It’s funny how the zeitgeist can be tapped with this film or that. Recently much has been said and written about Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball,” which appears to be a snapshot of the here and now in its example of being forced to do more with less, the advantage of the rich over the poor and the necessity for ingenuity to find a path to the finish line. And of course George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” speaks explicitly to corruption in politics, even if it is more a yarn about human nature than a political morality play.
However, a trio of films seem to be stumbling right into the here and now in unique ways this month, too. Two of them hit theaters today, the other a week from today.
Andrew Niccol’s “In Time” and Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” first got me thinking along these lines. The haves/have-nots nature of the narratives really find resonance at a time when the Occupy Wall Street movement is at a fever pitch. In the case of the former, Niccol spins a science-fiction yarn about a future where time is currency. We’re able to turn off the aging gene and, for the right price, you can live forever. And one key line from the film used in trailers and TV spots really speaks the cause of the down-trodden in metaphor: “No one should be immortal, even if just one person has to die.”
Ratner’s film, meanwhile, was clearly conceived with current building economic realities in mind, but it’s really just lucking into the white hot boiling point of these realities by hitting theaters in a week. An action comedy hinging on a sort of modern Robin Hood heist, the film takes Wall Street to task and presents a hero willing to make a serious sacrifice to right the wrongs of the upper class.
The flip side of this, though, is Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous.” On its face, this tale built around the Shakespearean authorship question doesn’t appear to speak to today’s concerns. But around the issue of doubting Shakespeare’s works as written by his own pen has always come the ugly accusation of classism. The idea that a lower class playwright couldn’t have been “the soul of the age,” as the works are referred to in the film, isn’t exactly the kind of thing people want to hear right now, if they’re looking hard enough into the film — which is conceived with a heavy dose of intended melodrama — to see this unfortunate timing note, that is.
It’s left to be seen how the zeitgeist will be reflected in this year’s Oscar race. Last year, “The Social Network” could only ride that train so far. But while these films, particularly “In Time” and “Tower Heist,” aren’t likely to tickle the awards season’s fancy, they nevertheless represent the collective artistic reflection of a time and a place, and therefore will always be of a piece — regardless of perceived quality — with the environment into which they were released.