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Mike Leigh’s Another Year, The Other Guys and Oz

I’ve watched quite a few movies lately and quite a few have been good. Just saw The Other Guys which is a cut above many in its refusal to fall into a standard genre tone. It is an action-comedy but more than that it switches seamlessly between madcap humor, dry wit and straight drama. Cyrus was also a bit like this and I get the sense that American cinema is growing up just a little, waltzing away from the easy payoffs and simplistic characters into that much more wonderful gray territory. I’m not saying its never done that but it appears to be coming more common.

In general this genre-blur is much more common overseas such as almost anything out of Denmark (pound for pound the best cinema on the planet) or the recent Australian Animal Kingdom (a crime drama as slow as molasses, and as deep and rich as well).

But as great as that was, nothing quite prepared me for Another Year which just blew the fuck out of everything I’ve seen in the last few months. I would post a trailor but if anything it might put you off. As I sat in the theatre, though I was intrigued from the very beginning, it was a bit of a cumulative pleasure that just kept growing right to the end and through some scenes that were almost impossible to watch. It did not take all that long to realize that this was indeed greatness in every respect.

This is cinema that is so close to life that it does what the best of art does – causes you to reexamine your own life. It is utterly realistic and yet artful and though the actors are established they are not quite as laden with our preconceptions as to give a clue as to how they are going to react or exactly what kind of persons they are.

If I had to sum up the theme of this film it is that the attitude you take to life is as important in determining happiness as what actually happens to you.

See this film but be forewarned. It is a bright light that will make most of what you see or remember seem dim indeed. (In the meanwhile, I am revisiting every old Mike Leigh film I can. And for any fans of Peep Show (the best comedy of the last ten years; featuring Mitchell and Webb) there is a disconcerting absolute double for Peep’s Dobbie and Another Year’s Katie).

The other highlight of viewing has been doing the Oz marathon. I thought this was a great show when it was originally on and rewatching it, especially one after the other, makes it quite clear that this is one of the most unique series. If you can imagine pitching this in pre 2000 as a drama that takes place almost entirely inside a prison and will feature a lot of sex but almost exclusively homosexual and most of that violent, a lot of nudity but almost all of that frontal male, and a lot of horrific graphic violence. But great art works within frames and this is a hell of a frame and though it seems like quite the restricted palate it explores the full world of human emotion and experience.

But what really stood out was watching one goodbye scene where one inmate (Keller) gets transferred away from his long time lover Beecher. This scene has been thrown up on youtube but it loses impact unless you’ve watched the 20 hours of their relationship that precedes it (and stormy is an absurdly poor understatement in this case). But what got me was that this convicted murderers -gay -relationship was one of the most fully realized romantic relationships ever put on the screen and the goodbye one of the most heartrending. And all back in the year 2000.

If nothing else, this is an acting paradise with some later to be more famous actors doing some of their best work (Eammon Walker (Said) Christopher Meloni (Keller), Lee Tergeson (Beecher), J.K. Simmons (Schillinger), Dean Winter (O’Reilly), and so many more. And Oz, like Homicide before it, was one of the few places where race was openly explored beyond the simple stereotypes that exist to this day.

One comment on “Mike Leigh’s Another Year, The Other Guys and Oz

  1. […] Music ← Mike Leigh’s Another Year, The Other Guys and Oz […]

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