Sunday, March 30, 2008

Winter Passing

So, the first three months of 2008 are near a close and the film selection has been scant to say the least. January and February are notorious dumping months. As in the weaker films the studios have to offer, or films that have been shelved for some time, usually get their eventual minimal release, and this year, along with a weaker box office take than usual, has been no different. Did anyone see Strange Wilderness a film on the shelf of Paramount Pictures for about two years or so, or 27 Dresses, a middling romantic comedy? Really all tepid. I avoided almost all of films that have come out thus far, focusing more so on stronger films from 2007 that I missed. The Brave One, for example, which features a primo Jodie Foster performance in a rather underwhelming film, but Foster's focus drives the film, making it completely watchable and a worthy campaign can be made that she was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Or King of California, a nicely absurd caper that went unfortunately unseen through its theatrical run.

Of the films I did see, my favorite I suppose would be Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, a sweet, movie-longing lark with Jack Black and Mos Def. Neither actors are doing anything particularly fresh, but nonetheless are quite engaging. The best sequences of this deeply flawed film are the homages to classic movies. Gondry, a filmmaker with great organic effects, remakes films like 2001, Ghostbusters, Rush Hour, and most amusingly We Are the King. It's the kind of movie I truly wanted to love, but never quite gelled. Still I was amused and unabashedly taken with the love of cinema that came across that I couldn't dislike the film. Whenever the film became wan and uninteresting I just ran a few scenes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in my brain, and felt at ease.

Less worthy was The Other Boleyn Girl, the historical epic starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Henry VIII material is always rich and watchable, just on the fact, that there is so much drama to be mined from it. That the film is so melodramatic doesn't feel that inappropriate. However, the lack of historical integrity and the general Masterpiece Theater quality of the entire film becomes tiresome. Portman and Johansson acquit themselves quite nicely with nicely clipped British accents, but the whole affair becomes quite silly.

In Bruges, which has become the small success story of 2008 stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hit men hiding out in the fairy tale-like city of Bruges (it's in Belgium.) This film got on my nerves. The script, all very clever and quirky, actually grated me in a way many felt from my beloved Juno. Every line and secondary character and subplot felt forced. It's a nicely made film, but slowly got on my nerves. It's not a good thing when all you can think about while watching a movie, is when will this be over....

Married Life wasn't much better, but it does have lovely performance from Patricia Clarkson to make the unease go down better. It's set in the 1950s, a domestic affair about the betrayal and unfaithfulness of two couples. The tone of the film shifts from comedy to melodrama to noir quickly but awkwardly. It feels that Ira Sachs, the writer and director, was going for something like Todd Haynes' masterpiece Far From Heaven, but falls drastically short visually and emotionally. Miss Pettrigrew Lives For a Day, on the other hand, was a film I had virtually no interest in, and I've actually forgotten great chunks of it, but Amy Adams was the one element that kept me awake. She's as cute as ever, but also a breathy, light comedian channeling Marylin Monroe. Frances McDormand seemed a bit stiff and bored throughout the entire film, but Adams gives it energy and spunk.

2008 thus far hasn't had much to offer but I'm hopeful and optimistic there's possible greatness to come.....

1 comment:

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