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.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anthony Minghella (1954-2008)

Very sad news, Anthony Minghella, writer, director, producer died today. The multi-hyphenate, multi-talented Minghella is known mostly epic romantic sagas The English Patient and Cold Mountain. Other films include Truly, Madly, Deeply (which I sadly haven't seen yet), Mr. Wonderful, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Breaking and Entering. So we have this man responsible for Jude Law's best performances. Minghella won the Oscar for The English Patient and deserved at the least another nomination for Ripley, my personal favorite of his films. The elegant production design, jazzy score, and beautiful Italian locales provided the eye candy, but the haunting grace and hypnotic suspense is truly breathtaking. He guided Matt Damon, Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett to terrific performances, and made a modern thriller, in pure-Hitchcockian beats. The film, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel, did decent enough box office and scored a few Oscar nominations, but it still saddens me that the film, however rough, never caught on more so. Sad news indeed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Political Musing

Oklahoma House member Sally Kern made some comments reguarding the state of homosexuals and the threat they carry. And here is a better mantra to live by. Be angry! Fight hard! This is not over!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Hollywood has gone too far, what with the news for an upcoming remake of Roman Polanski's pitch perfect piece of cinematic heaven, Rosemary's Baby, to be produced by Michael Bay!! Horrors! As a fan of the original movie and the novel by Ira Levin, I am particularly livid, because few books are adapted so well (seriously read the book and watch the film-- it's impeccible how how it's transfered.) Plus the genius of Polanski was clearly evident, the immaculate production design, the grand, creepy pacing, the geniune horror and suspense of the material (which is all pretty much internal-- to watch the film again, it's shocking how really there's no violence or literal scares in the whole movie)-- which continues to make the film the classic it so deserves to be. The film is also a landmark achievement for Mia Farrow, with her classic chopped haircut and beautifully haunting fragility. She deserved an Oscar nomination, in my humble opinion.

So my point, why does a film still pertinent, still remarkably undated, still chilling need a remake. What possesses Mr. Bay to go forward-- few filmmakers are as grand as Polanski, how can a nearly perfect film be done better? How can you get an actress to match Farrow's iconic glory? Needless to say, I'm sure the finished project will be more blood-spotted and more choppily editted, possibly featuring a metal score to be better connected to 2008 youth (though that opening lullaby is still creepy as hell), but why? This is one of the cherished films that should not be screwed with. It be done before (Gus Van Sant's Psycho), but why?
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