First Friday Films | Take Three

First Friday Films | Take Three
And the award goes to...

The thin air turns cool, colorful leaves fall from trees in crunchy piles, and mainstream movies are finally worth seeing again. Ahhhhh yes...fall Oscar season is upon us.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
I've posted before about my obsession with the slice of heaven that is Cate Blanchett. Well, pair her with the mmmm-hmmm deliciousness that is Clive Owen and then put them side by side in a sensual, lush, sexy, intelligent period piece about powerhouse Elizabeth kicking Armada cajones...and enough said. "I have a hurricane inside of me..." Ohmigosh, love it. If Cate doesn't walk away with an Oscar I will be very surprised. This is a must-see and if you're me...see it again.

Across the Universe
Did everyone love Julie Taymor's Frida as much as I did? There are moments in Frida when you get glimpses of the eccentricity that is Taymor's film making, but it's on full feature-length display in Across the Universe. I actually went into this film expecting it to be a lot more avant garde than it is. I love musicals and I loved this film, but I wanted even more weirdness. The plot line is completely predictable, but the way Taymor plays with the Beatles songs and stages each scene like its own individual work of art is awesome. Oh yeah, and Jim Sturgess. Welcome to Hollywood, you lovely, lovely man, welcome.

Michael Clayton
"The truth can be adjusted," reads the tagline. The reason I love George Clooney's political films is because they are drastically understated, but you still leave the theatre reeling. This film is tense, jam packed with convoluted dialogue, nothing is straight forward and you have to wind your way through delicate character twists and subtle plot turns (think Syriana times ten). The script doesn't give you an inch and Clooney is flawless as the manipulating, and manipulated, "fixer." I loved it.

Eastern Promises
Pretentious chatter: Something about Viggo Mortenson giving the performance of his life (which he truly did) and Naomi Watts holding her own in this testosterone drenched drama and my reminder that I really enjoy Vincent Cassel and the script being really smart and tight blahblah. All of which is completely true. However, the discussion I actually had after leaving the theatre: That movie was so ridiculously senselessly gratuitously violent that I couldn't keep both eyes open long enough to enjoy it. The violence was raw and perfectly executed in that sense. It's just that raw violence is difficult to watch. Thumbs down for nude sauna fights where someone gets a knife jammed and twisted in their eyeball. Okay fine, Viggo is totally svelte and I'm not opposed to his nude bum, so thumbs down for fights where someone gets a knife jammed and twisted in their eyeball.

We Own the Night
Beyond being a tense thriller laced in nearly as much testosterone as Eastern Promises, this film is a well-writen story of family and the lengths you'll go to for those you love. I enjoy watching stories of relationships between men (not exclusively Brokeback style stories, though I love that movie). Our society enculturates men in such unfortunate ways. The idea that men can be emotional and vulnerable is not an idea widely promoted in our media landscape and that's unfortunate. It was Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wallberg's vulnerability that made this movie. While on the subject, can I have a moment of silent gratitude for the casting agent. Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Walberg. Oy and Oy. Not to be overlooked, Eva Mendez is out of this world beautiful and she pulls off one of the hottest sex scenes (or one of the hottest nearly-almost-sort-of-sex scenes) I've seen in a long t
ime. Joaquin's involvement in said scene did not hurt.

As I start my thought process for this blurb about Rendition I'm noticing a pattern in my own writing...I can't seem to resist commenting on the actors sex appeal. It's not that I'm shallow, I'm not. It's just a Libra thing. I'm eternally attracted to The Beautiful and have a heightened sensitivity for pleasing aesthetics, in fellow humans or otherwise. Granted, my definition of beauty may not be universally appreciated (see The Dog Problem below) but I'm moved by it nonetheless. That observation out of the way, let me interject two points. Number one: Omar Metwally. One to watch. Number two: On the eighth day, when God woke up in a particularly good mood, he decided to bless planet earth with the unparalleled vision we call Jake Gyllenhaal. Give us this day our daily bread and thank you, dear Lord, for every. single. square. inch. of. Jake.

So anyway, about Rendition, I get the sense that it will seem very politically charged to Middle America enamored of commercial news broadcasts and miniature flags flying from Chevrolet windows, but I think the film stopped short of it's moral obligation. If you're going to tackle something as serious as America's hypocritical and immoral foreign policy, tackle it. Tackle it, take it down, and don't tap out. Even still, I respect the film for what it did do: explode the issue onto screens in a suburban megaplex near you. It's a great movie and I liked it, don't get me wrong, and even though the script ultimately goes soft, it still pushed the issue further than anything else Hollywood is serving up. (This statement will hold true, I suspect, until I see Lions for Lambs. I wager Rendition's political bite will be trumped by Redford's rage).

The Dog Problem
Scott Caan, who most people would recognize from the Ocean's 11, 12, 13 series, wrote and directed this film. Scott also acts in the film alongside Giovani Ribisi (they also worked together on two other movies I like: Gone in 60 Seconds (dreadlocked Angelina, anyone?) and Boiler Room). The Dog Problem is a total sleeper hit, but worth tracking down. It made the festival circuit and has that particularly charming indy feel to it. I love how quirky and odd it is. I laughed out loud throughout the entire movie and yet it's more than just a comedy. It's sexy and playful and a great way to spend 88 minutes of your day. I Reboxed it on a whim because, what can I say, Giovani Ribisi does it for me. He's gorgeous and his voice is like butter...raspy, mildly autistic butter. He's brilliant and witty, beside being impossibly hip. He has a chic edge that can't really be explained, but it's unmistakable. I adore him and I adore this movie.

I said it. You can't stop the beat. I won't tell you that I saw this five times or that I went to the sing-a-long showing and sat in the front row and rocked out like a giddy school girl. I won't tell you those things because it's rather embarrassing.

And one more...because...come on now...

On the Road Again | Iowa City, Iowa

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