Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Before I start, let me state the obvious here: Natalie Portman needs to eat something and Jason Schwartzman can't act. In the short that preceeds the film, Portman poses completely naked and she is positively skeletal- not thin, but skeletal. Each rib is well defined. It is a horrifying look for a beautiful young woman. Schwartzman, like his cousin Sofia Coppola, is so flat in another way and untalented in everything he does that he is the poster child for Hollywood entitlement. Maybe he could be seen as having anorexia of acting? He was awful in his first film and will be awful til the last. Guess all the acting talent in that family went to Nick Cage. Now down to the story- I think this movie is the best one that Wes Anderson has done. If you don't like Anderson's films, you won't like this one. But it has the predictable quirky characters doing quirky things and yet, it doesn't have the strange feeling of "the characters are odd because they have to be" of the Royal Tannenbaums or the lameness of The Life Aquatic. A lot of faces will look familiar, and that is part of the fun. Finding Anderson's friends from previous films in the background is like a cinematic where's waldo. India is such a different country from ours- some of the most meaningful religious rituals, yet some of the most polluted areas in the world. As if the soul is more important than the quality of life. It is so homogeneous in population that gringos stand out like poppies in a rice field. Because of their homogeneity, the culture is rich, but also ripe for the lampooning. Was Anderson making fun of the depth of their rituals or the stupidity of the people who use those rituals in a superficial way and then think they are more spiritual? I don't know. But I do love the color of marigolds, and the movie is full of it. It is more quirky than funny, and more superficial than deep, and more light than dark. We saw it in a packed theater where some people (older) were compelled to talk back to the screen and laughed out loud. Another mystery to ponder.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

If there is a more understated actor than Casey Affleck, I'd like to see him. Bogart is the closest to it, with so little expression but a whole lot of vocal inflection and eye contact. I can't figure out what makes this guy so good, because he is so BORING to look at on screen. Yet, you sit mesmerized by something about him. Maybe waiting for him to DO something? When he finally hits someone in this film, even that seems to out of place. But back to the movie. Gone Baby Gone is a very good movie because it has to be compared with all the bad ones. Ben Affleck directs it and it has his same slow tempo. There are a few times when the viewer just has to wonder WHAT exactly the film is about- it is about the abduction of a child, or police corruption, or the death of a cop's kid, or a romance between two people who don't agree on right or wrong? There is also a strange plot diversion with a pedophile in a dilapidated house- well, that was manipulative and didn't belong in the film. It had one too many story lines. But other than that, the film has a good story- gripping and poignant, and brings up some important points about our treatment of child abusers in our country and how neighbors and neighborhoods can protect them. Also, in the end, the viewer is left to decide whether the bad guys were good and the good guy was bad or not. That alone makes the film worth seeing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A different critic used the word indulgent to describe this movie. And I have to say that 2 1/2 hours of sepia tones and longing looks and pregnant pauses does get to be a literal pain in the ass. No other way to put it. Luckily, I was at one of those luxurious theaters with padded leather chairs and great ice cream and my friends Liz and Brian. Brad Pitt looks older and worn out- like his character. He does a great job with the sadistic Jesse James. Casey Affleck does a great job staying in character as the dim-witted but determined Robert Ford. The James gang comes across as thugs and Jesse is the biggest thug of all. When Robert Ford finally shoots him, we are relieved it's over. We have, after all, waited for 2 1/2 damn hours to see it. Ford's end is sad but the viewer doesn't care because we only like movies that have honor among their thieves. Not one of the James' gang has honor. It's always interesting to see films that remind us there was not always a photo on the nightly news or internet or a 911 number when the bad guys were in town. This is a brutal, somewhat vicious film that moves at a snail's pace- intriguing, but nonetheless annoying. The book is actually probably faster to read since it is a paperback and is relatively short! Spoiler alert: you will have to look at Mary Louise Parker on the big screen and that takes courage. BUT if you like Brad Pitt and/or Casey Affleck, they are on the screen for a looonnngggg time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Clayton

Is it a morality tale, a suspense film, a commentary on legal manipulations and corporate greed? Why, yes it is. D)All of the above. It is smartly done and well written. It is appropriately dark in most of the scenes. Clooney appears appropriately weary, though I think that has gotten easier as he comes closer to 50 in real life. He plays a man of flaws, a man who sees himself as the janitor of the law firm- cleaning up messes and making bad things go away. The first hour of this film requires your full attention. Do not plan on getting up for popcorn or a bathroom visit. If you do, you will be quite lost. I thought it was needlessly convoluted in a few spots, but Alex liked it as did 90 percent of the critics. Maybe I have gone to too many light weight movies lately. Of course, the corporation is evil and cancer causing- Clooney can't do a film without some political statement. I had the feeling I was watching a Grisham remake. There were holes in the veracity of the storyline- big holes. BUT perhaps it is, after all, just a story and the writer can do as he or she pleases. I do highly recommend this film- and if you like visuals, it is fun to watch the former Sexiest Man Alive juxtaposed by the Homliest Woman Alive, Tilda Swenson. Yikes! I guess in Hollywood they feel that you can only be believable as a smart, conniving businesswoman if you look like someone made your face in a pie plate. And is it me or has Clooney gotten a new nose- shorter and less broad? Well, go see it. Enjoy the absolutely lovely acting job done by the child who plays Clooney's son. He's a natural.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Across the Universe

This is a musical (all Beatles music done as cover) about the 60s, and judging by the songs used, the early 70s. The timeline is a little weird, so if you actually were of record purchasing age during that time period, the use of the songs during specific events where the songs weren't out yet can be disconcerting. I want to dislike Evan Rachel Wood. Mostly because she sleeps with Marilyn Manson, and really, what could say more about her than THAT? But except for her incredibly nasal singing, she is a good actress and she seldom gives in to the simpering crap you get from Scarlett J. There are some stellar cameos- the best for me was the one by Joe Cocker, who looks very worn and very ancient. Which says something about the lifestyle of the 60s. I have to mention Dana Fuchs here- she does the character who is a Joplin rip-off. She really pulls it off. It's hard to describe how this film is done because there is so much imagery (some beautiful and some ridiculous- everything from strawberry bombs to Greek chorus masks). Was it an homage to Fellini as well? What I took away from it is that the writer must have taken some of the famous people of the time, like Joplin and Hendrix, and mixed them with the drug use and anti-war demonstrations, then got a bunch of Beatles songs and made a movie? Is that correct? At any rate, it IS a film. Not a documentary. It has a beginning, middle and an end. I bought the sound track because I like good covers. It's good enough but not really like being there. Which, by the way, was no picnic.