Sunday, December 02, 2012

Seen in November

Escapism with escapism
The young protagonists of Hugo enjoy a matinee. Who doesn't on a dark winter's day?

Safety Not Guaranteed
In 1997 this ad ran in the classified section of Backwoods Magazine:
"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."
It was a joke by one of the staff. This is a film based on that joke ad. So much of the script seems to ask, "is this a joke?" The final answer almost seems wrong but much of it is right as Aubrey Plaza portrays the interning and unhappy cub reporter trying to figure out if this nut who placed the ad is crazy, delusional or something more.

The Campaign
Rather than watch actual election coverage I wanted to see a delightful parody of the ruthless manner in which American campaigns are run. Unfortunately, this film only supplies some momentary chuckles. A few chuckles a film does not make. For real electoral satire stick to The Election starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick.

I really regret not seeing this beautiful film in the theatre. Even on Netflix it was visually luxe. It's a sort of story within a story of an orphaned boy living in the clockworks of Paris' Montparnasse Station in the late 20s or early 30s. To keep the memory of his father alive he attempts to fix an automaton they were restoring together. The boy's love of film and machines help him not only find his purpose in life, maintain a connection with his deceased father but also revive the memory of an icon and leading innovator of the movies, one Monsieur Georges Mélièrs. The film is a fantastical love letter to the magic of dreams and storytelling in theatre, books and film. What's strange is just how much of this fantastical tale is based on reality.

The Master
I marveled at this eery and difficult to understand film. An alcoholic drifter, played by Joaquin Phoenix, stumbles into a 1950s cult cloaked in pseudo-science, cosmology and invented psychology. This odd group is led by the improvising mystic played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who may or may not be modeled after L.Ron Hubbard, the spiritual leader of Scientology. The truth is America has been home to many such groups (do I really have to name them?) but is the film really about the power of a charismatic man over another or is it about our own groping for some "fix" to our troubles? Or is it about our desire to try and "fix" broken people? Or… I don't know but I'm still working on it.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
This time of year always seems to call for a Bond fantasy and with Skyfall in theaters I thought I'd catch up on the only Bond film I've never seen - the 1969 one with Aussie George Lazenby. It was good. I know it has its critics but when I think of some of the dogs of the Roger Moore years this film is closer in spirit to the Daniel Craig Bond films. This Bond uses his fists and his wits rather than gadgets. And he falls in love (and marries). Who wouldn't fall for Diana Rigg, who proves up for anything Bond can put her through (almost). In general, it's a slower paced, more realistic story and Lazenby is a lanky, physical presence. I can't say it was an Oscar performance but that's not what's required of a 1960s super spy. A 1960s super spy just has to look awesome skiing in a sky blue ski kit wearing fantastic white goggles.

Young Adult
Surprisingly funny and bitter little film about a woman who never really formed fully as an adult. Charlize Theron in the lead is still beautiful but is a damaged piece of work. Theron plays the unlikeable Mavis, a ghost writer of teen romances, who revisits her home town intent on rekindling her relationship with her high school sweetheart. Unfortunately, he's happily married with a new baby daughter. The twist at the end is the lack of redemption with both sides agreeing, "It sucks to be you."

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