Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The year movies were named like hurricanes

Have you noticed how many 2015 movies have just a woman's first name as their title?

Joy became the fifth on my list for this year, and there are two more prominent ones I'm planning to see over the next ten days. And Joy isn't even the only one starring Jennifer Lawrence. (Nor is it the only 2015 movie with a prominent character named Joy, thanks to Inside Out.)

Forthwith, we'll look at the candidates and their worthiness of being named after the main character, starting with ...

Directed by: David O. Russell
Worthiness of being named after the main character: High
Thoughts: Joy has a lot going on, to put it mildly, but it does mostly focus on this one character and her mop-inventing aspirations. It's also, I suppose, about her search for happiness, so yeah, she joins a storied cinematic tradition of characters with names that also function as intangible nouns. (If I see another movie character named Grace, I may have to kill myself -- and lookee here, there's a movie called Looking for Grace that came out two months ago.)

Directed by: Susanne Bier
Worthiness of being named after the main character: Moderate
Thoughts: The other film starring Jennifer Lawrence actually bears a 2014 release year in IMDB, but didn't get released theatrically in the U.S. until February, and I'm firmly counting it with my 2015 movies. Like Joy, this also co-stars Bradley Cooper (we just can't separate these two -- they've been in at least four movies together, three of them directed by David O. Russell). It's about a Depression era North Carolina timber baron who marries a headstrong woman named Serena. However, it does not seem very essential that the movie was named after her, even if his fortunes do turn on his relationship with the character.

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Worthiness of being named after the main character: High
Thoughts: I mean, it's the name of the story. Who are we to argue with that? However, as discussed in this post, I would have liked the movie better if the character had actually felt like the center of her own story, and not just a bystander letting fate buffet her around like a sailboat on a stormy ocean.

Directed by: Henry Hobson
Worthiness of being named after the main character: High
Thoughts: Wake up, Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you. You've been bitten by a zombie, and I don't think you're ever going BACK to school. Indeed, this is the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger's emotional struggle to save his daughter from the inevitable: death at the hands of a zombie bite. Her name is Maggie. Seems like as good a reason as any to choose this as the name of the movie -- it works a bit in the same capacity as We Need to Talk About Kevin, because yeah, when you've got a bitten daughter, you do need to talk about that shit.

Directed by: Sebastian Schipper
Worthiness of being named after the main character: High
Thoughts: As the single character who is basically on the screen for the entire length of this daring single-take movie -- "basically," because during one scene where she could afford to get away for a moment, she supposedly excused herself to answer a desperate need to use the bathroom -- Laia Costa's Victoria does earn having a movie named after her. She's the sole constant in this two-plus hours of one late night in Berlin that goes from banal to crazy, in a believable if sometimes tedious fashion.

And the ones I haven't yet seen, and can only truly speculate about ...

Directed by: Asif Kapadia
Worthiness of being named after the main character: Moderate to high
Thoughts: I understand this to be a stripped-bare look into Amy Winehouse's life, and the title certainly works to convey that type of intimacy. My question is, is the single name Amy distinctive enough to indicate that the movie is about Amy Winehouse without any other knowledge of the film? I'd say no. Not like the future documentaries Beyonce and Rihanna will be, anyway.

Directed by: Todd Haynes
Worthiness of being named after the main character: Dubious
Thoughts: I say "dubious" only because I know this is a two-hander, meaning it is mostly about the two characters with (as I understand it) somewhat minimal acting contributions from others. If that's the case, naming the movie after only one of them seems to throw off the apparent balance. But I look forward to finding out for myself when this becomes one of the final films I watch before closing off my 2015 list next Thursday.

Other movies I've seen that would have fit well in 2015:


That's only 29 other titles among all the 4,400+ movies I've ever seen. Makes the seven titles I will see in 2015 seem even more like a conglomeration.

A trend! I've identified it!

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