Monday, November 9, 2015

Dental Bridge

Or, "Good enough to pay for?"

Yes, I paid for a movie in the theaters yesterday for the first time since July, when I got my Australian Film Critics Association card.

Bad timing, too, since I'd just unexpectedly spent more than $300 at the dentist after reaching my insurance plan's yearly limit on dental coverage. (It's been a bad couple months for my mouth.)

But I thought 11 a.m. was a good time of day to watch a two-hour and twenty minute movie, especially since I wouldn't be of much use at home with a mouth full of novocaine anyway.

The timing between the appointment and the show time was actually just perfect. They released me from a 10 a.m. appointment at about 10:55, and the theater is about a two-minute walk from the dentist's office in the same building. (The dentist's office, not the theater, is the funny thing to find in that building, which is a downtown shopping complex called Melbourne Central -- which may also explain why the dentist has Sunday hours.)

The only problem was that my AFCA card is not valid at the Hoyts chain at any time on the weekend. Hoyts is the most restrictive of the chains that accept this card, as there are only two nights during the week (Monday and Wednesday) when you are even allowed to use the card after 5 p.m. The total restriction on weekends was something I knew about, but I thought it was worth trying anyway. Often times the ticket takers are so befuddled by this card that without being sure how to proceed, they just wave me through. However, this particular guy followed protocol and determined that, indeed, I was not eligible for a complimentary screening. Which I immediately copped to, as though I'd forgotten the restriction rather than knowingly tried to dupe him.

So I had to pay $18 for Bridge of Spies instead of the $0 that my last 20 or so theatrical screenings have cost me. Given how much of a savings I'm getting from this great card, $18 here and there is a small price to pay. Then again, it did also make me feel like Steven Spielberg's latest really needed to rise to the level of something I was willing to pay for.

Did it?

For the most part, yes, though that does translate to "only" a 3.5-star rating for me. I flirted with four stars, but Bridge of Spies is not even a movie that's really designed to have much oomph to it. There are parts that are suspenseful and there are parts that are gripping, but overall it's pretty mild. It's a solid production with good performances and it generally leaves a person satisfied, but it is pretty definitely "minor Spielberg." However, I guess Spielberg's sheer confidence with this type of movie is something interesting to behold, since it continues a sort of late-career interest in realistic historical movies that don't have a lot of the escapism or wish fulfilment that characterized the early phases of his career.

It made a particularly interesting viewing on the heels of watching Tomorrowland, whose debt to Spielberg is conspicuous, the previous night. It was interesting to watch someone else (in this case, Brad Bird) imitate Spielberg, and then to watch Spielberg himself imitate, I don't know, Tomas Alfredsson? I say that only because in its spy milieu and its varying shades of beautiful-looking gray, Spies probably most reminded me of Alfredson's Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, but with a much clearer plot. Then again, it's not like Spielberg hasn't already made his own film that feels similar to this, although perhaps not overtly: 2005's Munich.

The difference between Bird and Spielberg, though, is that in this case Bird very poorly impersonates an obvious source of inspiration -- though one might more fairly blame screenwriter Damon Lindelof for the failure of Tomorrowland -- while Spielberg always seems to make a very capable version of whatever he's trying to impersonate. And even though we have the informal adjective "Spielbergian" in our lexicon and most people have a good sense of what is implied by that, we can't forget that some of Spielberg's best films are not particularly "Spielbergian," including Schindler's List, Lincoln and the aforementioned Munich. Just reminds us what a diverse filmmaker he really is -- diverse and prolific, especially given the size and scope of the projects he's shepherded.

As for Tomorrowland, that disaster really deserves an entire post devoted to all the things that went wrong in it. But to be honest, I don't have the energy for that kind of thing today -- and wouldn't even know where to start if I did.

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