February 27, 2011

Well…I thought I’d blog during the ceremony, but the truth is that I’m not that patient.  I’m going to DVR the ceremony and zip through to the parts I want to see tomorrow!  Efficiency is something I value (especially after that opening monologue).



February 26, 2011

I like Barney’s Version in spite of itself.  The main character, Barney Panofsky as played by Paul Giamatti, is not situated into his life, as depicted in the film, with as much clarity as I would like, but, oh, there are moments.

Barney is a television producer who makes a simplistic and very popular sitcom in Montreal but runs her personal life with much more complexity.  The film shows his three marriages (he meets his third wife at his second wedding), his close relationship with his father who is a retired police officer, and his close friendship with a drug addict whom Barney may or may not have murdered.

Paul Giamatti rises above the occasional muddle of the plot and works beautifully in a number of scenes with central figures in his life:  first wife (Rachelle Lefevre), best friend (Scott Speedman), father (Dustin Hoffman), second wife (Minnie Driver), and, especially, third wife (Rosamund Pike).  It’s an excellent cast.

Barney is a bit of an enigma, but the one thing never in doubt is his love for third wife, Miriam.  You don’t have to be a good person to “get it right” in certain aspects of life, like love, and watching Barney overcome obstacles to win Miriam’s love – when she is so much more wonderful than he is – gives all of us hope.  Surely, if this particular tableau has any authenticity, there must be someone for everyone?

Watching Barney get it right then screw it up is heartbreaking and should serve as a cautionary tale you to hang on for dear life and never court complacency if you’re ever lucky enough to stumble into (or force your way into, as Barney does) the love of your life.

Really, though, I think Barney’s Version touched me most deeply when a Leonard Cohen song was brought into the storyline.  That’s when I decided that I like the movie despite its flaws.  And, for Cohen and Giamatti, this is why I have continued to think about this film and its depiction of love, loss, and longing.

After all, has any singular musical artists ever captured the myriad of emotions that go along with our deepest desires and darkest fears better than Leonard Cohen?  Sort of makes me want to sit down and watch McCabe & Mrs. Miller or The Good Thief or even the “Hallelujah” scene in The Watchmen or, maybe better, break out my iPod and take a long walk.

Instead, I have class prep today and will watch (not for the first time) Titicut Follies and Don’t Look Back.  That’s sure to weigh on my mind in different ways…will Bob Dylan have the staying power in my musings next week that Leonard Cohen has had over them the last one?





February 20, 2011

It’s never surprising that Danny Boyle can make a terrific movie (just think of Trainspotting, Millions, and Slumdog Millionaire), and it’s not surprising that James Franco can play a physically and emotionally challenging role.

What did take me a bit off-guard is how compelling this story is with excellent pacing.  I was worried because, after all, most of the film unfolds with Franco’s character alone in a canyon with his arm pinned beneath a boulder for – yes – 127 hours.

This film is a lot better than I expected it to be.



February 19, 2011

I actually saw these three films a couple of weeks ago all within several days, and that proximity probably led me to think about them as a group linked by a common exploration of particular marriages.

Each of the films appeals to me, though I find Rabbit Hole the strongest overall, but only Another Year presents a marriage with the tenderness, affection, and persistent respect between the partners that makes me a little wistful.  Despite my fondness for Mike Leigh’s films, however, this is the weakest film of the lot.

Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville play Jim and Mary, a happily married couple surrounded by friends who are falling apart – sometimes sloppily and miserably – while Jim and Mary move placidly and kindly through the wreckage.  Another Year doesn’t rise to the level of some of Leigh’s other films (Secrets & Lies and Vera Drake spring to mind), but this writer/director is worth watching for his expert way with actors.

If Jim and Mary are the happiest couple of this lot of films, Dean and Cindy (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) are at the other end of the spectrum.  I love the look of Derek Cianfrance’s narrative that alternately chronicles the beginning and the end of this relationship.

I quibble with one narrative element that takes Blue Valentine off-kilter for me emotionally (the character arc of Cindy’s father, played by John Doman), but otherwise the motivations feel true, and this gritty look at unfulfilled expectations in working class America makes me feel as tired and used up as the couple onscreen.  I don’t want to live in this zone when I go to the movies, but visiting it can be instructive.

Finally, there is Rabbit Hole, a fine film exploring the grief of a husband and wife who have lost a child.  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, Becca and Howie, approach their mutual loss differently and separately but not without love for one another.  The central question of the film is whether or not they can find a way back to common ground.

John Cameron Mitchell does not strike a false note in this intimate portrait of despair, a film suggesting, ultimately, that perhaps sometimes love is enough to sustain survival. This is a taut (91 minutes) and fascinating film that is nuanced and complex but not contrived.  (I liked Mitchell’s earlier – also challenging – film Hedwig and the Angry Inch.)

The beauty of a blog is that it is dynamic rather than static.  I think I’m going to revise my list of favorite movies of 2010 and put Rabbit Hole on it.  Lately, I’ve returned (mentally) to I Am Love also and keep running certain sequences through my mind.  I think my list is headed for reissue.  Stay tuned…



Personal Passion Projects

February 17, 2011

Check it out…


That’s what I think about personal passion projects!



February 6, 2011

Okay, I knew it was a Peter Weir film going into it.  The Way Back, based on the book ThE Long Walk, tells the story of a Polish officer who escapes from a Soviet gulag with seven others during WWII.  They cross Siberia and much of Asia on foot to freedom.

This feels like those epic films from the 50s and 60s about WWII with a motley crew of misfits trying to outfox the bad guys in a film that feels like cinema because of the grand production values.  The landscapes here are lovely, but some of the film feels choppy and even sloppy (like the truncated sequence in which the prisoners escape from the gulag).

All in all, it’s a pretty film, but I’m not sure that’s what we’re supposed to take away with us.  I will add that I like Jim Sturgess in the lead as the Polish officer; I’ve had a crush on him since Across The Universe, but it’s his performance I’m recommending.



February 5, 2011

Here are details about this special doc screening:


There are some pacing problems about two-thirds of the way into the film, but this is a must-see for bird lovers and a good-t0-see for doc lovers.