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MailTribune.com
  • Escape from politico-land at the flick house

    Here's what one reporter does to hide out until the presidential election is over
  • I end up writing a lot about music in these pages, but music is far from my first and most passionate love.
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  • I end up writing a lot about music in these pages, but music is far from my first and most passionate love.
    My heart will always be in the movies. Haunting theaters and burning through my Netflix queue is my flagship pastime, the one that gives me the most joy and fully enriches my life.
    Actually, that's not true. Reading my weekly hate mail is the activity that gives me the strength to put on my pants every morning and face the daily grind. To paraphrase the late prophet Bill Hicks, I am like a camel with a hump full of hate. As time passes, my hate hump slowly recedes, and I need a fresh influx of hate to fill it back up. My inbox supplies this need. Keep it coming, haters.
    (You should see the missive sent to me last week from some maniac who attacked me for daring to argue that hip-hop artists belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More on that in a later column.)
    To no one's surprise, the film season so far has been, er, hit and miss. Screw it, it's been mostly miss. This summer, which started out so promising with "Prometheus" and "Marvel's The Avengers" fell apart toward the end.
    Thing is, the summer's event flick, "The Dark Knight Rises," was a tough movie to enjoy. In fact, I'd say the latest "Batman" offering from smarty-pants director Chris Nolan was the fourth-best superhero movie of the year. I'd put it far behind "Marvel's The Avengers," which was a pop-art masterpiece, and a good deal back of "The Amazing Spider-Man" (it's incredible how a franchise springs to life after you dump Tobey Maguire, aka, the human amoeba) and the creepy, violent "Chronicle."
    "Dark Knight" was a solid end to Nolan's run, but damn, it surely was tedious to sit through. Nolan's penchant for jamming 1 million bits of information into a three-minute scene might serve him well in "Memento" and "Inception," but not so much in a 31/2;-hour superhero movie.
    As the summer has bled into the fall, the quality of movies at Tinseltown has spiked. I poked my head into the theater only a few times this summer but am finding that trips to Medford Center are becoming a Monday ritual for me since the beginning of September.
    The reason? Twofold.
    One, there are movies for grown-ups available. Think about that. Hollywood garbage salesman seem to have had a moment of rare clarity and realized that adults, who have intellectual interests outside watching rednecks run towing companies in TLC reality shows, will spend their hard-earned bucks watching a movie that at least attempts to tell a story in a manner that isn't insulting or cynical.
    For instance, I recently saw "Argo" at Tinseltown and was surprised upon seeing the seats packed when I drifted into the theater.
    "Argo" tells the story of the 1979 Iran hostage incident in which CIA spooks put together a plan to film a fake sci-fi movie in Tehran in order to gain access for a rescue operation. There are no robots, no vampires, no meet-cute scenes involving Brooklyn hipsters or Los Angeles yuppies in wacky situations that end in happily ever after.
    But that isn't to say "Argo" wasn't suspenseful, fast-paced and funny as hell. It was everything that mainstream movies should be. Hats off to Ben Affleck, filmmaker. Who would have thought this guy would be the champion of mainstream films?
    A week earlier, I saw "Looper," which did have guns, time travel and car chases. It also relied on a solid script and confident acting by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Imagine that: a sci-fi flick that doesn't insult your intelligence. Michael Bay must be shaking his head in utter confusion.
    The best movies I've seen this fall are tougher to handle, but rewarding on multiple levels. Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is an elliptical look into the cult mind, and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" took us deep into a Bayou South rarely captured in movies.
    As I walked out of both, I stopped and noticed people gathering outside the door to talk about these movies. No one seemed to fully understand either, which was fine. The reward was bouncing ideas off each other, trying to grapple with what we'd just witnessed.
    The second reason I've spent a lot of time in the theater is to wash the political season out of my brain, if only for two hours at a whack.
    Election seasons, if you work in the news industry, are particularly tough. You only can listen to so much vacuous, brain-numbing rhetoric before you consider the possibility of starting your own cult and living out your life deep in the coastal mountains, selling roots and mushrooms at local farmers markets to make your living.
    I'm thankful that Hollywood has done us all a favor by coming up big this fall and making election season tolerable.
    I'm curious to hear what you all think about some of the flicks I discussed here, or if you have some recommendations of your own. God knows, I will take you up on them until Nov. 6.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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