Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Movies Spring 2005

Even if it isn't Spring by the calendar, today I wore shorts for the first time this year. Saw Basquiat (1996) tonight, and it was perfect for my mood. Bravura performances by Jeffrey Wright as Jean-Paul Basquiat, Benicio Del Toro as his best friend, David Bowie in an amazing Andy Warhol, Michael Wincott as the delightful Rene Ricard, and Claire Forlani in the thankless role of the girl left behind by the star on the rise. This was the risky lifestyles of 80s New York all over the screen. 79.

Watched the fun The Mask of Zorro (1998) over two nights. Too bad the library DVD was messed up in a couple of places -- this was a romp. Anthony Hopkins as Zorro? YES! Antonio Banderas as the new young Zorro? YES! And Catherine Zeta-Jones as the "spirited" foil for all the male characters? YES, again! Not long on plot, but then -- it is Zorro! A pure delight. 82.

Finally saw the classic Maurice (1987), which was tender, beautiful, and well worth waiting for. E.M. Forster's early novel Maurice wasn't published until his death, because the gay characters lived happily every after! Wonderful performances by James Wilby as the courageous middle-class Maurice Hall, Hugh Grant as the wealthy upper-class intellectual, ultimately cowardly and dispicable Clive Durham, and Rupert Graves as the dreamy game-keeper Alec Scudder. Ben Kingsley has a small but powerful part as the hypnotist Lasker-Jones. The usual beautiful Merchant Ivory sets, score and costuming. The Cambridge scenes are absolutely stunning. 87.

Well, Colin and I compromised on Constantine (2005) for the theater last week. I can't really summon up any enthusiasm for it, one way or the other. I didn't hate it, and liked it more than I thought I would. I would never have paid my way to go alone, however. From zero to 100 -- a 50.

Watched the DVD of The Ring (2002) tonight. It was a bit creepy -- not SCARY, as such. Maybe you had to see it in the theater. 60.

Ooooooo, she was Notorious (1946)! This is one I'll have to see again, perhaps the Criterion DVD edition. Hitchcock in all his glory, in gorgeous black and white. Ingrid Bergman was luminous and powerful as the wounded Alicia Huberman, shamed by her past but giving her all for her country. And Cary Grant, as a cold-hearted spy who eventually learns to care. Claude Rains makes Alex, his Nazi industrialist sympathetic, as he truly loves Alicia, and marries her. Leopoldine Konstantin is deliciously evil as Madame Anna Sebastian, Alex's controlling mother. This is such a perfect movie, and so subtly done. Some rank it as Hitchcock's best. "Alex, I wish to talk to you." 95.

Got a fun lil DVD from the library - Say Anything (1989) with a young John Cusack and Ione Skye, in Cameron Crowe's directorial debut. MUCH better than I expected, with some great 80s music, and that wonderful poufy hair and clothing. Nice to see bits of Seattle in the background, too. 79.

It is so nice when a film exceeds expectations. I figured The Notebook (2004) would be a weak, weepy chick-flick. Instead, it was absorbing and rich. I loved the story within a story for obvious reasons -- my own mother suffered from Alzheimers too. And James Garner as the ever-faithful lover -- I loved it. Gena Rowlands as his wife slipping further and further from him was wonderful, too. And the young lovers, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were so right ON. McAdams just glowed and sparked. I enjoyed the commentary by the book author Nicholas Sparks on the DVD. 83.

Colin and Natasia talked me into seeing Sin City (2005). A *whole* lot different than I thought it would be. Very intense, very violent, and strangely enough, very enjoyable. It is noir Frank Miller graphic novels brought to the screen, and if you don't like dark, violent and simple, you will not like this film. The acting was pretty good - Bruce Willis as Hartigan, and Mickey Rourke as Marv were the two main/ recurring roles. Jessica Alba was Nancy Callahan, the little rape victim who grew up to become a stripper. Clive Owen was great as Dwight, the knight who kept trying to save women who didn't want or need to be saved. Elijah Wood was completely creepy as Kevin, the murderer/ . Benicio Del Toro was *delicious* as the crazy dirty copy Jackie Boy, and Brittany Murphy had a tasty bit as his knocked around girlfriend Shellie. Completely out of character for me, but I'll give it a 83.

Another library DVD, Daisy Miller (1974). Cybill Shepherd is the quintessential American in Europe, breaking all the social rules, and bringing ostracism (and ultimately, death) on herself by her reckless behavior. This film made no money? It must have been before its time, as Peter Bogdanovich says in the introduction. The costumes were beautiful, the locations FABULOUS, and the music just wonderful. The acting, unfortunately, was a bit artificial. Perhaps they were affected too much by the costumes, sets and locations. 72.

Just saw the delightful Johnny Stecchino (1991). Any day that includes Roberto Benigni is a good day! His La Vita รจ bella (1997) aka Life Is Beautiful is one of my all-time favorite films. Here Benigni plays the wonderfully naive Dante, and the egomaniac stool-pigeon Johhny Stecchino. Of course the good Dante survives the plot to kill him, and Johnny has to die in a toilet. Benigni's wife Nicoletta Braschi was wonderful as the Mafia wife who outsmarts the mob. Sancta Cleopatra! 82.

Murder by Numbers (2002) nicely scripted, creepy. Sandra Bullock lives up to her cop-nickname of Hyena -- not only does she have the "false penis" behaviour down pat, she also *doesn't let go* -- and that solves the murder. A few nice twists and turns at the end -- this is one CREEPY movie! 71.

After finally reading The Joy Luck Club last fall, I checked the videotape of the movie out of the library. It is a wonderful adaptation of the novel - the acting is outstanding, and I loved the cinematography too, especially the scenes in China. It's hard for a film to make me cry without also making me feel emotionally jerked around, but the end of this film did that. 83.

We also saw a wonderful short film from the library, Trevor (1994) Brett Barsky was perfect as Trevor. This film was funny, and so sad, with a great hopeful ending. It could have easily strayed into sappiness, but was just engaging and great. Too bad Pinky had no guts! The film inspired The Trevor Project and Trevor Helpline ( 866-488-7386 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nationwide. Buy a copy of this film and support The Trevor Project!

Another library VHS tape, of Hamlet (2001), starring Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, with Julia Stiles as his Ophelia. Viewers at IMDb didn't like this adaptation, but I did. Hawke has that angsty brooding down pat, and Stiles is a frozen Ophelia. Sam Shepard as the murdered king was also a standout, as was the most silent Karl Geary as the faithful Horatio. Bill Murray was a bit jarring as Polonious, but he can play the windbag! I loved the setting in New York City; the glittering skyscrapers and gritty streets were perfect, as was the use of video. Not a Hamlet for the classicists, but a hit with me. 72.

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993), a Canadian film about a genius Canadian artist. Like the 32 Goldberg Variations, which Gould interpreted brilliantly, this film illustrates 32 situations or facets of Glenn Gould. Since he stopped performing concerts early, most will know him only through his highly technical recordings, and this film. If you love Bach, or unusual film, see it! Colm Feore is a wonderful Gould. 80.

Colin and Nastasia talked me into going to another film I would not have seen otherwise; Gong fu (2004) or Kung Fu Hustle. I didn't like the violent beginning, although the dance number was great! but I guess it was necessary to set up the Axe gang as the Bad Guys. Once the focus changes to Pig Sty Alley, though, the humor starts to bubble. And when the Axe Gang meets the humble folk of the Alley, violence and comedy ensue. The serious thread of the film is the development of the hero through his many difficulties and temptations. Stephen Chow both directs and stars as Sing, the finally triumphant Master. Bravo! 77. Well worth $9.

Colin checked out Tuck Everlasting (2002) on DVD from the library. Nice to see Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) play a leading role, and Jonathan Jackson a leading man. William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, and Ben Kingsley all had nice roles, too. Disney prettied this one up too much for me, and sentimentalized it. Still, a nice little harmless film. 62.

Thomas, Colin, Kim & I went to Factoria and saw Kingdom of Heaven (2005) starring Orlando Bloom in his first starring role, produced by Ridley Scott. If you like RS films, you will love this one. I liked it more as I left the theater than I do thinking back on it. It is a good-looking film, and Bloom is serviceable as Balian. Loved Liam Neeson as his natural father. 81.

Finally saw the 80's classic Working Girl (1988). Melanie Griffith was top-notch as Tess McGill, the secretary from Staten Island on her way up the New York business ladder. Sigorney Weaver was absolutely delightful as her morality-free boss, and it was fun to see the young Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Joan Cusack. And the hair, clothes and music! What a delightful bowl of fluff, with something underneath. 80.

I saw Harold and Maude in the theater back in 1971, and walked out shaking my head. Tonight, I'm filled with joy. This may be a DVD I have to buy. 94.

Colin and I watched Young Frankenstein (1974). What a hoot! What a classic! One of my all-time favorites. 93.

Colin, Nastasia and I watched Cruel Intentions (1999). It was really fun to watch -- so naughty and funny! But I'm left with really mixed feelings. It looked and sounded GREAT, was well-cast, and well-acted. Maybe it's the fact that there is not one likable character. Even Annette (Reese Witherspoon) is too goody-goody, then turns out to be just another user/manipulator in the final scenes. Plus, I hate when the GUY character is given an arc, and comes out a hero, while his partner-in-crime step-sister Kathryn has only one note to play -- the manipulative, cold-hearted bitch. Still, what fun to watch! 72.

Closer (2004). I think this film is all about the GAZE -- mostly the male gaze, but actually Anna (Julia Roberts), as the photographer, is the professional observer. She "borrows" anyone who interests her. And in spite of what she said, she *did* kiss a strange man. Larry (Clive Owen) the dermatologist looks only at the surface -- skin deep. He wants the truth, but only the surface truth. When Jane tells him her true name, it only enrages him until she tells him what he wants to hear. Alice/Jane (Natalie Portman) strips. She exposes her self, but neither Dan nor Larry is capable of really seeing her. Larry accuses her of being cold, but we know that she is warm, loving and faithful. She is not willing to expose THAT to an unworthy individual, however. Dan (Jude Law) the failed novelist borrows Alice's life, but gets "everything but the truth." Why? He really is only capable of writing obituaries, because he doesn't have a voice. He can only write his book because he can borrow Alice's life, her past, for awhile. It fails because it doesn't capture her LIFE, but is an obituary of her life previous to meeting him. The characters who stay in London are stuck. They have given up the possibility of growth and change. Jane goes back to New York, where she can begin her life anew. Cheers to Jane. 88.

8 Mile (2002) - Better than I thought it would be. I'm not a fan of rap, *nor* a fan of Eminem, but was interested enough to watch VH1's presentation, with ads, and without the swearing. 47.

So, Colin and I journeyed into Seattle to see Star Wars 3 at the Cinerama with Thomas and Christine. Great screen to see a great movie. Head and shoulders above the first two, and a great lead-in to 4, 5 and 6. 80.

Wonderful little gem from the 50's, People Will Talk (1951) with Cary Grant in the starring role. Tackles some pretty daring issues for the 50's - pre-marital sex, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, even homosexuality is hinted at. But handled so lightly, so deftly. Hume Cronyn is wonderful as the witch hunter, and Jeanne Crain as the love interest. The supporting cast was also excellent. What a find! 78.

The Verdict (1982). Paul Newman's finest hour. What a performance. Charlotte Rampling is heart-breaking, and Lindsay Crouse is wonderful in her small role as the surprise witness. Actually, all the supporting parts are wonderful, and Mamet is a genius, and Lumet is his prophet. 90.

The Station Agent (2003) was so surprisingly delightful, I can't get over it. The acting was wonderful, sure. And I loved the characters, and the setting, and the cinematography. But they all worked together to make more than the addition of all the parts. I guess that means the directing was outstanding! 90. I will get the DVD to check out any special features. I feel so lucky to have watched two such excellent films in a month, much less 2 days in a row.

Underappreciated, I think: Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003). So beautifully filmed and lit, and so restrained in dialog, costuming and acting. The more I think about it, the more I like it. If you like a subtle, delicate film, this is for you. If you want action, look elsewhere. 83.

Off to the theater with Colin and Debs, to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) with Amber Tamblyn as Tibby the rebel, Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) as Lena, the shut-down Greek who is going back to the homeland to meet the family, America Ferrera as the Puerto Rican Carmen, Blake Lively as the ring-leader Bridget, and a nice part for the young Jenna Boyd as Bailey, who teaches Tibby about friendship and life. The plot is a bit thin, but the acting is so nicely subtle, that these girls win your heart. Heart-warming. 75.

Andy bought Saved! (2004), which was fun. Jena Malone was Mary, who decided to sacrifice her virginity to save her gay boyfriend, only to lose him to "the Mercy House" and end up pregnant. Mandy Moore is wonderful as the holier-than-thou Hilary Faye, and Macaulay Culkin has fun as Roland, Hilary Faye's crippled brother. Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) is Patrick, who is falling in love with Mary. Eva Amurri steals the show as Cassandra, who shocks the Christian school with her straight talk and smoking. She also begins an affair with Roland -- and hilarity ensues. 73.

Above all, don't improve yourself. Improve the world, so that your characteristics stop being problems. - Barbara Sher

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