Another random bunch of movies
I guess I should start with happy new year, and follow-up by explaining that my reading habits have gone to the dump this past month. Seriously, I have about half of the last Dune volume, and then I’ll really be back…or so I keep telling myself. I can’t even blame it on House, I actually finished the entire series and now I’m anxiously waiting for episode 11 this coming Monday (it may very well be past its peak, but Hugh Laurie is 100% worth watching). I could try to blame it on the couple of movies I’ve seen recently – and of which I’ll be writing below…but it would be fairer to say I just was on holiday 😀
Now then – this really is a random bunch – just stuff I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks. I’m once again trying to see all the potential Oscar noms as soon as I can get my hand on them, so this is as good a starting place as any:
Up in the air. First thing that crossed my mind after seeing this: it’s great to watch a grown up movie. Because it is, it’s not silly, ridiculous, or far-fetched, it has great performances, good dialogue and real situations to empathize with – and I think it’s something pretty rare. No special effects but a brilliant opening sequence, not forced happy ending but natural character development…and George Clooney is not just a “movie star”, he is an actor and I kinda love him for it.
A serious man. The last Coen brothers outing (Burn after reading) was slightly disappointing for me, even with all the big name cast…but after this, it’s all forgiven. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfect as Larry Gopnik, a perfectly clueless and baffled man hit with loss after loss, degraded and diminished with every minute and forced to come face to face with the absurdity of his existence. It’s less goofy than other Coen exploits, but it does have its moments of humor…and I would say it’s an insightful look into Jewish family and tradition, except that I don’t know much about either. But most reviews said it, so there has to be some truth in there. I for one loved it.
An education. This had me sold when I first heard the script is by Nick Hornby (and I can now say that it’s a pretty good one too 😉 ), but I wasn’t expecting the film to be so beautiful – beautifully shot, with such an attention to detail and some great images. The second trip to the 60s (the first being A serious man), this movie focuses on the coming of age story of Jenny (played by a much – and rightfully so – lauded Carey Mulligan) as she jumps from school and ambitions of Oxford into the arms of an older (and supposedly charming, but I have to say – and this is my only quibble with the movie – that Peter Sarsgaard didn’t particularly deliver) man. It’s clear from the start that no good can come of this, but it doesn’t make the story less compelling.
Sherlock Holmes. I had been waiting for this for ages, being a fan of most people involved (Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey jr, even Jude Law on occasion) and after seeing it, my only impression is “meh”. I wasn’t crazy about the plot; I thought it went on for too long (maybe if they cut 30 mins or so?) but I actually had fun with the less classic-Holmes bits, like the fighting. Plus, the Holmes-Watson dialogue was quippy enough to be the main attraction of the film, since there never was anything real at stake (I think I’m paraphrasing from some review I read; but it is so spot on). If (or I should say when) they do a second I’ll probably be back, but with the bar set a bit lower. I guess it’s time to let go of my hope that Guy Ritchie will make another Snatch.
Diarios de motocicleta. Yep, I finally got around to this one and between this and Che (of which I’ve yet to see the second part) I think I’m fully up to date with my Che Guevara bio. The movie is pretty good: a road trip with beautiful scenery on the background, and the obligatory meaningful encounters.
Defiance. Another Holocaust story turned into a movie; this time the story of two Jewish brothers (Daniel Craig & Liev Schreiber) organizing a resistance in the Belarusian forests and managing to save over 1000 people in the process. This would all be very inspiring, except that I was bored out of my mind.
Brideshead revisited. If this is anything to go by, I made a good choice not to read Evelyn Waugh’s classic. Emma Thompson is lovely as always, but she can’t save this utterly lifeless movie.
And an oldie: Where the sidewalk ends. The typical markings of a noir: gritty detective, mobsters, beautiful dame a murder mystery and a troubled conscience all tied up in a perfectly balanced package. The first Otto Preminger movie I’ve seen – and definitely not the last, I was really caught in this one.