‘Midnight in Paris’ is a beautiful, delicious, sexy film with a sweet cast. The plot is led straight from beginning to end without a struggle. It is interesting and breezy.
That said, it’s absolutely usual and palatable. There’s adultery, psychoanalysis-worthy monogamy issues, wealth, surveillance, awkward parental units, blame-the-maid antics posing as class war commentary, and brilliant -absolutely brilliant!- LINES. It’s Woody Allen: it’s white, heterosexual, lovably whiny, and absurdly stale (and somehow that term doesn’t feel offensive- it’s charming). For all of these reasons (and probably a few more) it has been nominated for Best Picture by the Academy. It is a done deal, but I can still explain why I think it’s raw and displeasing.
The nominees for 2012 Best Picture are War Horse, The Help, The Artist, Hugo, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Midnight in Paris. Great! A throwback to the silent film era (which has, funny thing, been done…it was an era), Scorcese for kids, Brad Pitt and George Clooney, father/son turmoil, and The Story of A Boy and America…oh, and Woody Allen. Here we have a series of excellent films that represent an obnoxiously small portion of the population. Americans, sons, patriarchs, romancers, monogamy and confusion and then -for a split second- we have a bit of hope: The Help. There is a non-sexualized, older, quiet but strong black woman in the lead and the story got a nomination: hallefrickinlujah Oscar- go get ‘em and bless you with all of my heart, Ms. Davis. So, one in nine movies up for Best Picture represent the world at large- the world that has no gloss, the world that is beautiful because it is diverse. These points may be tired, but only if you’re emotionally deaf and possess no conscience.
Midnight in Paris is about rich white heterosexual people who, even at their trickiest and most interesting (in alternative universes) socialize ONLY with other rich white heterosexual people. It is fun, pretty, and endlessly alluring, because it is the sensory dream of dreams…but, for my generation, at least, it’s an old dream made by an old man who makes great movies that just so happen to ignore the reality of race, gendering, and sexuality.
Allen has been active in the world of film (and publishing and music) for over half a century, but in all that time -in over 48 films- he has never represented a colorful picture of humanity, beyond the often sensitive portrayals of hopeless mono-matching in unions between members of the opposite sex. This is useful and eye-opening material that has, no doubt, probably influenced three generations of filmgoers in the ways they run their world, but if there is no problematizing going on between the gender lines and over the barriers of normativity, how can we move forward?
Film has the power to do such things as inspiring social progress, and that is indeed happening. Still, how is it that the Oscars missed the social commentary and historical relevance presented in films like Circumstance and J. Edgar, while finding room to pitch Allen more than a dozen noms over the years for more of his usual?After all, these are Best Pictures- there is no sex, color, gender or sexuality implied. Note, the movies I mentioned just before are “gay” movies: about characters that happen to be gay. No, gay movies should not get Oscars for being about gay people, but they should be recognized for their relevance in these times of change. There are histories that have been excluded from our knowledge, with heterosexual, white, men as the measure of influence: lets open up our plots to people like you, me, our neighbors, who all have generations of stories to tell. Stories are stories no matter the gender of their star or the sexual makeup of their cast. The usual should not stand as the barometer for what people will want to see in the theater, as entertainment should be about progress.
Despite the cool plot twist time-travel provides, it stands unshakable that Allen’s film is more of the past than it is for the present.
On separate note, I couldn’t ignore this: why the heck is Rachel McAdams wearing an unflattering belt around her waist in every single scene where she’s dressed?