Maybe it's a passing fad after all, but once there used to be what I call a director's "gestation period." On average, as David Letterman would say, your "big time Hollywood director" takes about two years to excrete a new film. The Coens take about two years per film, and Kevin Smith took about that long as well. Then you've got your Steven Soderberghs who take about six months, and then there's Woody Allen, who's been spitting out a new project every year on the dot; pre-1982 it took him two years, but he invested in infrastructure well, and now it's every year. Some years, even two! Tyler Perry does two films a year for now, in between everything else he cranks out. Spielberg once said eighteen months for the gestation period, so take his word for it, but from 1997 to 2005 it seemed like one film a year from him. Okay, so they weren't all masterpieces, but you criticize the man's work at your own peril.
There's other examples I'm leaving out, I'm sure. The point is, George Clooney, in addition to everything else he does, has cranked out a directorial effort every three years since 2002. Alas, I'm unhappy to report that one of my viewing companions, one of Clooney's biggest fans, didn't care so much for The Monuments Men, Clooney and company's latest. But they were able to put aside their new-fangled loathing of Bill Murray and John Goodman for the length of the movie, which surprised me.
The plot: it's another WWII movie with a slightly different angle, this time focusing on Hitler's side project of destroying the world's art. Clooney ends up losing his beard and leading a group of seven who set out to find all the art that the Nazis have stolen. I hate to say it, but I think The Simpsons beat Clooney to the punch a little bit. And I know Hollywood thinks Alexandre Desplat is the new John Williams and Danny Elfman combined, but over my stern objections, I'm afraid. Here he makes sure the proceedings don't get too serious, and gives the music a little The Great Escape feel to things. Why, wasn't there a part with whistling even?
In general, the film fits right in with all the WWII epics made in the 50s and 60s, but there are occasional touches of what seems to be previously untold history. The writer seems to have done their homework about paintings that are still missing, anyway. I'm no expert. And even though I've been numbed by CGI special effects, one of my viewing companions couldn't help but gasp when the Nazis started torching some paintings. And Clooney shows more restraint than Brad Pitt at the end of Inglorious Basterds in a scene similar to, but not as potent, as his big scene in Syriana. Oh, you remember, right? With Christopher Plummer? Whoa, dude. And Spoiler Alert: Clooney proves himself a good son by giving his father a brief speaking role, albeit as the elder George Clooney. So for now, it's good but not great, but I'm sure it'll only gain in stature as time marches on.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan