Okay, so all I really have to say is that this one, which we just saw, is that this beautiful, bittersweet movie had me laughing and bawling like a baby. It’s also as gorgeously shot a film as you’ll see, for all that it’s being touted as indie and in a documentary style. The music is amazing.
Over the holidays, we wound up seeing a ton of films, both on DVD and in theaters. Here’s a quick run-down of all of them, from the best to the worst.
(1) The Lookout (DVD) – A stunning directorial debut by the screenwriter of one of our all-time favorite movies, Out of Sight. A slightly brain damaged ex-highschool hockey star tries to pick up the pieces of his life and gets involved in a bank robbery while trying to figure it out. Beautifully shot, perfectly edited, and with stand-out performances from everyone from Jeff Daniels in a supporting role to Joseph Gordon-Levitt amazing job in the starring role. Packs a real emotional effect by the end, without seeming contrived.
We rarely walk out of movies, but half-way through The Darjeeling Limited, we did exactly that. While we’ve enjoyed other movies by the director Wes Anderson–Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in particular–The Darjeeling Limited is bankrupt in terms of character and plot. If nothing happened but the characters were interesting, we would have kept watching. If something had happened even if the characters weren’t interesting, we would have kept watching.
We finally got to see Idiocracy, and were pleasantly surprised by the movie. As I’m sure has been noted, this isn’t SF so much as satire of our current times. Although the movie indulges in some of the same stupidity it’s trying to send up, the core of the film is sound. By simply increasing the present day’s stupidity level by a factor of 10, Idiocracy, sometimes painfully, points out not just how retarded we have allowed our consumer society to make us, but also how much we prize that slack-jawed, spittle-producing approach, mostly by downplaying and denigrating intelligence rather than rewarding it.
On the airplane back to the United States, Ann and I had the misfortune to see Knocked Up, a worthless piece of crap that I stopped watching about forty-five minutes in, although Ann watched the whole thing and told me I missed nothing. Here’s the movie in a nutshell: stupid slob sleeps with beautiful woman under drunken circumstances that are still not believable, woman gets pregnant, and eventually they learn to live with it, dumb-ass guy’s flaws becoming endearing while he also reforms somewhat (also unbelievably). The humor is flat, the acting broad, and the whole thing is shot like some kind of in-joke. “This here actor is funny, so this here scene should be funny even if it was written by someone who wears half of their brain on the outside due to a bizarre tuna cannery incident.” Enough said.
Beautifully filmed, often transcendent, Sunshine is the latest and most artistically successful of the Freddy Kruger Nightmare on Elm Street movies, although studio executives have made the smart decision not to advertise this fact. Wise indeed, since this installment is likely to appeal as much to tattered, love-lorn graduate students studying at liberal colleges as to drunken frat boys looking for a cheap thrill. (Note: Some spoilers follow.)
Sometimes you have to wonder what Hollywood is thinking. That was our reaction after watching two dissimilar and yet equally frustrating films.
Ann and I saw the Mad Men series finale on Thursday night and for much of it sat there stunned, watching one of the best forty-five minutes of television in the past year. The carousel pitch (video below–might be considered a spoiler) was one of the most brilliant examples of text and subtext being hardwired together that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s actually a great example for fiction writers of how to (1) advance the plot and surface of a story, (2) advance a subplot, (3) invest in characterization and backstory, and (4) express a character’s emotions indirectly, all at once.
Although there were a couple of episodes mid-season that sagged slightly, Mad Men is currently our favorite show.
Earlier this year, we saw The Prestige on DVD. That movie, based on Christopher Priest’s novel, was cold, cold, cold, but also had delights such as a cameo by David Bowie, and a chilling last image. However, the female characters were cardboard constructions moved around the board by the magicians. It was the kind of film that, due to amazing cinematography and some good acting by the male leads, held your attention while watching it, but faded from memory soon thereafter.
We watched Dead Girl on video this afternoon. It’s got a stellar cast, most notably Toni Collette, one of my favorite actors of all time. She has a seemingly infinity ability to transform herself mentally and physically into any role.