Alternative to What: “Brooklyn” (2015)

Saoirse_Ronan_Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified.

THIS WEEK:
Brooklyn (2015)
– Alternative To –
The Accountant (2016)

If there is one thing that’s obvious, it’s that being an accountant is one of the lamest jobs that you could have in cinema. What is there really to do besides crunch numbers and hit buttons? While there have been some iconic accountants throughout cinema, the reality is that few rise above mediocre people obsessed with their job. Ben Affleck’s latest The Accountant attempts to turn that into an exciting profession by adding espionage and international incident to the table. The only question from here is: who cares? Considering that Affleck has consistently risen between prestigious Oscar bait and nonsensical films like Batman v. Superman, one must wonder where The Accountant falls on that spectrum. Frankly, it looks too dumb to really be good.

However, one doesn’t have to go too far back to find an accountant that is actually worth watching. Last year’s Brooklyn is a film about an Irish immigrant who falls in love with a man in New York and becomes conflicted about returning to her homeland. Does she return home, or enjoy the new happiness that she has while working and befriending her peers in a women’s boarding house? There’s a lot of simple questions, and ones that become explored in light and a bit quaint ways. It’s a drama about heritage and identity, showing the struggles that come with culture in a new land. It may not seem like much, but it does help when the cast is charming and knows how to make the most of an earnest story.

Saoirse Ronan is at the center of the film and adds a certain weight to her hesitant performance. She seems to speculate through her eyes as she nervously navigates New York. It is a personal time, and one that gives heartwarming affirmation to her life. It’s humorous and tender. Brooklyn doesn’t have much in the way of major stakes, but it achieves the field of light drama with enough memorable moments to make it worthwhile. Is it the best immigrant story ever? Not exactly. However, it does have plenty of character – and that is often overlooked in films like this.

So, what does Brooklyn have to do with accounting? Ronan’s character is pretty good at the profession, even if her American job doesn’t give her the most chances to use it. The third act centers largely around her capabilities as an accountant to improve the work environment in Ireland that she came from. She is a hero. She makes everything better in a way that causes the viewer to feel like she would be of better use back home. Yet why would she want to stay in her homeland? The questions pile up and soon the answer isn’t simple yes or no questions. These are the personal issues that face everyone at some point in their lives. This one just happens to be told elegantly.

So while The Accountant looks to be a boring film that focuses around accounting as a means to an end, Brooklyn is a film that only uses it as a smaller part of a larger identity. She isn’t defined by her skills solely. She is more of a fleshed out character and is given freedom to try new and exciting things. Good luck seeing Affleck do that, especially with international business on the table. Even then, the general profession of accounting isn’t the most exciting to watch. There has to be more to the character, and it looks like Ronan may have the upper hand in that respects.

Check This Out: IMDb Launches the Top 250 for TV

Scene from Band of Brothers

Over the past decade, there have been few movie internet websites as valuable as IMDb. Short for the Internet Movie Database, the website prides itself on compiling information on every project that has ever had connection to a film or TV series with a voting scale of 1-10 stars to indicate what users think of them. Among the website’s primary features is the Top 250, which compiles the users’ favorite movies. It is an indicator of tastes and trends related to the website. But what about TV and its growing appeal over our downtime? Well, today IMDb launched its Top 250 TV feature that now compiles TV shows similarly to how they do movies. What tops the list? While the Top 5 isn’t likely to surprise you, the rest of the list is full of staggering results.

For majority of the website’s run, the only way to gauge TV series was through fan made lists that did applicable jobs of ranking the more noteworthy/recent series. Of course, TV in general is a lot harder to rank than TV. The quality of episodes can differ rapidly from week to week, season to season, etc. In fact, there’s subdivisions of rating for TV series that separates the episode rankings from the cumulative. So while we’re not looking too much at which show had the highest rated episodes, it is interesting to look at what audiences have been voting on.

As mentioned, the Top 5 isn’t that surprising and feature probably the finest diversity of the bunch with focus on miniseries, documentary series, and two of HBO’s most acclaimed series ever:

Speaking as voting is also partially a popularity contest, it makes sense why Breaking Bad is the highest rated TV series. In 2013, its episode “Ozymandias” held the honor of being one of the few episodes in the website’s history to have a perfect rating (it since has fallen to 9.9/10). Likewise, there’s the HBO flagship series The Wire, which has become considered the best drama series in TV history. And of course, Game of Thrones continues to flourish thanks to continual internet conversation around each season’s controversial stories. If anything, this list is a very admirable top.

But now we get to the heart of something more confounding: where does everything else rank? It is likely that if the show was halfway decent, it made the cut. However, the ranking may be quick to upset some people who take TV seriously. For instance, where does HBO’s other premiere series rank? The Sopranos is at #8, Oz is at #41, Rome is at #42, Deadwood is at #63, Six Feet Under is at #67, Curb Your Enthusiasm is at #90, John Adams is at #99, and Boardwalk Empire is at #114. Meanwhile, shows like Girls, Enlightened, and Treme are just a few that didn’t make the cut.

Just from the order of those things, there may be those quick to complain about the order. Is Oz really better than every almost every other series on HBO? It is speculative. However, it should also help to provide context to shows that all of these have outranked: Futurama is at #121, Parks and Recreation is at #125, The Muppet Show is at #146, Community is at #152, I Love Lucy is at #169, Lost is at #188, and Orange is the New Black at #234. There’s also a few confounding selections, including the high ranking of The Newsroom at #130 or even more recent series like Daredevil at #40. Meanwhile, Mad Men is at #111.

Much like the movie Top 250, this list is probably going to change a lot over the course of its existence. However, it provides an interesting insight into what people are watching and how they rate it. True, there are aspects of this that contradict the general consensus, but it is impressively diverse. The amount of miniseries and documentaries mixed in proves that this list may end up being a valuable tool to assess popularity of each show. Is it perfect? No. Then again, neither is the movie Top 250. However, it makes for an interesting conversation, especially as the recently maligned True Detective season 2 clocks in at #11 on this list – a fact that is mostly due to its first season. It is likely to go down, but how far?

I don’t feel like I have done the website its fair share in simply pointing out where everything ranks. If anything, I mostly do it to show how interesting the results are. While there aren’t as many features yet as the movie version, I am sure that it will all come in time. For now, we have a new feature to one of the internet’s most valuable resources for movie fans. With the growing impact of TV, I can only imagine how more integral the Top 250 TV feature will become as time runs its course.