At the beginning of January, before everyone came back from the holidays, I indulged myself in what is, for a parent of young kids, an unimaginable luxury: one full afternoon spent by myself, at the movies. I started with Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers dramatization “The Post”. And I followed that with Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” which tells the story of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic athlete who came to run a high-stakes poker game for Hollywood’s elite. It was kind of a liberal’s double-header, you might say.
“The Post” is like a lot of Spielberg’s recent prestige fare: overly earnest and really, really on-the-nose about what it wants you to think and feel. It’s also visually nauseating; cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s highly stylized atmospherics have all the personality of one of those sickly sweet Hallmark posters with little kids giving each other adobrable kisses that they issued to everyone’s dentists in the 1980s. Still, the movie is not ineffective and I found myself wrapped up in it way more than I expected to be. Good flick for the plane, if it happens to be playing.
As for “Molly’s Game,” it’s tough to know which Aaron Sorkin is going to show up for any new project: the brilliant, hilarious storyteller responsible for “A Few Good Men,” “Sports Night” and the best years of “The West Wing”? Or the didactic, agenda-obsessed debate club vice-president of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom”? Luckily it’s mostly the former who was on duty for “Molly’s Game” which also happens to be Sorkin’s feature film directorial debut. He generally knocks it out of the park with a smart, expertly paced, fully gripping thriller disguised as a biopic. Mind you, the movie itself is preposterous in its framing of virtue and vice, and it’s as flawed as any Sorkin work. Nevertheless it’s a blast.
Including those two, I watched a total of fifteen movies in January. Here is the full list: