Margin Call Directed by: J.C. Chandor Written by: J.C. Chandor (screenplay) Starring: Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany
Margin Call, along with Melancholia, are two movies that are helping reshape the distribution model of otherwise-limited release films. With the help of outlets like Amazon, iTunes and other VOD (Video On Demand, get used to it) services, they are reaching audiences that arguably would never have seen them otherwise.
Of course, it helps that both of these films are exceptionally well done. Margin Call is about the beginning of the financial crisis, examining the movers and shakers responsible for kick-starting it. Its keen examination of this world driven purely by gambling is shot in smooth, sophisticated darkness. Every board room is glossed over, though every frame conveys a sense of dread and impending doom (The same can be said of Melancholia).
American Beauty Directed by: Sam Mendes Written by: Alan Ball (screenplay) Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, and Wes Bentley
American Beauty shouldn’t be the kind of movie Oscar loves. It’s hard to watch a movie that begins with a man saying that masturbating in the shower will be the highlight of his day and pair it alongside other Best Picture winners like The King’s Speech or Shakespeare In Love.
That’s not even the biggest reason American Beauty defies the Academy, though. At almost every chance the voting members get, they favor superficial uplift over true grit. Yet when you look closer at this movie (as its tagline instructs you to do), you see that there is no happy ending, at least not in the traditional Best Picture sense. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) really does die like he says he’s going to in the beginning.
Movies that blatently tell you their outcome are usually more surprising than ones with a big reveal at the end. Sometimes knowing the conclusion is more baffling than not. How can a man who’s already dead die, and why will we care?