First Friday Films Take Seven
Gone Baby Gone
I knew he had it in him. He showed us what he was capable of with Good Will Hunting; but then while his better half went about building a stellar body of work, he made Gigi and went tanning with JLo. To watch the special features of this DVD made me so happy. I've always wanted to believe that Ben Affleck was smarter than some of his decisions imply and knowing that he directed this film completely restores my faith. A large portion of credit goes to Dennis Lehane for writing a killer book.
Gone Baby Gone is a tense thriller/drama about a kidnapping, corrupt cops, drug dealers, and the chaos swirling around them all. I like Casey Affleck a lot and have always thought he has the chops to hold his own -- this film proves that. Casey's in the lead role of a young cop trying to do right, even when his version of "right" is highly controversial, and he plays it perfectly. It's set in gritty south Boston, where the Affleck's grew up, and so the authenticity is hard to debate. It's rough and crass and many locals were hired as the extras. I liked it a lot.
Sex and Breakfast
I'm about to make an assumption without Google-researching the hypothesis: this film was written and directed by those young annoyingly spoiled filmmakers who were born in and then never really left LA and their shallow version of "problems" is embarrassing to watch and difficult to take seriously. It's not easy to describe, but it you watch enough movies you can spot these Made in the Los Angeles Vacuum flicks from a mile away. Sex and Breakfast is a prime example of this genre. I'm not going to take the time to Google my assumption, so if it ends up that my theory is proven wrong, I apologize for being so mean.
I'll readily admit that I was sucker punched by the provocative title and beautiful actors. I like Macaulay Culkin and Eliza Dushku is astonishingly beautiful, what can I say? So the movie was interesting enough, but I have a really really hard time believing that outlandishly gorgeous couples in their young-twenties are serious enough and mature enough to seek counseling for their fledgling relationships (or rich enough, by the way, to live in impossibly hip and huge lofts in downtown LA...or paid for said therapy). The premise of the movie is that two such couples sign up for "group sex therapy" - which is to say orgies arranged by the therapist - and we're supposed to be enthralled by the tension of will or won't their relationships survive the night of group sex. I'm sorry, but beautiful people and provocative title or not, who cares?!
West Bank Story
Hysterical. Hysterical. Hysterical. It can't be described because it sounds insane and racist and offensive, but it's absolutely...hysterical. It's a short film that uses two fast food restaurants, and the arguments between the owners and employees, to symbolize the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Dueling falafel huts where every time the Jews say "hummus" it causes mass confusion because it sounds like "Hamas," song and dance numbers in the streets (a la West Side Story) detailing the love story of an Arab girl and an Israeli border guard, and a large brick wall built in between the two restaurants when the Israeli kitchen equipment encroaches on the Arab's property. It's a riot, it was an official Sundance selection, and it won an Oscar in 2006. Check it out!
The Other Boleyn Girl
I had this same feeling about Kite Runner: the unfulfilled longing for an amazing movie on par with an amazing novel. It's not that Kite Runner is bad, because I liked it, and it's not that The Other Boleyn Girl is bad, because I liked it too; it's just that movies rarely compare in quality to their literary counterparts. The individual performances in this film are great. Natalie Portman steals the show and delivers an amazing performance as Anne Boleyn. Scarlett Johansson deserved way more screen time and freedom to be her powerhouse self (Mary Boleyn in the book is vastly a larger character than Mary Boleyn in the film). Eric Bana is moody and brooding and wicked hot and pretty much exactly what he was supposed to be as Henry VIII. Oh and by the way, Jim Sturgess (the lead in Across the Universe) was a pleasant, pleasant surprise.
All in all I think the movie tried way too hard to be megaplex marketable. I wish that it had been three hours long, art house dramatic, and at least attempt to tell the vast and sweeping story the book tackles. The movie boiled it down, way down, and it was the worse for it. The film also focused way. too. much. on the George Boleyn/Anne Boleyn incest situation, even claiming it was the sole reason she was executed. Not true. It's much more complicated than that. Anyway, I guess they thought that story line would make the film salacious and interesting. And yet they completely neglected the fact that George was gay and had a boyfriend and Mary enjoyed a beautiful romance with William Stafford and Anne herself was virtually responsible for the creation of the Church of England and so many other fascinating details that were completely ignored. And yet...you know with that cast...I'll totally see it again.
Summary: An innovative filmmaking concept that pulled off successfully for about 70% of the movie and then it all went to pot...or at least it went the way of every other action movie ever made: long car chase followed by quick plot wrap up with little explanation or logic. That first 70% was the exact same moment repeated about six different times from six different points of view. Rather than keep that arty momentum and let the entire film be a handful of vantage points, it stopped telling the story that way and it became one perspective, one action shot, one single story to wrap it all up. It was worth seeing and definitely entertaining (can't imagine why it wasn't released with the other brain drains in July), but it could've been a lot cooler.
It also could have been a lot more political. They hint at the global anti-American sentiment and they hint at a president who may or may not have remarkable similarities to a one George Walker Bush (ahem), but they never hit it hard. I guess that's probably not the role of a bubble gum action flick, but I think it could have been.
I usually hate movies like this and seeing this movie was not a choice I made...but I'll admit I totally loved it. Totally. Loved. It. I was surprised by how adult it was and how much I related to it. The premise is simple: A father in the midst of a divorce is asked by this ten-ish year-old daughter to share the story of how he met her mother. He proceeds to tell the story of three significant relationships from his past, with the somewhat contrived premise that the daughter will guess which woman is her mother.
I should warn you that this movie is an Obama commercial masquerading as a Clinton campaign flashback (you'll see what I mean), but I obviously didn't mind that. At any rate, the reason I like the movie is because Rachel Weisz...errr...that too, but because related to the relationships. I've been in many similar situations in my own romantic relationships and the way the stories were told resonated with me. On top of that Ryan Reynolds is hysterically funny and btw - if you've ever wondered what my brother looks like (why would you?) - look no further than Ryan Reynolds. It's creepy because I think Ryan Reynolds is hot. Huh.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
The Film Center had a free screening of this movie and I'm glad they did because I don't know that I would have seen it otherwise. My friend and I both agree that the preview doesn't do it justice. It's a campy lighthearted romp, to be sure, and completely predictable, but the movie is surprisingly better than you'd expect.
The premise -- a dowdy old housekeeper becoming a "social secretary" (ie: one who shuffles one lover out the back door while shuffling another in the front door) for a flighty vixen, while in the meantime dowdy old housekeeper finds her own lover -- is trite. But I will say that it's better than it sounds and it's a great way to chill out for a couple hours.
The Golden Compass
My Harry Potter indoctrination last month opened for me a whole new world of interesting movies: children/youth fantasy adventures. That's probably not even a real genre and something that I just now made up, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about by that description. I didn't know The Golden Compass was the first film in a series. While I went to this movie expecting a clean wrap-up within two hours...I was left hanging with the realization that this will now, along with Harry Potter, be added to the list of sequels I wait for.
I really liked this movie. I remember seeing the preview and thinking it was a "maybe" and then the polar bear started talking and it went back to a "no" and post-Harry Potter I thought I'd give it a go. It's a fascinating way to teach children about subverting authority (a valuable lesson...and I'm not being facetious) and thinking for themselves, dreaming for themselves, and acting for themselves. I heard there was some scuffle from the religious right about this film being anti-Christian. It's not anti-Christian, it's anti-establishment in any possible form The Establishment takes. It's about standing up to an Orwellian culture of blind obedience and making your own decisions based on your own passions. Right on. (Side note for my LDS peeps -- Mark my words: coming to a ward near you there will be an over-the-pulpit reference to the golden compass metaphor within six months. The doctrine of agency and a little instrument called the Liahona...sound familiar? "It is the Alethiometer. It tells the truth. As for how to read it, you'll have to learn by yourself.") The religious right is lame. The Golden Compass is rad.