26 February 2010

My Bottom Ten Movies of 2009

I saw about 95 movies that were released last year (not including those I counted on my 2008 list or Man on Wire would be on this list) and I liked these the least. Imagine what horrors I'd be subjected to if I didn't live in the third largest city in the country where I was too busy at art cinemas to be desperate enough to see things like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
Goodness, these were painful:

10. Public Enemies
9. Away We Go
8. The Hangover
7. Star Trek
6. The Blind Side
5. World's Greatest Dad
4. Funny People
3. A Single Man
2. The Hurt Locker
1. The Road

25 February 2010

Top Ten of 2009

I think I made a vague list of 30 or so of my favorite films of the year already but I never really committed to a Top 10. I don't think I've ever done that as a matter of fact. The staff at Facets posted their Top 10 lists today though and that was interesting enough so I thought I'd give it whirl. The trouble with my list this year is that it seems like I liked a lot of movies nobody else saw...

I'm cheating and making number ten a 4-way tie:
10. Treeless Mountain / Still Walking / Baader Meinhof Complex / Julia
9. Avatar
8. A Woman in Berlin
7. Hipsters
6. Gomorrah
5. Who's Afraid of the Wolf
4. Cherry Blossoms
3. Raging Sun, Raging Sky
2. Summer Hours
1. Strella

As far as I know, Hipsters (Stilyagi), Who's Afraid of the Wolf, and Strella (A Woman's Way) aren't available on DVD in the US and have no scheduled release dates.
Raging Sun, Raging Sky comes out on DVD on June 22.
Other than that, I think pretty much everything other than Avatar is available on DVD (and in most cases for instant viewing on Netflix).

The September Issue / The Informant!

I really enjoyed The September Issue even if my boyfriend zoned out and relocated himself in front of the computer for a large portion of it. It's sort of about the making of the big September issue of Vogue magazine, as if you didn't know. On the one hand, I might have liked to see a little more detail into the actual process and nuts and bolts of it all. On the other hand, Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, and Andre Leon Talley are so fascinating, you kind of just want to keep watching them. The critics were right; Grace Coddington is the heart of the movie. I think I'd have enjoyed it and forgotten it if it weren't for what she brings to the movie. I really enjoyed it but it might have been the wine and such. I'll have to rent it again some time. I angle to check out the deleted scenes anyway. B

The Informant! is the Steven Soderbergh movie with Matt Damon as that guy from that ADM scandal you may have heard about, price-fixing food additives and so forth. It was more interesting and entertaining to hear the piece on NPR about it. It was all right. It's nice to see Melanie Lynskey getting some work this year. C

22 February 2010

Up in the Air and Good Hair, again

Watched Up in the Air and Good Hair with some friends last night. Both of them were weaker the second time around. I was ambivalent about Up in the Air the first time but I didn't care for it at all the second time. I'm thinking Up might actually be less bad than Up in the Air, though I had thought the opposite before. It seemed sort of funny or sassy the first time around but this time it seemed glib and smarmy and irritating and unsavory. C-

Good Hair was mostly fun the first time, although parts of it were inane or half-baked. The second time it was still engaging but it seemed a little more glib and a little less credible. C

21 February 2010

Good Hair (2009)

I don't know how widely released this movie was. It played for a seemingly long time here in Chicago and it seemed to be recommended by all the movie recommenders. It's a documentary starring Chris Rock that looks into the mad world of black women and hair. Parts of the movie are really strong. Other parts not so much. For a part of the movie it seemed pretty good but then it either lost focus or they didn't have enough ambition or I don't know what. It reminded me of this documentary I saw once about women in Kenya and Tanzania, their relationship with skin tone, the dangerous chemicals they use to lighten their skin. And so forth. It was really eye-opening because I knew it was the same concept but I never really put the pieces together like that. I don't think Good Hair was as serious-minded as all that. It's playful and it challenges our ideas but it doesn't want to push too far. It was good but maybe a little lacking somehow. C+

19 February 2010

Coco Before Chanel / The Messenger / Invictus

It's almost turning into a habit to be ambivalent about everything I've seen lately! I certainly feel that way about Coco Before Chanel. On the one hand, it's handsomely made and quite engaging. On the other hand, there's something about it that doesn't ring quite true to me and on top of that, there's an element that reminds me of a tabloid, sticking its nose in a place where it doesn't belong and making dubious pronouncements and judgments. I didn't quite buy it. I don't know if it was accurate or not but it didn't come across to me as honest. How is this story relevant to us? I'm not sure I'm satisfied that the artistic value is worth the intrusion. It's funny, it reminds me of this Truman Capote story, "Music for Chameleons," in which a woman in Martinique talks about how coarse the Haitians are. It's said that the Haitians put their dead to work in the fields and that ghosts can be seen picking insects from the crops. She says in Martinique they leave the dead to their sorrows and their amusements. I feel like this movie feels like we're putting the dead to work. Maybe I'm being silly... C+

The Messenger is something of a mess. The premise does half the work for the film and you'd think a movie with such a rich premise and such a talented cast could come up with something more meaningful. The parts where they notify the nexts of kin and the kin react in various ways are generally the strongest, except the parts with Steve Buscemi, who seems extremely out of place in this movie. In some ways it's one of the stronger movies about the Iraq war. It's interesting that the best films about these late wars are either documentaries or movies about the drama at home, like In the Valley of Elah. I suppose there's also Rendition but I don't know if that counts. If only this movie could be crossed with The Hurt Locker, a decent script, and a good director. Dare to dream. C-

I thought Invictus was surprisingly good. Much more effective and less annoying than I had imagined. Another movie that is more deserving of an Oscar nomination than at least half of the actual nominees. It was so well-done, I forgot it was directed by Clint Eastwood until the closing credits rolled. I'll be surprised if Freeman doesn't win the Oscar, though I've been rooting for Jeff Bridges. It's kind of what you expect but it's executed better. You see? B+

Nine (Rob Marshall, 2009)

I expected a dumbed down remake of but it's actually a little more complicated than that. I mean, it certainly seems like more of a commentary on and a conversation with the original film. I think I appreciate the original film now in ways I hadn't before. I kind of feel like the film wasn't amazing by any means but that it's somewhat undervalued and I feel like that has to do with people's expectations, wanting another crowd-pleaser like Chicago, and with their unfamiliarity with the Fellini film. I kind of like the way Guido is takes his experiences and learns from them in this version, achieves a bit of humility. He's certainly more reflective here and the women make more of a stand here than in the original film. Perhaps it seems like revisionism or maybe adding a more satisfying ending can be called pat but I like that conversation. I like that it's sort of a musical and it sometimes seemed like a collection of musical videos--that's certainly what people say about it--but the music doesn't really stand out at all. I wondered throughout the movie why they don't adapt great musicals, of which I think there are some. You'd never know it by things like the Broadway in Chicago series (If that's what Broadway is, you can keep it!) but there are great musicals; I'm sure Hollywood would ruin them anyway. I liked it by the end, in any event. I think Penelope Cruz is good in it but she has such a small part, it doesn't seem like she has a chance for the Oscar she's nominated for, unless people (very unlikely) vote for her on the strength of her delightful turn in Broken Embraces. The nominated song is better than most of the other nominees but, as usual, all of the nominees are sort of hokey. My favorite of those is definitely "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart and this one is okay, as is the one from Paris 36. The two from the Disney movie on the other hand are kind of horrible, which is a good indication that one of them will win the award. It's interesting that I can't say that I loved any particular character or song or anything from this movie, it's more the conversation with the Fellini film that appealed to me... B

17 February 2010

My One Star Movies

These are the movies I rated one star on Netflix. Some might actually be two star movies but I'm not sure. I'm not very consistent, I guess. Also, some of these I loathed and others of these I sort of perversely enjoyed.

'Til There Was You, 28 Days, Ace Ventura I & II, Anchorman, Another Gay Movie, Armed and Dangerous, Back to School, Billy Madison, Bio-Dome, Blindness, The Bodyguard, Borat, Bringing Down the House, The Butterfly Effect, Caddyshack, Cadillac Man, The Cassandra Crossing, The Cheetah Girls, Circuit, Cocktail, Coneheads, Corky Romano, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Da Ali G Show, Dangerous Game, Daredevil, Deuce Bigelow, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat, Dukes of Hazzard, Dumb and Dumberer, Eating Out 3, anything with Eddie Izzard, Encino Man, Ernest Scared Stupid, Family Guy, Fast and the Furious, Flubber, Frequency, Hamlet 2, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Haunted Mansion, Home Alone 2, Hot Shots Part Deux, The Hottie and the Nottie, The Hurt Locker, The Invasion, Iron Man, Jack, Jackass, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Just One of the Girls, King Ralph, Kiss Me Guido, Larry the Cable Guy, Last Samurai, Lewis Black Red White and Screwed, Look Who's Talking Now, Look Who's Talking Too, Man of the Year 1995, Man of the Year 2006, Meet the Fockers, Men in Black, Men in Black II, Metrosexuality, Michael, Michael Moore Hates America, The Mighty Ducks, Monster in Law, Mr Deeds, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, National Lampoon's Animal House, National Lampoon's Van Wilder, The Next Best Thing, A Night at the Opera (1935), Nuns on the Run, The Nutty Professor (1996), Patch Adams, Pay It Forward, Phenomenon, Prime, Reign of Fire, Rent, Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise, The Road, Rock of Love: Season 1, Saving Private Ryan, Scary Movie, The School of Rock, Scrooged, Secret Window, Serendipity, Sin City, A Single Man, Slacker, Spaceballs, Species, Speechless, The Stepford Wives (2004), Sweet Home Alabama, Swept Away, Taking Care of Business, Things We Lost in the Fire, Three Men and a Baby, Trapped in the Closet: Chapters 1-12 R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet, Tropic Thunder, Valkyrie, Very Bad Things, Virgin Machine/Die Jungfrauenmaschine, Wagons East, Wedding Crashers, Weekend at Bernie's, Welcome to Mooseport, Wild Wild West, Wonder Showzen: Season 1

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

My boyfriend was in the mood for a gritty crime drama last night and neither of us had seen this one so he went and rented it. I really didn't like it much from relatively early on and I never liked it much more as it went on. It's four hours long and the screenplay seems like a mess. It's yet another American glorification of criminality and it's particularly kitschy. It's sort of on the elliptical side the way it bounces around between three different time periods but that might just come off as a way to camouflage the holes in the plot. My boyfriend and I both saw the twist ending coming a mile off and it was completely gratuitous. I don't think I'm morally corrupt enough to know what the point of this movie is. It seems to be shot well and the acting is fine but pretty much every other aspect is kind of terrible. D-

16 February 2010

February Omnibus Update #3

The films I've watched since I watched Body Double, except The Blind Side, which I've already posted about: A Serious Man, The Secret of Kells, Bedrooms and Hallways, Not Quite Hollywood, Penelope, Bright Young Things, Rory O'Shea Was Here, Gitane Demone: Life After Death, Sandra After Dark, Kansas City, and California Split.

I had already seen A Serious Man in the theater. I made my boyfriend watch it because I felt like it was the only movie nominated for Best Picture for this year's Academy Awards that might deserve to win, except for Avatar. I was sick and I was tired when he was watching it and I wasn't paying close enough attention. It definitely had more magic in the theater than it even did coming across my roommate's projector. I like the way all the parts of the film fit in with its themes, like the way we don't get the answers to our mysteries in life and how the old ways of explaining the world were no longer adequate or relevant. I like the way it ends because it seems like the tornado mirrors the oncoming personal calamaties and augurs what's about to happen in American culture generally. B+/A-

The next morning I watched Oscar-nominated animated film The Secret of Kells. It's hand-drawn animation, which is nice. It's about a little boy in Kells abbey who becomes a sort of apprentice in the making of the book. The Vikings or somebody are stirring up trouble in the region and the abbot is scared and obsessed with his big gate. The boy meets a fabulous girl in the woods who seems to be a fairy. It's kind of enchanting but not really groundbreaking or surprising or breathtaking though some of the visuals are lovely. B

Bedrooms and Hallways was a movie I'd seen some years ago and mostly forgotten. It's your typical millennial British relationship comedy with alternative lifestyles and a mens' group and so forth. It's all right but I liked Love and Other Disasters better because Brittany Murphy was in that one. C

Not Quite Hollywood is a documentary about Ozsploitation films, which were basically Australian B-films from the 70s and 80s, mostly sex comedies and thrillers. It started off pretty fun and interesting but as it went on it seemed kind of tiresome and relentless. C-

Penelope is that movie where Christina Ricci has a pig nose. I thought it would be an inane Twilight Zone retread but it was actually more entertaining than that. I enjoyed it. C+

Bright Young Things is a somewhat entertaining film about sort of celebutante types in pre-War Britain. The actors are affable and the film is engaging but it's kind of so-so and doesn't have very much interesting to say. I certainly wasn't thrilled with the ending. C

Rory O'Shea Was Here is a British movie starring James McAvoy as Rory O'Shea, a Billy Idol type with muscular dystrophy who gets put into a residential hospital at the beginning of the film. It becomes a sort of buddy film as he makes friends with a guy with cerebral palsy, I think, and they move into their own apartment. I mostly appreciate this movie for even existing. I knew someone with MD when I was a child but I have to say I haven't thought about it much since then. It made me think about a reality I hadn't thought enough about before and that's great. B

Gitane Demone: Life After Death is a collection of various interviews with and performances by Gitane Demone in the 1990s. It's a 2-DVD set and clocks in around three and a half hours. As such a big fan as myself might anticipate, the best parts are when she's not trying to be all hardcore. There are some semi-successful experimental jazz performances that seem like a sluttier, less ambitious Diamanda Galas. The interviews are, at best, a mixed bag, but seem like a goldmine for aged gothboys like myself. There's a pretty good performance at a rock festival in Germany at the end of the first disc and a number of great performances on the second half of the second disc, although the sound quality is kind of bad and the guitars are pretty much uniformly too loud by half. Rozz Williams has a heavy presence in those performances on the second disc and I kept thinking how great it would have been if Rozz Williams would have had a side project with Eva O AND Gitane Demone. (With Paris on keyboards?) If you weren't a fan in the 90s, i doubt this video will change your mind. Strangely, some of the best performances are from her fetish phase and I love that album she made then but I found the performances a little tiresome, personally. Oh well. Somewhere between an A- and a D+.

The only thing they had at the merchandise table of the Sandra Bernhard show I went to over the weekend that I didn't already own was a DVD of this HBO special she did in 1996. An episode of this show called Sandra After Dark. It was a sad waste of $25, unlike the show, which was a fabulous use of $47. I only wish I had saved the money on the DVD and gone to see the show again the next night. The show is like this late night chat show except it's supposed to feel less like a chat show and more like a party. It hasn't aged well and I'm not sure why they'd be selling it at the show. Why not a DVD of Confessions of a Pretty Lady or some of the CD's she sells through her website? Oh well. Love you, Sandra! D

That brings us up to last night. I watched Robert Altman's Kansas City because my boyfriend put it on Netflix streaming and, as expected, promptly fell asleep. I like the cast but it's really not one of Altman's best. It's entertaining but just sort of okay. I mainly liked the way it plays against the genre and the audience's expectations thereof. Plus, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, and the pretty eyes of Dermot Mulroney. C

Then I put on California Split, the only movie I hadn't seen by Robert Altman that's available now for instant viewing on Netflix. It pretty much takes two actors I don't like very much, Elliot Gould and George Segal, and emphasizes what I don't like about them. I made it through 45 or 50 minutes before deciding I'd rather be asleep than watching this movie. D- EDIT: I went back and watched the second half of this last night. I found most of it relentlessly annoying but I liked the very ending enough to boost my rating to a C-

15 February 2010

The Blind Side / Oscars 2010: How I'd Vote If I Were a Member of the Academy

I watched The Blind Side last night. I'm not in the habit of watching illegal copies of films and can't remember the last time I had done so (four years ago?) but the opportunity arose to watch this last night and it's the only best picture nominee for the Academy Awards I hadn't seen. After paying full price to sit through such awful movies as The Road and The Hurt Locker, I wasn't about to spend $11 to sit through the likes of this and I'm glad I didn't.
Firstly, I think it's really gross that they nominated Sandra Bullock for this instead of nominating Tilda Swinton for Julia. I don't think she's bad or anything, really. She's not great though and the movie stinks. I think it's revolting that people would compare this movie to Precious at all and I think the strain of criticisms on the internets that this movie was better than Precious are clearly from sheltered suburban types who probably should have challenged themselves a little more in their humanities courses in college. I mean, some of the criticisms against Precious are so ridiculous. I'm not saying I loved the film but there's a big difference in a film produced for a black audience that shows a lighter skinned black woman teaching an underpriveleged darker skinned girl how to define herself and a movie made almost exclusively for a white audience about a black kid finding redemption by being defined by an exclusively white group and a white lady finding meaning by embarking on various ghetto safari adventures. I'm not saying there's something wrong with the real life story this is based on but I'm not really sure this is the story that we should be elevating right now. I mean, the movie isn't really that good at all. Parts of it are painfully bad. The only thing I can think is this is another example of a cultural institution reaching out to the South to make them feel part of the Union since this is a ridiculous southern movie about white people finding out that black people might all look like bulls but some of them are really like golden retrievers.
I don't know. This is a sappy, conventional genre film and it comes off as relatively reactionary. I don't want to come off as a booster for Precious because that movie didn't quite hit it out of the park for me either but I found that movie a lot more authentic and I feel like a lot of the criticisms about that movie are from white people who don't know very much about black people. D

It's a weak year for the Oscar nominations so I don't want anyone to think I loved any of these movies but this is how I'd rank them now that I've seen all of them:
1. Avatar
2. A Serious Man
3. An Education
4. Precious
5. District 9
6. Up in the Air
7. Up
8. Inglourious Basterds
9. The Blind Side
10. The Hurt Locker

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges
Best Actress: Meryl Streep (I havent seen The Last Station and I wouldn't mind Carey Mulligan getting it either.)
Best Supporting Actor: (have only seen one of the nominated performances)
Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal (I liked Vera Farmiga but I didn't think the role was very good.)
Cinematography: The White Ribbon
Art Direction: Avatar
Director: James Cameron
Original Song: The Weary Kind, Crazy Heart
Animated Short: The Lady and the Reaper
Visual Effects: Avatar
Adapted Screenplay: In the Loop
Original Screenplay: A Serious Man
Animated Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox or Secret of Kells

11 February 2010

oscar nominated animated short films

Below are links to all five animated shorts this year. They were a lot better last year, I think. They're all sort of cute this year but none are particularly moving. I might vote for The Lady and the Reaper but it's hard to say since none of them really jumped out at me.

French Roast

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty

The Lady and the Reaper


Wallace and Gromit: A Case of Loaf and Death

It's like, they're all sort of entertaining but none of them have the magic of last year's nominees.

10 February 2010

February Omnibus Update, Part II

Crazy Heart stands out in a year of terrible mainstream American films as one of the few non-disappointments. I'd actually recommend this one to just about anyone. The acting is good. The writing is good. The music is good. I liked it. Go see it. B+

One of my best friends is obsessed with Michael Jackson's This Is It and her enthusiasm mixed with the enthusiasm of my boyfriend's sister-in-law led us to rent it one night. I could see why he wouldn't have wanted it being released since it's not a real performance. There were moments I'd call highlights but overall it didn't really do it for me. This should have been a bonus feature on the DVD of a more ambitious documentary. C

The Ken Russell camp classic Salome's Last Dance imagines Oscar Wilde showing up at a brothel and having all the people in the brothel put on a surprise performance of his play Salome, which has just been banned. It's really a very promising idea but it comes across as very dated and intermittently dull. It was okay. I crossed it off my list. C

Whip It is the roller derby movie directed by Drew Barrymore. I mostly wanted to see it because it had Juliette Lewis in it. I found it really enjoyable. B

All About Steve is a ridiculous comedy starring Sandra Bullock. I watched it because I thought it would be horrible but I thought it was fun. I'll never know why this movie was considered a disaster but Funny People, The Hangover, and Anchorman are considered modern classics or something. It was fine for what it is. C

New York, I Love You was better than I had expected based on the word of mouth. I like little stories like that and I look forward to Shanghai, I Love You. My favorite was probably the one with Julie Christie and Shia LaBoeuf. B

Outrageous! is one of my favorite movies. It's about a female impersonator and his best friend, a schizophrenic girl afraid of the bone crusher, who eventually leave Toronto behind for the Great White Way, or something. Craig Russell is amazing in it and so is the Hollis woman whose name I always forget. A

Body Double is a Brian DePalma thriller from 1984. It's horribly dated and there's not enough Melanie Griffith. There's a great Frankie Goes to Hollywood cameo though. C-

February Omnibus Update, Part I

So far I've watched 16 movies this month. I already posted about Syndromes and a Century, I think, so that just leaves 15.

The Chaser is a Korean movie about a former police officer who was kicked off the force for corruption and is now working as a pimp. He realized one if his prize whores is in the clutches of a man he believes to be a human trafficker but who is actually a serial killer. Naturally the whore is a sweetheart with a child. The police are naturally inept and there is naturally plenty of foolishness where people in the government put their own interests in front of those of the public. It's really entertaining and well put together and although it loses you for a while it mostly gets you back by the end. B/B+

Talk to Her was of course another Almodovar film I was revisiting. I still don't understand why people say it's his best film. I see that it's accessible to a broader audience and it's more restrained but it doesn't really hook me the way the other films do. I like the actor who plays the journalist though. And really, I mean, I like it, I'm just not sure what makes it one of the greatest movies of his oeuvre or of the last decade or what have you. B/B+

One night my boyfriend and I were at my place and it was late and we felt like watching something stupid and my roommate has Drowning Mona on DVD so we watched that. It was watchable and intermittently entertaining but with movies like this one, Isn't She Great, and That Old Feeling, it'll be a wonder if she ever makes a decent movie ever again. She made a handful of pretty good movies in the 70s and 80s but looking at her filmography as a whole is pretty scary. It looks like the closest thing to a decent movie she's made since First Wives Club is Helen Hunt's Then She Found Me. Jamie Lee Curtis and Neve Campbell are okay in it. I sort of like Casey Affleck but this isn't really his shining moment, though I'm not sure what he really could have done with such a lousy script here. D/D+

A friend of mine posted the video of The Obama Deception on my Facebook one day and asked what I thought of it. It ended up being an Alex Jones movie, which means that although it was strangely watchable it was also a product of a different logical universe than that which generally governs Reality. I think what makes his movies so popular with people though is they really tap into this sense of betrayal we feel toward our government. I think he's pretty paranoid though and off-base on any number of issues but so many of his claims look real because there is a lot that goes on in America that either conflicts with our notion of America and our ideals or is outright unsavory. As with all of these conspiracy theoristy things, I would just like a more level-headed examination of the issues in question. I mean, you don't have to be the head of the UAW to feel disappointed in the president's performance. People will always tell you how much worse it would have been had McCain been elected and I'm all, "Yes, only an idiot like Sarah Palin would disagree with that but I don't think we should be satisfied with 'Things could always be worse' because as long as the population of the planet isn't in the process of boiling alive or slowly asphyxiating on burning fumes things could get worse than anything and that's not what we should aspire to, now is it." Anyway, D

Import/Export is an Austrian movie about a nurse from the Ukraine who does internet sex to get money to leave her son behind and go to Austria and try to make a better life. She works there as a maid. This story is intercut with the story of some unstable Austrian guy who works as a security guard until he gets fired for something that didn't seem to be his fault. He ends up going to the Ukraine with his mother's boyfriend to deliver some outmoded vending machines to the impoverished country. It was really interesting and maybe I should watch it some time when I'm feeling better but it didn't really hit it out of the park for me, which I hoped for after John Waters put it on top of his top ten list. (Of course the list also included the terrible World's Greatest Dad and the so-so Whatever Works. Not to mention Bruno.) B+

Adam is a sort of romantic comedy/drama about a guy with Asperger's and his pretty new neighbor. It was decent. Entertaining but nothing groundbreaking or thrilling or terribly smart. C+

Bright Star was a total disappointment. Jane Campion turned the story of John Keats into a snooze. She also ignored the existence of Isabella Jones, which could be excused, I suppose, by the fact that it's from the perspective of Fanny Brawne. However, even if she didn't know about Isabella Jones, which I don't know about, it's kind of disingenuous not to bring her into the story. It also would have made the story more interesting. An outright lie is at the end of the film there's a text that indicates that Fanny basically spent the rest of her days roaming the moors in mourning like some kind of depressed Thomas Hardy heroine despite that she went on to marry and have several children. C-

Omnibus Update: The last six films I watched in January

I've been kind of under the weather the past few weeks and while I've watched a fair amount of movies, I haven't been very good at keeping up with this film journal. I think I'm going to try to crank out a couple of quick updates instead of trying to come up with longer entries for all of these.

First up was Goodbye Solo, an indie drama about a Senegalese cab driver in North Carolina who gets hired by a guy to drive him around town for a couple of weeks and then drive him out to some mountain and leave him there, presumably to kill himself. The cabbie insinuates himself into the man's life. There are ups and downs. It's less serious than I had expected. I had put off watching it because it seemed so dark but it wasn't really. I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit and liked the characters but something about it didn't quite seem on the level to me. B-

Jack Goes Boating was next up. I saw it at the Sundance USA event here in Chicago. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz was there for a Q&A. Roger Ebert wrote an uncharacteristically good column about the event. I was really surprised by how much I liked this movie. The couple reviews I had seen beforehand, on the Sundance website, were sour little things about PS Hoffman playing yet another sad fat guy and I braced myself for a long night. To my surprise there was something really alive about the film and it even had a little insight into the old human condition. B+

Next up came four more films in my revisiting Almodovar festival. I think I've seen his entire body of work in the past two months except I still need to revisit Bad Education and Volver, which I haven't seen since their theatrical releases. It's really been a pleasure going back over these and watching them in order like that. I get the impression that the director might not be a nice man in some respects but his films are pretty much all good and they seem kind of synergistic, where they mean more as a body of work than the sum of the constituent parts. I thought Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown had held up remarkably well and I gave it an A.
I have Law of Desire somewhere on VHS and it was a real eyeopener to see it on DVD. The colors are such a big part of his films. I liked it but there might be a hint of ambivalence which I don't know what to attribute to at the moment. B+
I seem to be in the minority as far as Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down goes. I actually really like it. I've seen it three or four times and I really enjoyed it each time. spoilers People don't understand why she falls for her kidnapper. Well, first of all, she's a recovering junkie so she's probably no stranger to self-destructive impulses. Secondly, I think it's really important to understand how important it is to her character to be taken care of like the way he wants to take care of her. And it starts to make more sense when you realize they've already met./spoilers I don't know. My boyfriend didn't get it so much, I don't think, but I really identified this one. And it's also fabulous. A-
Live Flesh was next up, as I had already visited Kika, High Heels, and Flower of My Secret. People always want to dismiss these films that he made between Women on the Verge and All About My Mother but I kind of feel like that's my favorite period for him. I think Live Flesh is satisfying on a literal level but it's also great because it shows this urge to break free from Spain's history. I mean, the happy ending only comes when the two younger characters are able to free themselves from the older characters, who all end up dead or crippled by their own faults. I'm tempted to say it's stronger than Talk to Her or even All About My Mother. A-

03 February 2010

Never Let Me Go

They've apparently made a movie of Kazuo Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO. It stars Keira Knightley, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling, and Carey Mulligan and is directed by the guy who made ONE HOUR PHOTO. The screenwriter wrote 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE, and 28 WEEKS LATER for Danny Boyle. I liked the book and it seems like a lot of talented people but I always wonder about adapting books whose strongest suit is their writing, especially since I saw what they did to THE ROAD.

The release date is listed as November 2010...

Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethekul, 2006, Thailand)

I've been kind of lapse the past week or so so I have a number of films to put down here. I'm going to work backwards with this batch of movies.

Last night I watched Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century after I slept through the season premiere of LOST, which I wouldn't have been able to watch anyway since neither I nor my boyfriend have cable or broadcast television hooked up in our apartments. (Fortunately my roommate is getting one of those converter boxes from his cousin this weekend so I'll just have to watch las night's episode online.)
The film itself was very lovely. I've been feeling kind of under the weather so I actually watched it in three pieces because I kept feeling really tired or falling asleep or what have you. I'd like to watch it again. Basically the film starts off in the country at a little clinic and a man interviews for a job and is told to take a note to someone else. There's a man in love with the female interviewer waiting for him in the waiting area but she's in love with an orchid grower. Then there's a dentist who sings folk music or something and both of them are shown dealing with monks. The story is basically repeated in an urban setting which I didn't recognise as taking place in a different time but Wikipedia says it's forty years later and I guess that makes sense. The clinic is now a seemingly sprawling hospital in a high rise building. There's a doctor who needs to get drunk every week before she does her show on public television, a young man who worked for a Japanese car company who has some kind of carbon monoxide poisoning syndrome, a hematologist that carries the gene for a blood disease, a woman who wants to move to some new industrial Utopia who wants her boyfriend to come with. The boyfriend may be the dentist or the hematologist but I'm not sure. I'm also not sure I understood the beloved scene of the steam or smoke or whatever. There's something kind of mesmerising about it though so even if it didn't have a strong narrative thrust it remained engaging and was pretty much lovely throughout. B+

02 February 2010

inane awards

Well, the Oscar nominations are sort of a wash this year. I guess I liked half of the ten nominees for best picture. The director category is a joke this year. As are the animated feature and documentary feature categories.

Plus about Sandra Bullock's crazy ass. And I feel like they should have nominated Penelope Cruz for BROKEN EMBRACES instead of NINE.

I haven't seen THE BLIND SIDE but here's my ranking of the other nine nominees:
A Serious Man
An Education
District 9
Up in the Air
Up (tied with) Inglourious Basterds
The Hurt Locker

I need to make a post of the movies I've been watching but maybe it hasn't been that many...