horror at the movies

[One more for 07]

I took myself out to see Charlie Wilson's War after work on Christmas Eve, thinking I deserved it (see "working" and "Christmas Eve" for starters.) I wanted to see it mostly for Aaron Sorkin's script, from which this film is trimmed. Only about 70% of his script appears on film, smoothing it down, drawing fewer parallels to the current state of affairs, and the bookending flash-forwards hammer all the heroism home.

As it was, it's an engaging film with all the snap you would expect from Sorkin. Hoffman is awesome. It stays with you. It's worth a rental. But with that other 30%, with that complexity, with those guts, it could have been great.

(In state-of-the-journal news, I will likely be putting all of my seen-in-2007 into a post, then a sum-up that some of you have seen elsewhere, and then I am going to look into exporting the whole she-bang to Wordpress. I will create a feed & let you know when that happens. If anyone cares :) )
horror at the movies

[Almost year end!]

Most of this batch is nearly two weeks old. I apologize.

* The Golden Compass was extremely pretty, and, I thought, very well-cast, but very cold. I didn't connect with a lot of it emotionally, whereas the book was devastating in places. Things that were particularly awesome: Iorek Byrnison, Lee Scoresby, Pantalaimon. Things that did not bother me: where it ended in relation to where the book does. I still think that to end it at the same place as the book would have been really weird in terms of pacing, and that the way it did end felt right for the end-of-the-first-part-of-a-trilogy. So there. Not that there will be more of the trilogy, unless it does really well overseas.

* I'm Not There, while not perfect, was definitely the most interesting film I saw that weekend. Cate, of course, is marvelous, and I was surprised to be so taken with Richard Gere's segment. The world-building there was made for me, though, the West and masquerade and religion. Christian Bale's portion was terrible, and Ben Whishaw had potential but was poorly used. Totally worth watching, though.

* Sweeney Todd was one heck of a movie to see at 10:30am on a Sunday, I gotta say. Though I don't know the show, I know the story, which put me ahead of a portion of the audience. I can't even imagine going into that cold. Visually it was *stunning*. The opening credits are up online, and watching them last week made me want to see it again. I just wish that Burton had held back a little on the blood. Slightly less cartoonish would have been more effective, but I am still really grateful that Burton got it instead of Rob Marshall, as was rumored after Chicago.

* On the third try, I finally made it to a screening of Juno. I am so excited for all the well-deserved attention Ellen Page is getting now. Basically it is fantastic and everyone needs to see it. And then buy the soundtrack. But please do not freak out Kimya Dawson.

* Finally, tonight I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I had been a little hesitant about this, not because I didn't think the movie would be good, but just because this has been a really long week, and it's in French and about a fellow who is paralyzed and can only move his left eyelid. I thought I might have to be in a particular mood to see it. If that's true, then I was. It was gorgeous, difficult, and utterly captivating. I'm really glad I went.
in the mood

[One week in November]

I might see as many as three movies this weekend (I'm eyeing The Golden Compass & I'm Not There, plus I have a pass for Sweeney Todd), so it's high time I got caught up here. I saw these all in the seven days prior to Thanksgiving.

* A local cinema has been putting on an on-going classics/revival festival, but as yet I've only made it to one. It was an excellent choice, though, Days of Heaven, which I had never seen before. (Oh my gosh this is so awful. I was trying to figure out what specifically I remembered Brooke Adams from. The answer? The Baby-Sitters Club. I don't even know what to say to that.) It occurs to me in reading about Malick that what I like about him is also what I like about Wong Kar-Wai. They both are all over the place in shooting, and only in editing does the film really emerge, visually stunning & meditative, and often with a dreamy sort of voice-over. Hmm. Anyway, Days of Heaven is amazing, and it was particularly interesting to see it shortly after The Assassination of Jesse James, which clearly borrows from Malick a lot visually.

* Since we saw it, Into the Wild won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. Which is weird, because it's not. It *was* precisely the movie I needed to see after the parade of cynicism that had been my other movies that month. And it was visually lush and tremendously moving & hopeful through the various people McCandless encounters. But best feature is pushing it.

* Coming closer to best feature, though, is Atonement, which I loved to heartbreaking little bits. I hadn't read the book, but I now have it on order. I really hope that James MacAvoy finally gets some attention from this, as he's been painfully underrated in the past, but is just fantastically good here. Also, the score is brilliant, something I don't often pay attention to, but it draws on and develops incidental sound. Epic, beautiful, contender for sure. The Dunkirk scene alone is worth the price of admission.

* Finally, SIFF Cinema ran a Kino series recently, including a Wong Kar-Wai double feature. First up was Fallen Angels, which I've never seen, even though it is somewhat kind of sort of maybe related to one of my favorite films, Chungking Express. Because I am shallow, it is possible that Takeshi Kaneshiro was my favorite part of the movie. His character was fantastic, though. And at one point he wears a Tank Girl tshirt that reads "Mother Figure". How awesome is that? Extremely awesome.

* The second film, and the main reason I bought my ticket for the pair six weeks in advance, was Happy Together. I love this movie a lot, not just a little because it managed, ten years ago, to do that thing no American film has managed -- it's a film about a gay relationship where it is not at all about being gay. It's about these people together in this time. Astonishingly simple, really. I notice different things every time I see it, and this time I paid more attention to Chen Chang (who now I see I remembered from Three Times, where he was excellent, even though the film didn't work for me). This film as a whole was still marvelous, of course, and a treat to see on the big screen.
find true film

[The Humanity-is-Fucked series, or, the 70s are back]

* The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This is a lot of movie. It is also a *beautiful* movie, which should be no surprise as it's lit by Roger Deakins, one of the few cinematographers I manage to know the name of. The others include Christopher Doyle, of course, and Conrad Hall, who made Sam Mendes's films look much better than they actually were. (Famously, when Hall passed away, I wondered who on earth Mendes would get next. Mendes is no fool. He now works with Deakins. Who, by the way, also works a lot with the Coens.) ANYWAY. This was a horribly mis-managed film from a marketing perspective. I mean, this is a Brad Pitt film fer crissakes, but it sat around for ages, and then when it was finally released, in many cities reviewers weren't even given the chance to see it. It's long, the pacing is a little weird, it's clearly influenced by Malick (which for me is a good thing, but I am not normal), Mary-Louise Parker is desperately underused, but Pitt is excellent, and the film is carried on Casey Affleck's surprisingly capable shoulders. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am really curious about a longer cut.

* Also lit by Deakins, No Country for Old Men is one freaky movie. I have two favorite moments. First, when Brolin & Macdonald are sitting on the couch early on in the film, both looking straight ahead, but in their demeanor & dialogue you can totally tell the depth & strength of their relationship. Second, when Bardem exits a house and checks the bottom of his shoes. Bardem, who I have long adored, and now? He terrifies me. THANKS, GUYS. Good thing Tommy Lee Jones was there being awesome. Also, it is probably worth noting that I had read the book a few weeks before seeing the film, and it was still totally engaging.

* I had really been looking forward to American Gangster, but it seemed to spend the whole time hanging on the edge of being a great film. It was good, well-cast, etc, but I couldn't help comparing it to Zodiac which I loved. AG pales in comparison.

* I really enjoyed Michael Clayton, for Clooney, of course, but also for Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson & his touch of scenery-chewing. Satisfying!

* Finally, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead sort of destroyed me. I respect it, it was full of strong performances, but it was really draining to watch. Now I am looking for a film that will not make me want to slit my wrists. Suggestions?
make queer film

[Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival]

A friend won a pair of party passes and shared with me, which means I went to four more movies than I had expected.

* The Walker. It was the Opening Gala, so clearly the programmers thought a lot of it. I didn't love it. It was a very cold film. Woody Harrelson gave a very studied performance, but I felt that was in keeping with the character, who essentially performed as NonThreatening Gay Best Friend for DC society ladies. Here's the thing I liked about it, though -- whether it worked or not, it was a political thriller first, with a gay lead second. That is still rare enough to be comment worthy.

* Shelter. The folks sitting behind me thought *this* should have been the Opening Gala film, and they may have a point. I saw an awful film at SIFF a few years ago about a gay tagger, and this is everything that film *should* have been and a bit more. It still didn't make it all the way up to objectively good, but the issues the lead character was dealing with had less to do with being gay and more to do with his co-dependent relationship with his sister. Which is a nice change.

* The Witnesses. Realistic & believable -- though cold -- film about the start of the AIDS epidemic. Well-acted, but there was just something missing. And I found the American character at the end really irritating because he had a strong Italian accent. Fail.

* The King and the Clown. This was easily my favorite of everything I saw at the festival.

* Eternal Summer. I didn't love it. I wonder if I would have liked it better if I had *not* come straight from The King and the Clown.

* Itty Bitty Titty Committee. I really wanted to like this, but I kind of hated most of the characters. Sadness!

...I am so tired of mediocre gay cinema.
horror at the movies


I saw stuff! It ruled! I am going to see lots more starting tonight, though, so let's catch up right quick.

* 3:10 to Yuma. I liked it a lot, but didn't *love* it. I hadn't paid much attention to casting beyond the obvious, though, and was delighted to get so much Dallas Roberts. He's worth seeing in anything.

* Dan in Real Life. I hit this free screening because I kinda dug a lot of people in the cast & because all the music was done by Sondre Lerche. It's your standard romcom, but I thought it had charm. You have to know, though, that I am a sucker for any sort of performance in a film, and this one had a family improv-round-the-piano *and* a family talent show. Pure win, so far as I am concerned, especially as one of the brothers is played by Norbert Leo Butz.

* Lust, Caution. Eagerly anticipated by me, obviously, as I am a huge Tony Leung fan. And that Ang Lee guy isn't bad either. I read a lot of mixed reviews before I went, and they're all wrong. It was an utterly gorgeous film, it did not feel nearly as long as it was, and the critical obsession with the sex in it says a lot more about the critics than it does about the sex.

* Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Hello, awards season. Beautiful film, unsurprising to anyone who saw the first one. I'm still just utterly delighted that we got a sequel at all, and it's marvelous. I'm looking forward to the inevitable special edition of the two films.

* The Darjeeling Limited. Oh Wes. Thank you. At this point I don't adore it like I do Rushmore & Tenenbaums, but I really like it a lot and am looking forward to seeing it again. I've read a lot of meta on Anderson this week, but most of it has been really reductive, some to the degree you're wondering if people are seeing the same movies. The obvious example is criticism of the treatment of India in Darjeeling, which tends to skip over little things like facts, and also that the film is clearly critical of the brothers' use of India. Basically, I want to shake authors and ask if they're paying attention. If Anderson's weird about anything (and lord knows he is, and that's why I love him) he's weird about *women*. Discuss. (Also, Adrien Brody is painfully attractive. I'm just saying.)
horror at the movies

[Everything else]

* I saw Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix while recovering from jet lag, so I don't have anything useful to say about it, except that Neville rules. I'm going to try to catch it on IMAX, if I have time.

* The advantage of not seeing a lot of genre films is that when something like Sunshine comes along you miss all the references and enjoy it on its own merits. Which were mighty. Sure, the science makes no sense and the ending has the hint of cheese. Doesn't matter. The film is *gorgeous*.

* I do go in for some popcorn films, and as such, The Bourne Ultimatum was by far the three-quel I was most looking forward to. Worth it, as it delivered fully on its promise of awesome.

* Then, to the surprise of no one more than me, I caught a free screening of Superbad. What the trailers don't tell you is that it's all about the relationship between Seth & Evan, and their angst about going off to different colleges. It is funny and sweet and crass (particularly Seth) and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. In that, I thought I would only like it for my strange affection towards Michael Cera, but I wound up laughing kind of a lot. So there.

...and now we are caught up. Yay!
horror at the movies

[Noir City]

Now that the film festival is over, the shiny new SIFF Cinema has started regular programming. They kicked off the summer with the Noir City festival, of which I caught four titles:

* Woman on the Run, starring Ann Sheridan. I'm not sure why it was titled that, as it was the husband on the run, not the wife, but noir titles have me generally befuddled. It's a standard plot, as he's on the run after witnessing a murder, but I really enjoyed it, and the final amusement park scene was *highly* effective. I've got the shivers again thinking of it.

* It was paired up with Pitfall, as each film described a marriage on the rocks. Pitfall was from the man's point of view, a fellow stuck in the ideal life who puts a foot out of line and encounters Raymond Burr as the heaviest of heavies.

* Desert Fury was Technicolor noir... which doesn't quite work for me. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had taken it as straight-up camp. It certainly works better from that perspective, especially Eddie and Johnny's relationship & the subtext rapidly becoming text.

* Leave Her to Heaven was another Technicolor noir, with Gene Tierney as a cold-blooded murderess. It was good stuff... except for the ending. Damn Hollywood.
horror at the movies

[And on with the rest of the show]

Free previews for the win!

* Nancy Drew was totally fluffy and charming. I like Emma Roberts anyway, and I thought it was a slick move to transport the story to LA, to cut down on comparisons to the books. I mean, it's a teen movie, not Oscar fodder. But I dug it. Nancy Drew = v resourceful, and I totally need her Guide to Life.

* I really wanted to love Ratatouille (It's a Pixar movie! Starring a rat!) But... I didn't. I liked it a -lot-. The rat was great, the story was cute, the animation was, seriously, stunning & beautiful. Plus, Peter O'Toole as the eeeevil critic! But the character of the young chef that Our Rattie Hero hooks up with totally irritated me. Especially his insistence on calling Remy "little chef" for the entire film. I know, it's dumb, but it totally grated.

* I went to Day Watch because it was free and I thought it would look cool on the big screen. I am still not certain that the series makes any sense, but it looks awesome, and I love the way it ended. Also, there was some fun genderfuck in this one, which got laughs from the audience, but I really didn't feel the film was playing it that way.