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+

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