A Single Man

Spoilers ahead.  You’ve been warned…

So The Man was working on a project tonight and wanted peace and quiet once dinner was over with.  This, of course, makes for a perfect excuse to see a movie that I want to see and that he is, er, shall we say not quite so enthusiastic about.

A Single Man was a very good film in an indie, art house, not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-it-will-end-well kind of way.  (Would it kill an indie director to end an “art film” on a happy note for once?  Hmm???)  So our protagonist is still mourning the loss via car accident of his male lover of 16+ years, and he’s not having a good time of it, but he manages to keep his quiet, English reserve in place through it all, never revealing his pain.  After a particularly impassioned speech to his English students about Aldus Huxley and the general populous’ fear of unseen minorities – he references blondes and freckled people, but he’s really talking about more taboo minorities such as homosexuals like himself – remember that this is set in 1962 – he decides to end his life.  While rebuffing a flurry of last chances, moments that have the potential to help him beyond his grief, to help him embrace life again, he makes detailed plans for his own demise.  Each chance at embracing Life is rebuffed, and then just toward the end… well, you should see for yourself.

The cinematography was excellent.  I found myself wishing I could take home still photographs of some of the scenes – one in particular where Professor Falconer (Firth’s character) parks his ca. 1962 Mercedes in front of a giant, blue-toned, extreme closeup billboard of Janet Leigh’s stunned face promoting Psycho.  The giant blue eyes staring right through him as he gets out of the car…  Yeah, I want a poster of that!  As an aside, most of the movie is shot in a very desaturated light, but each time Life reaches out to him there is a moment of saturated color, as if he sees the chance but chooses to ignore it.  The style of the film was a nice touch and appropriate from fashion designer turned director Tom Ford.

Mr. Firth is up for a Best Actor Oscar this weekend and from what I saw tonight he deserves the nomination and has more than a fighting chance, although Jeff Bridges has a hellatious long list of nominations under his belt and no Oscar to show for it.  This could be his year instead, just by virtue of the statistical likelihood of his finally landing the award.

So, if you’re into Colin Firth, or if your thing is handsome, well-groomed young men, or if you like indie films that may or may not end well, I recommend A Single Man.  If not, well then you’re in luck, Leap Year is playing just down the hall…

Valentines Day with the Boondock Saints

The Man and I saw Valentine’s Day at Rivertown last night when we went to get our advance tickets for the Boondock Saints 10th Anniversary screening on March 11.

I won’t say that Valentine’s Day was bad – I’ve seen much worse, and it did deliver a few laughs and nice moments – but I can’t recommend it for more than a rental, or perhaps see it on the big screen if it moves to Woodland where you only need to pay $4 per ticket. The problem with Valentine’s Day is that it worked too hard to be another Love, Actually and it failed on a number of levels.

My biggest gripe is that there were too many separate plots going on at any one time, and they weren’t given the respect that they deserved.  Multiple story lines connecting at the end of the film (and sometimes along the way) is an old but beloved plot trick that just wasn’t pulled off correctly this time.  Instead of feeling like I was flicking between plots, peeking in on the characters to get an update here and there in a fairly fluid way, I felt more like I was being pushed and jerked along on an old funhouse ride, spending too much time in one story and not enough in another and just wondering when it would end so I could use the bathroom.

There was a bit of “phoning it in” as far as the acting was concerned too.  Do you blame the actors or director?  Tough call.  Either way you look at it Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, and even Jessica Biel have seen much, much better days.  As for Ashton Kutcher… well, this may have been one of his better performances.  That said, I have hope for him in the upcoming Killers with Katherine Heigl, it looks predictable, but fun!  (Wanna see the trailer?)

84 Charing Cross Road

After months of snow-free bliss we walked into the theater to see Meet Me In St. Louis last night with a chill in the air and not a snowflake to be seen. By the time we emerged at 8 o’clock the car was more white than blue. The snow was so deep by this morning that it took 30 minutes to make the 7 minute drive to work!

This is the perfect night for a book… or a movie about a friendship that revolved around books.

84 Charing Cross Road (1987) is a fine little film based on the book of the same name written in 1970 by Helene Hanff. The story revolves around New York City resident Ms. Hanff’s 20-year correspondence with Frank Doel, an antiquarian bookseller in London. The film stars Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in the leads, with gems like Judi Dench, Mercedes Ruehl, and Ian McNeice in supporting roles. The movie is talky, and opinionated, and funny, and sweet, and charming. It is just the kind of thing that you want to curl up with on a cold winter’s night in lieu of an old, worn, well-loved book.

Pass the popcorn, please.

What Do Your Favorite Movies Say About You?

I was intrigued and inspired by the recent article “The Candidate’s Favorite Movies” from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times. Discovering what a person’s favorite movies are can truly say a lot about them. As one commenter on the article put it:

I recently went out with a girl. After a few stock questions, “Where did you grow up?” “How many siblings do you have?” we came upon the infamous “What’s your favorite movie?” After she told me SON IN LAW with Pauly Shore I knew it was going to be a long night.

That’s not to say that compatible lists of favorite movies are the be-all and end-all of relationships. Some of my best friends have radically different taste in movies compared to mine, and we get along just fine before, during, and after we argue about whether or not a certain movie is even worth the film it’s printed on, much less the price of a movie ticket. And for my part I enjoy re-watching movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin every bit as much as I do “serious films” like Gattaca or Rear Window. But we have good reasons for liking our favorite movies. Or at least, we generally have better reasons than “OMG he’s sooo cute and the movie is sooo funny!”


Anyway, back to Ebert’s article… Despite the fact that the prospect of a McCain presidency scares the living daylights out of me (and don’t get me started on the possibility that Sarah Palin could become Commander In Chief!) I have to say that I’m impressed by his answers. Not so much by the choice of movies, as by the fact that he actually knew something about their background, and wasn’t just giving a from-the-hip “I like them because they’re cool!” answer. He specifically states that he thinks that Viva Zapata! is Brando’s best of the three Kazan films, and tells us why.

I like that this is not a canned answer, fed to him by an aide. I like that he not only enjoys movies, but takes and interest in them. Roger Ebert is right, movies are not trivia. They are a mirror of society and a reflection on our times. I’m still not going to vote for McCain, and I still don’t like his recent run of smear tactics, but I would be happy to sit down with him and talk movies over dinner. I think it would be an enjoyable feast.

I’m a bit put off by Obama’s answer, though to be fair he wasn’t asked to explain his choices. One wonders what his answers would be.

Before I go, here’s my current Top Five list, in no particular order:

One closing thought that has absolutely nothing to do with film… Tell someone that you love them today. You may not get the chance tomorrow.

On My iTunes right now: Mermaid from the album “Love Deluxe” by Sade

REVIEW: Babylon A.D. (PG-13)

Wow, this was bad. I’m sadly getting to the point where I’m beginning to use the phrase “Vin Diesel bad“. That’s bad. And what’s worse is that it’s going to get worse. During the trailers prior to the movie (which I firmly believe can be a good indicator of how good or bad the feature film will be) The Man and I learned that there’s going to be yet another Fast And Furious movie.

Oh God.

I’m really saddened by this. Vin was great when he started out. He was set to become the new bigger-than-life-but-really-f-ing-talented-guy in Hollywood. His breakout film was a short called Strays which he wrote, produced, and directed on a shoe-string budget. That got him noticed by the likes of Mr. Spielberg (see Saving Private Ryan – Vin played Pvt. Adrian Caparzo), Brad Bird (see The Iron Giant – Vin was The Iron Giant), and Ben Younger (who to this day has had only one great film to his credit: Boiler Room starring Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi).

Then he got a taste of the Action Hero life in Pitch Black and it was all over but the crying.

I am, for the record, NOT knocking Pitch Black. It’s my favorite cheezy horror movie, and I mean that in a nice way. I simply see that as the turning point in his career where he stopped thinking and started doing. That’s unfortunate.

If you’re reading this, Vin, please take my advice and find yourself a good script. And if you can’t find one out there, for God sake’s man, make one of your own. You’ve proven before that you can write. Do it again. Or at least collaborate. Get yourself out of the rut before you’re too far in to dig back out again.

~ end rant ~

Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

So this movie, Babylon A.D., it’s pretty awful. I know this because the highlight of the movie (for me) was seeing the logo for my favorite drink plastered all over the side of a passenger jet.

Well, that and the shot of Vin in the shower. But I digress…

Every character in this movie is two-dimensional, with the possible exception of Sister Rebeka played with exceptional grace (and actual acting talent) by martial arts star Michelle Yeoh. She doesn’t belong in this movie. She’s far too talented.

The story itself lurches along like an injured troll in heat.

First we meet Toorop (Vin Diesel) and discover that he’s got a gourmet touch and a taste for hasenpfeffer. Then he is strong-armed by the Russian Mafia kingpin Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu – yes, you read that right) to escort the obviously French Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) from a women’s monastery (?) to New York City via the Bering Strait in a vehicle that reminded me fondly of the 1977 Grand Prix that The Man used to take me out on dates with, only, you know, Mad Max-ified.

Natch, they have to go through all sorts of hell (and super-advanced military ‘anti-immigration’ booby traps) to get there, only to find that the bad guys – or in this case, the bad girls – are the ones she’s being delivered to and they want her for obviously nefarious reasons. Cut to Aurora’s dad (Lambert Wilson – who should have stuck to serving desserts a la Matrix II ) who should be years dead but through some sort of life-saving self-surgical pseudo-scientific miracle has managed to keep his body alive via machine just to help his baby girl when she grows up (a girl who started out as a scientific experiment and became his “daughter” only because he conveniently grew a conscience) and he give his life for her safety. Yawn.

She finally gives birth (she’s carrying twin “Messiah” children) and dies, and Vin lives the rest of his life in a cozy comfy upstate retreat wearing nice white clothes and raising the babies with absolutely no threat from the outside world. Right.

Start writing that script, Vin!


ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 05% Rotten! (Wow! That’s pretty rotten!)


REVIEW: Swing Vote (PG-13)

I’m not a big Costner fan — I’m not one at all, actually. Most of the time his name on a cast list convinces me to see another movie.  Any other movie.  Still, given that this is an election year, and given that Mr. Costner is typically such a box office draw, and given that the current presidential race is – if the polls are to be believed – every bit as close as it is in the movie, I was curious.

That and the fact that there is a dearth of movies to choose from when you suddenly get the urge to go to the theater at 9pm on a Thursday.  Oops.

So the movie – yeah – not the best ever made.  Amazingly predictable.  Kind of an emotional jerk-around.  Flat characters.  Unamazing acting (with the noted exception of Madeline Carroll who will be a force to be rekoned with if she stays in the biz).

With the exception of the last 10 minutes or so, most of the movie is enjoyable fluff. The last few scenes manage to break through to the heart of the film, putting a name and a face on all of us as we struggle in our millions of various ways to get from one day to the next, trying to make things better and just barely getting by.

Despite that, I hope that this movie changes the people who see it. There are a lot of people who do not bother to inform themselves, do not bother to take notice of current events, do not bother to vote. I hope that they make their way into a theater seat. I hope that they get the message. I hope that they begin notice things. I hope that they become informed. I hope they discuss. I hope that they vote.

It is important.

Short of that this is just another Costner movie – albeit a better one than many.