to say about the human condition.
Josh E: Isn’t that what narrative filmmaking is about? What we can divine about ourselves.
Harrison: It doesn’t have to be.
I really don’t think every movie has to achieve the same set of parameters. Not every movie needs to have some opinion about humanity.
Unless, of course, a movie’s message is that sometimes humans just like to see shit blow up.
Josh E: I just liked Win Win because it was able to examine something as interesting as the lengths a man could go to provide for his family and do the right thing
Harrison: See, I understand that’s what Win Win was about. And for a movie like Win Win, having a message/theme like that is the way to go.
Josh E: I guess what I’m hung up on is the why factor of Hanna.
Why am I watching this, is it pure fun? If it is and (it was) then great. I guess I’m looking for something more.
Josh’s Best Trips to the Cinema in 2011: Win Win, Cedar Rapids, The Adjustment Bureau, Bridesmaids, Drive, Contagion, Certified Copy, Tabloid, and The Muppets
Josh’s Worst Trip to the Cinema in 2011: Suckerpunch
Harrison’s Best Trips to the Movies in 2011: Hanna
Harrison’s Worst Trip to the Movies in 2011: Suckerpunch (Yes, I only saw two movies in the theaters. I’m a bad movie geek…)
No poll for this debate. But tell us below what was the best movie you saw in theaters in 2011.