Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Seen in November

I Am Love, image via

Boardwalk Empire
This might be the only time in the history of gangster stories that political machinations & shenanigans actually heat things up.

Bored to Death
I'm still enjoying the short humorous adventures of fictional Jonathan Ames created by the real Jonathan Ames. It feels like its own special little genre about the Brooklyn Bourgeois - or something like that.

Korean film from the director of The Host, Joon-ho Bong . A murder mystery on the surface but really the story of a mother's devotion to her 28-year-old "mentally challenged" son. Is her devotion beyond reason? As we learn more about their relationship and history we begin to see how this woman isn't considering right or wrong, only her devotion to her son. Is a mother's love unconditional, unselfish, unwavering or just delusional?

Robin Hood (2010)
Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe reunion had me hoping for a Gladiator redux but instead it reminded me of that Crusades picture Scott did a few years ago - it was dull and overwrought too. All the anti-tax & liberties talk makes this film seem more like Tea Party propaganda than art. Me thinks director Scott is either a Libertarian or a Republican who likes his tea from a bag.

Get Him to the Greek
I thought this would be funnier. Maybe some films are better in trailer-form. Over all it wasn't bad but some scenes felt really out of place or went on too long or were just a bit aimless. But I think that's a result of how these comedies are made - plenty of takes and improv which is then constructed in the editing room.

The Paper Chase
I'm not sure why I wanted to re-watch this 70s era college drama. Starring Timothy Bottoms as Hart, the whining, over achieving Harvard law student who is determined to make his mark in a difficult 1st year course, the film spawned a television that followed the study group to graduation. For some reason I imagined Bottoms riding a 10-speed bike throughout Boston but it just isn't so. I've been trying to collect movies where bicycles are a part of the story. No luck so far. Oddly, there are a lot of scenes of the Hart character swimming laps to combat his stress (strangely similar to Don Draper in Mad Men) or of him having thoughtful insights in the communal shower (calm yourself - the action is strictly above the equator). Lindsay Wagner as the love interest re-ignited a long forgotten crush. Of course, the film also stars the iconic John Houseman as the pompous Kingsfield who forewarns of turning their young minds to "MUSH!"

All Quiet On The Western Front
I thought I would watch a war film from 1930 with a jaded eye all the while mocking the acting and special effects but it just wasn't so. This film is epic and powerfully anti-war. Part of its fascination is that you feel as though you're watching movie history. The language and devices of film is all on display for your viewing pleasure. Crane shots, montages, cross-dissolves all make you forget that this movie is 80 years old.

City Lights
A classic Chaplin film that I watched through closed eyelids. Foolishly, I thought I could stay awake for a two hour silent era film while still doped up from anesthesia.

True Grit (1969)
I guess I don't get John Wayne. There's something dusty about this Western and it isn't the open road. The acting, the dialogue and most of all the tired score all seem incredibly old fashioned. Adding to that feeling is the presence of Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall. True Grit was released in 1969, the same year, Dennis Hopper made Easy Rider - the indie film that is widely said to have started the re-invention of American film. Only 3 years later, Robert Duvall would appear in 1972's The Godfather. The difference between those films and True Grit feels like decades not months. I'm not sure if it was the look, the dialogue, the acting, the music or just all of it together but this movie felt as hokey as an episode of Ponderosa. I'm hoping the Coen brothers version will actually show some grit.

I Am Love
Incredibly beautiful melodrama. Food. Sex. Love. Italian. Subtly moving, introspective & impressionistic at times but wildly operatic at others without ever losing its bearings. This is one of the most surprising films I've seen in awhile. Eye catching, devastating (think a reverse "Damage" with Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche), yet wholly satisfying. Tilda Swinton is a force of nature in the lead, performing in Italian & Russian, as the matriarch of a large successful family who loses her composure when she falls passionately in love with her son's close friend. Fassbinder-esque Repercussions ensue.

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