Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Popcorn Bowl, Game 2: The Departed vs. No Country for Old Men

In January I challenged myself to watch the 64 award-winning movies that The Oregonian newspaper selected for readers to vote on for a tournament. My bracket is here.

Today I'm comparing The Departed with No Country for Old Men.

The short answer: It's a tie.

Chris and I watched most of No Country for Old Men a couple of months before the Popcorn Bowl challenge even started. I didn't realize it was the 2007 Academy Award winner for best picture. Based on a Cormac McCarthy novel and written/directed by the Coen brothers (I loved Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou?), I figured it'd be a good movie.

Well, we watched about 2/3 of it before I fell asleep.  I didn't like any of the characters (and believe me, characters don't have to be "likeable" in order for me to like them--many a villain has captured a piece of my heart). I didn't really get what was going on most of the time. Though the fact that I was falling asleep may have influenced that, toward the middle. We said we'd watch the rest tomorrow, and tomorrow never came. Then it showed up on the Popcorn Challenge list, and rather than forcing myself to rewatch it, I hoped that the movie it was up against would be so amazing that there would be no contest between them.

Enter The Departed.

This 2006 winner was directed by Martin Scorcese, who's famous for movies that I mostly haven't watched because Chris has told me I'd hate them (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Shutter Island). I did like what he did with Hugo, and I'm pretty sure I didn't hate GoodFellas despite the excessive violence, but that was 1990 so it's a little fuzzy.

Now, before I go on, there's one thing you have to know about me: I am not good with the faces in movies. I like for movies to be filmed like The Amazing Race where there is the pink couple and the guy who wears crazy hats, so I can keep track of who is who. I can and did get through half of Platoon before saying, "So which one is Willem Dafoe again?"

There are certain actors whose faces stick with me--I can always pick out Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, for example. I'm really good at spotting Morgan Freeman (no, come on, I'm serious! Even when there's another black man in the film.) And I thought I had Leonardo DiCaprio down pretty well.

So The Departed begins, and there's two young guys: Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, who are somewhat similar looking. (And then there's Jack Nicholson, who I can even pick out at baseball games on TV). And they each have a separate story line, which then merges into one story line, and by ten minutes into the movie I had no idea which guy went with which back story. I spent an inordinate amount of time throughout the movie (just ask Chris and Ben) asking, "So, is that the one who was in the taxi with Jack Nicholson at the beginning?" and "Wait, so this is the good cop posing as a bad cop, or the bad cop posing as a good cop? And how does he know Jack Nicholson again?"

I was even annoying to myself.

And I realize this is more of an issue for me than for most people, but I think dying Matt Damon's hair hot pink wouldn't have been such a bad idea. Or choosing an actor who was heavier set, or not white, or wore glasses. 
Wait, which one's Beyoncé again? 

However. Even if Colin Sullivan had been played by Beyoncé, it would not have changed the fact that by the end of the movie, any character that I could possibly have cared about had managed to either fully disappoint me, or die, or both. Chris, who can always tell his diCaprios from his Damons, was disgusted by the end, too. Not just because his movie companion kept asking annoying questions.

So I spent about 5 minutes trying to decide which of these two movies I hated less, or whether I needed to give No Country for Old Men another try, before I realized that no matter which one wins, it will be up against either Rocky or Slumdog Millionaire, both of which leave these two at the bottom of the bowl with the greasy dregs of unpopped kernels, as far as I'm concerned.



  1. I agree with hating aspects of both movies, mostly because of gratuitous violence, but I found The Departed a little less evil and that is a quality that ruins a movie for me (which is why I hated The Dark Knight). But a) it's basketball, not baseball, and b) there's only one person left at the end of The Departed anyway so you feel better not liking any of the characters. Does it help that it was loosely based on real people (mobster Whitey Bulger)
    Did you see The Fighter? More based on real events, again in Mass.

    1. a) I'm almost positive I can tell the difference between a baseball game and a basketball game. (I can even tell the players apart because they wear their names on their backs. Maybe we could consider this strategy for actors in movies?)

      No, really. Nicholson is a die hard Yankee fan. Check this out:

      c) I didn't realize The Departed was loosely based on real people, but I did know it was based on a movie made in Hong Kong that Chris said is better. I haven't seen The Fighter. Should I?

    2. a) Sorry, I didn't mean to insult you! This is what I was thinking of (Lakers game):

      b) Ahh, lucky for him, they filmed most of the movie in NY, even though the movie is set in Boston. You are taking your life into your own hands if you walk around Boston with a Yankees hat on.

      c) The Fighter is one of my new favorite movies. Yeah, it doesn't make sense because it's about boxing and I hate boxing. But I think I like it because: a) it's based on a true story; b) it's set in Lowell, MA, and c) the character development and acting are phenomenal (not necessarily in that order). Plus, compared to The Departed, they hardly swear at all (they only use the F word 107 times as opposed to The Departed's every other sentence it seems (but IMDB says 237).
      I think it's on Netflix so yes, you should watch it. The HBO documentary they refer to in the movie is real too, and I think I found it on YouTube (but watch the movie first).

    3. Cool. I will watch it, then! Even though you insulted my sports knowledge. ;-)

      I don't see it on Netflix but our library has it.

  2. Well, I have seen neither of these, so I can't really tell if our opinions on movies are similar. Where we definitely are similar though is in the telling, or rather not telling, people apart. I suck there. Wouldn't we have a ball watching a movie together--we could confuse ourselves even more as a team. :P

    Anyway, I loved this post, and literally giggled the whole way through it. Though I'm not sure you got me all too excited about actually watching either of these movies. ;)

    1. Oh we'd be great watching a movie together--as long as nobody else was around to listen to our silly questions!

  3. You're brave for watching these movies!

  4. I tried to leave a comment earlier but I needed to edit it and then it all locks up and I have to exit. Happens on my phone and on the iPad. Do you think Blogger and Apple products don't get along? (I'm on my Mac, now and it works fine - just the mobile devices that never seem to work.)

    Anyway, I was going to vote for No Country for Old Men. I read the book before I saw the movie and thought both were GREAT. A few reasons why NCFOM is better than The Departed is the women. Better roles for women, and better acting. (I did NOT like the psych/love interest actress in The Departed.) Also, I would argue that the sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones in NCFOM is a fabulous good guy.

    I'm sad for you that you have actor-recognition-challenge. That would make it very hard to watch a movie like The Departed, for sure.

    1. Those are very good arguments for No Country for Old Men. Maybe I should try reading the book and then see if I want to re-watch the movie? Though I still don't think it would win out over Slumdog, for me.

      Sorry about the comment trouble, and thanks for coming back and trying again! Maybe Blogger just doesn't like mobile devices.