Friday, September 05, 2008

In which I go to the movies. A lot.

I think it's high time for a movie round-up, don't you?

Since my last movie report (I consider that to have been my completion of the superhero movie sweep), I have seen the following:

1. Pineapple Express: I really enjoyed this movie until about the last third. James Franco gives an entirely inspired performance that I am going on record as saying will be iconic in the category of stoner characters. It got too violent, so much so that it felt like a whole different movie in the last third. Also, why would anyone use Rosie Perez and not give her a funny role? I call that a failure of imagination on the part of the filmmakers. Finally, though, when Seth Rogen first sees Ms. Perez, who plays a corrupt cop, he says, from within a cloud of apparently ambrosial dope-smoke, "What an adorable cop!" So maybe it was worth it, just for that line.

2. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Believe it or not, this movie was pretty much completely enjoyable. The young women were both good, and Scarlett Johannson had a nice performance for which she seemed well-cast. Rebecca Hall, who plays her friend Vicky, however, is revelatory, and Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are perfect, wonderful, magnificent. There's always someone in the film who has to channel Woody Allen--both Johansson and Hall do it at least a little bit--but it didn't mar the film at all, in part because there were these two magnetic presences offsetting the Allenesque style/aesthetic/neurosis (take your pick of nouns). Lovely. Life-affirming.

3. Tell No One: See earlier post for my rant about too much exposition. However, the leading man, François Cluzet, gives a terrific, riveting, intense performance, and Kristin Scott-Thomas and Marie-Josée Croze are also very good. I guess I sort of forgive the film for the exposition, but I cannot rave about it the way so many critics did. Have they no standards? How soft are they? (Go ahead, laugh--I want you to. I know I have no standards and that I am soft. I am reveling in this severity I feel about the exposition. Reveling.)

4. Brideshead Revisited: I enjoyed this movie scene for scene and performance for performance. However, I just could not get revved up about it. It felt like there was almost nothing at stake . . . in a movie about the oppressions of organized religion. You'd think I might find a thing or two to care about there! But no. Ultimately, this movie felt decorous and well-made. It should have broken my heart and ravished me. It did not, and too bad for that.

5. The Edge of Heaven: This film is wonderful, beautiful, almost perfect. It has everything to recommend it and almost nothing to detract. It is beautifully written and performed and it does break your heart, as it should. Don't miss this movie!

6. Elegy: Another amazing performance by the beautiful and utterly soulful Penelope C., as well as Ben Kingsley in a great role, a jerk of an English professor (is there any other kind?). I knew I wanted to see this and I also knew it had every chance to make me hate it--aging guy, much younger woman, and he has to learn a lesson and become a better person. See? So easy for this movie to be just awful. But not only was it not awful, it was, I thought, beautiful and very moving. I think this is due to the absolute perfection of the performances. Dennis Hopper also gives a great performance as another asshole--this time, a poet (is there any other kind?). Deborah Harry (yes, of Blondie) plays Hopper's wife, briefly and memorably.

7. Man on Wire: The blurbs for this film used all kinds of superlatives to praise it, and, as with many documentaries, I wondered, okay, well, but don't I sort of already get it? A guy, okay a French guy, walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers. Well, yes, that is the gist of it, but the film is far more wonderful and ineffable than that summary; the ineffability comes in equal parts from the archival footage, lovely reenactments, and the interviews. It seems miraculous, as with any work of art, that someone would think of this feat and execute it. This is another one not to miss.

And finally, tonight,

8. Frozen River. This is director Courtney Hunt's first feature, and it is really very good. Mostly very straightforward, narratively, but the setting--an economically depressed part of upstate New York, bordering on the Mohawk reservation, which spans the U.S. Canada border--is so meticulously and carefully delineated, and the characters are so evocatively developed, that it becomes a complex dramatic and moral document. Really a wonderful film. Melissa Leo, who looks as if she has lived the life of her character, is splendid and amazing. Lovely, too.

In conclusion, please go to the movies and see one of these awesome films. Sneak your own snacks in (just bring a really big purse, or if you don't have one, bring someone who does, so long as s/he will allow you to put your Slurpee, your Milk Duds, and your Slim Jims in there. Not really. I never eat Slim Jims, or Slurpees. Milk Duds, though.).


  1. My God, the positivity! Don't you know that the darkness surrounds us?

  2. They still make movies?

  3. Reading like you is like reading Pauline Kael in her prime. Well done!

  4. I will never see another movie again until you review it first.

    By the way, I meant to blog about American Teen and then got distracted by something or other. Anyway, I liked the angstiness of it. I thought the kids were (mostly) interesting, and I was willing to overlook the sometimes heavy-handed attempts to remind me that these kids are ARCHETYPES. So there. My movie review. Not nearly as eloquent as yours. (See first paragraph).



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