Tags: movies

pride and prejudice

Literary Movies

With Fall and the new school year, also comes the Serious Movie Season (yay!!). Get out your handkerchiefs! All these look rather promising

Here's the first trailer for Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones on Apple.com (hasn't Peter Jackson got thin!).

The Time Traveller's Wife opens this week. I adored this book and had the usual concerns about a movie adaptation, but the trailer made me tear up; that's not all that difficult, but still..

And then there's Jane Campion's movie about the relationship between Keats and Fannie Brawne. Of course we know it's not going to end well...


Pottering Around

Victoria is sweltering under an unofficial heatwave; it's too hot to do much at all except loll about and read books, which is hardly a tough assignment. I'm trying to get a little bit of "home" work (sorting and clearing, getting my garden under control) done every day, but at the moment it's too warm to do anything except in the basement. Robinson keeps thinking he wants to go for a walk, but that's just reflex. When he gets up, he quickly lies down again, panting. Tabitha just lies serenely, somewhere cool.

Yesterday evening, I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie with lidocafe and a friend of hers. It was extremely well done, and I thought the art direction and photography was stunning. This was the first of the movies that I've seen in the theatre, believe it or not, and it was certainly worth it (not just because the theatre was air-conditioned). It was engrossing and entertaining; I consistently believe that the movies are better than the books, because they can encapsulate the essence of the plot and still portray something of what complexities of theme there are. Often, too, the skill of the actors makes up for Rowling's deficiencies in character. I think Snape, for example, is now inseparable from Alan Rickman's portrayal of him. It's interesting to consider that the early movies were out before the last books were finished, and to wonder how much of what people "see" in the books is in fact put there by the actors who portrayed the characters and by the set design and so on, and not from what Rowling herself tells us. She is very much the tell rather than show; we know that Harry is brave and noble because she tells us so, not so much from anything that arises from him as a character.

This enrichment of the imaginative affect of the material breaks down in Harry, because of Daniel Radcliffe's complete lack of energy or any kind of charisma as an actor. He has two expressions - wide-eyed and stoic, and wide-eyed and stricken. Occasionally, in his stoic mode, a lip twitches to tell us that he's reacting to something. I thought even Rupert Grint, who mugged his way through the earlier movies, was more natural. There is nothing happening behind Radcliffe's eyes - unlike Alan Rickman, who exhibits an equally stony exterior but who manages to express all that he is unable or unwilling to say through his eyes. Radcliffe's inadequacy as an actor must have been true in the earlier movies, but somehow seems to matter more in this one, perhaps because the young characters are supposed to be demonstrating more depth and maturity, and Radcliffe seems incapable of doing so.

One more remark about the adaptation of book to screen: being able to see Snape and Dumbledore in that crucial scene at the end lent somewhat less ambiguity than exists in the book. That's what I thought, anyway - and of course my opinion is coloured by having read the whole series and knowing what we learn in the end. I also thought that Snape yelling "I'm the Half-Blood Prince" at the end was far from adequate for anyone who had NOT read the books to understand what that was about.

Still - I did not find that the movie lagged at all for all the nearly three hours of it, and it was certainly an enjoyable summer confection.

Speaking of adaptations of book to screen - I was dreading Where The Wild Things Are but am feeling considerably more optimistic after viewing this featurette about it. Now I'm intrigued and looking forward to it.

Which is more than can be said for Alice in Wonderland, which I think looks dreadful.

Some Recent Viewing

Of course, I didn't go to the movies while I was in Europe, but I did see three films while going to and fro, and I've been catching up with my "Zip" list now that I have so much free time. Some brief comments:

Doubt (seen on outgoing plane). This was a film of a stage play, and it shows, rather, though the performances were all very strong. Meryl Streep's was, I thought, a little mannered. Philip Seymour Hoffman was particularly good, but he always is. The issues in the play movie were complex and unresolved in a very satisfactory way, and I would have liked to talk to someone about them afterwards.

Coraline (seen on return flight) Worth seeing for the "real" stop-motion animation, which is wonderful. I think I liked it somewhat better than the book (with which I was not wildly impressed), but I still found the story somewhat predictable and not wildly original.

The Edge of Love (also seen on return flight) I had never heard of this - the dramatization of relationships in Dylan Thomas' life, starring Kyra Knightly, Cillean Murphy and Sienna Miller (and someone whose name I forget playing DT). It was BBC, so perhaps had been made for television? Kyra sings! And rather well, too. Kyra acts! Better than I've seen her in anything since Bend it Like Beckham. It was a quality production all round, and a fascinating story, though it didn't leave me liking Dylan Thomas any more than I did already (except as a poet).

The Quantum of Solace I'm sorry. I came to the conclusion about halfway through this that I don't like Daniel Craig and I don't believe he is Bond. And I'm so effing tired of chase scenes that are so special-effects-ridden that you can't see who is doing what or which car is the one you care about. A little over halfway through, I fell asleep, which just shows you. Judi Dench was lovely, though.

Iris Speaking of Judi Dench... I had avoided this movie for years, for reasons that might be obvious to readers of my flist. However, it came up on my Zip list and I watched it and enjoyed it, more for Kate Winslet's fiercely intelligent portrayal of the young Iris Murdoch than anything else. I felt that it skimmed the surface, and I would have liked _more_ of Murdoch's writing and ideas at the beginning so that the loss later in her life was more apparent. But it was beautifully acted by all concerned and a very sensitive portrayal of the story and of the relationship between Iris and her husband.

The Power of Song A documentary about the life of Pete Seeger, who is one of my heroes. This was terrific, and not completely uncritical of Pete, though it was mostly about how wonderful he is. But it was clear, throughout, that having a "saint" as a husband and father is not ideal, no matter how much you can admire his character and his work. Great music, of course, and the advantage of watching such things alone is that you can sing along ;-)

Australia This had two potentially terrific movies in it, and if it had finished two-thirds of the way through I would have loved it and celebrated it as a thumping old-fashioned romp. However, it did not end two-thirds of the way through, and by the time it did I had not exactly lost interest but gotten a bit exhausted by everything that was being thrown at me. It was beautiful to watch, of course. Overall, it was a little better than I had thought it was going to be; at least I did not fall asleep!

Lidocafe's Movie Meme

A whole lot of "fives"

1. Five genres of film you usually enjoy, and five films of each genre you'd recommend.


The Sound of Music

Audrey Hepburn Movies

Roman Holiday
Robin and Marian
How To Steal a Million
My Fair Lady

Romantic Comedies

Bull Durham
Say Anything
The Sure Thing
Shooting Fish
Working Girl

Literary Adaptations

A Room With a View
Sense and Sensibility
The English Patient
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
A Passage to India

Postmodern metafictional movies

The Usual Suspects
Moulin Rouge
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Pulp Fiction
Stranger Than Fiction

2. Five contemporary directors whose names alone will recommend a film to you.

Mike Leigh
The Coen Brothers
Stephen Spielberg
Ang Lee
Martin Scorsese

3. Five directors from the past whose names alone will recommend a film to you.

John Ford
Alfred Hitchcock
David Lean
William Wyler
John Huston

4. Five great contemporary actresses.

Kate Winslet
Meryl Streep
Emma Thompson
Judi Dench
Jody Foster

5. Five great contemporary actors.

Daniel Day Lewis
Ralph Fiennes
Leonardo Di Caprio
Russell Crowe
Kevin Spacey

6. Five great actresses from the past.

Ingrid Bergman
Katherine Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn
Olivia De Haviland
Dame Edith Evans

7. Five great actors from the past.

Paul Newman
Gregory Peck
Jimmy Stewart
Humphrey Bogart
Gary Cooper

8.Five great film adaptations.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Go-Between
2001 A Space Odyssey
Sense and Sensibility
The Lord of the Rings

10. Five great foreign language films.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Pan's Labyrinth
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Fanny and Alexander
Babette's Feast

13. Five films you have watched / will watch again and again.

The Great Escape
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Star Wars (the first one)

Now it's your turn...

Recent Viewing

A Mighty Heart

For a long time I was afraid to watch this movie; even the trailer made me cry. And, yes, I cried watching it, but it earned my tears in a way that I hadn't expected. It didn't go for the obvious, sentimental button pressing that it could have. Angelina Joli's performance was dignified and restrained, and did honour to the woman she was portraying. The story unfolded to some extent like a police procedural (and although I'm aware there was some criticism at the time of the way the local authorities handled the case, the overall impression here was that everyone cared deeply about it and worked very hard). I found the movie suspenseful, despite knowledge of the outcome, finding that suspense tinged with irony that is at the heart of the most effective tragedies.

Sweet Land

I came to this movie with quite high expectations, having read a review of it comparing it to the work of Terence Malick (whose Days of Heaven is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen). It was a very nice movie, but not in that league, nor as compelling as the review would have had me believe. In telling the story of an immigrant couple, the woman coming to the US as a mail-order bride, neither of them speaking good English and both encountering prejudice on the heels of WW1, yet also attempting to show the importance of Land and love of the Land, it had too many different messages to convey and weakened all of them. At its heart is a very tender love story, and I wish it had focussed on that. The framing story about the generations to follow was to some extent unnecessary and distracting. All the players were good - it was quite nice to see Alan Cumming playing a "normal" person, and John Heard plays a fairly sympathetic preacher-man. The two leads were attractive and interesting - again, this was pleasant viewing but by no means earth shattering.

The Dark Knight

This was, to coin a phrase, awesome. An exceptionally polished and - yes - even profound piece of filmmaking. Dark, violent, noisy, full of spectacle, but ultimately focussing on the heart of humankind and what it means to be good or evil and whether or not it is possible to fight the darkness underlying our societies. My friend lidocafe, with whom I viewed this at the theatre, wrote a long and thoughtful review that conveys more than I could in this brief discussion, and her knowledge of the comics adds more depth than I would be able to. I need to say though, that as good as Heath Ledger was, I don't think it was "his" movie. The depth and gravitas that the movie conveyed would not have been possible without the support of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart. And of course there was Christian Bale. I love Christian Bale.

Rescue Dawn

And here he is again. In fact, I've seen three movies of his in the last month, all fine films, all graced with his intense, intelligent presence. And seeing three performances within a relatively limited time period highlighted his ability to inhabit a role, to lose his own ego within his presentation. For me, that is always the mark of the finest actor, when you can see the character from his eyes, when it is not simply a mask or a set of twitches. This movie was also an effective piece of film-making. I'm not sure I would have realized that it was Werner Herzog at the helm had I not known in advance, yet in hindsight I realize that its focus on Man in Nature is extremely Herzogian. Like A Mighty Heart, this is based on a true story, yet I found here that knowledge of the outcome did lessen the suspense somewhat. What was enjoyable was watching Bale's performance and his interplay with his fellow prisoners of war. Steve Zahn is a revelation, equally intense and compelling. Jeremy Davies is more a collection of twitches; we never really get a handle on what motivates him, unless it is that he has been broken by his time as a prisoner (his performance in Saving Private Ryan is far more affecting).

Paris, Je T'Aime

Well, I do love Paris, but here I'm referring to the delightful film of that title. It's really a series of films, or perhaps a series of vignettes, all relating to love and all set in Paris, and they are all wonderful and the overall effect is extremely satisfying. Each vignette is directed by someone different and interesting, and the tone and style of the vignette very much reflects its director. There's a slightly surreal one set on a Metro platform directed by the Coen brothers and starring Steve Buscemi. Gus Van Sant directed one where one young man tries to pick up another. There's a vampire one not directed by Wes Craven although he appears in it and directs another delightful one set in the Pere Lachaisse cemetery and featuring the ghost of Oscar Wilde. There's a lovely one with Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands directed by Gerard Despardiu (and also featuring him) with both of them looking very old but somehow glowing, reminiscent slightly of the "oh yes, I remember it well" song in Gigi.

The acting is all terrific, and the cast is stellar - a constellation of "interesting" actors rather than "stars": Juliette Binoche, Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal (speaking beautiful French), Nick Nolte (in an unexpected role), Willem Dafoe, Bob Hoskins, others whom I did not recognize. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking. The only form of love or attachment not included is one about a dog, and given the setting perhaps that's a minor omission!

Of course, part of the pleasure is the setting, and it will make you nostalgic for Paris. Each vignette features a different arrondisement or district, with the subject matter complementing the setting in some way.

I find myself thinking about many of the characters I met in that film and wondering what will happen next. That's the best kind of movie-going experience.

3:10 to Yuma

It can be a good thing to approach a movie with low expectations; often you are pleasantly surprised, as I was with this one. I ordered it from Zip with the notion that it was a Western (I like Westerns), and it had two of the most interesting actors working today in it (Russell Crowe and Christian Bale), so it certainly couldn't be all that bad.

It was considerably better than "not all that bad." I liked it a lot. I liked it better than Eastern Promises, which came with much more critical hoopla surrounding it. And the more I think about it, afterwards, the more I like it in retrospect. Collapse )

The Super Movie Meme

Courtesy of chickenfeet2003

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Star Wars (the original)

2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Star Wars, The Sound of Music, Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Cate Blanchette

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Adam Sandler

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
Star Wars (any of them) (how sad is this pattern beginning to emerge...)

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
The Sound of Music, Jesus Christ Superstar, Oklahoma

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
The Sound of Music

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

9. Name a movie that you own.
Too many to relate

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting skills.
Barbara Streisand

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Actually quite a few. The most recent was Who'll Stop the Rain

12. Ever made out in a movie?
Yes. See above.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet got around to it.
Citizen Kane

14. Ever walked out of a movie?
Yes. Caligula

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
Oh, dear, too many to count. Maybe Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet was the most notable.

16. Popcorn?
Of course. Always.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Maybe on average about once a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
Um. There Will Be Blood, I think.

19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
I like almost everything, but am a sucker for romantic comedies.

20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Hmmm. Angel Heart.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Qoyanisqaatsi (or however you spell it)

23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
The Exorcist

24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
The Twelve Chairs

There Will Be Blood

I can't imagine what it must have been like for Daniel Day Lewis to inhabit the role of Daniel Plainview for however long it took to film Paul Thomas Anderson's near-masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. Inhabit it he does. At first, listening to the cadences of a voice that some critics have likened to an imitation of the late John Huston, I thought "oh, this is just mannered," but gradually you realize that the character lives behind the actor's terrifying eyes, in turns glittering, manic, cold as a great white shark, and equally deadly. If Daniel Day Lewis did, in fact, base the voice on John Huston, you can't help thinking of the character Huston played in Chinatown, and the bleak vision of amoral capitalism presented in that movie. Or of Huston's own Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Humphrey Bogart's obsessed, almost insane character.

Plainview has been likened to Satan, but I fear that he is all too human, representing a side of humanity, an aspect of American identity and aspirations that most of us would fear to touch or even come close to. The excesses of both capitalism and religion - the US's twin obsessions - are what are on show here, in a vision so black, so darkly humourous, that it recalls Beckett or Ionesco, or Kubrick.

What is almost another character in the movie is the remarkable score. Beginning like a hive of demented bees, and in turns atonal, dissonant, mesmerising or frantic, it jars, disrupts, sets on edge in the same way as Daniel Day Lewis' eyes contrast with his cultured, almost plummy voice. At peak moments, we suddenly hear Brahms violin concerto as yet another signal of the contrast between the romantic ideal of the American Way and the vicious, amoral behavior on the screen.

This is in many ways not a pleasant movie; it is sometimes difficult to watch. But it is risky, bold, confident filmmaking, by a director in complete control of his craft in partnership with an equally fearless actor.

I'm Not There

This movie would be a useful exercise in studying Barthes - the death of the author. Because Dylan's "not there," and yet, paradoxically, he is.

What "I'm Not There" represents are the various personae created by Bob Dylan at various stages of his life, and through his music more than through the known facts of his life. So, we see a young black boy who represents Dylan's interest in Depression era folk music, called, not insignificantly, Woody Guthrie. Then there is the earnest young poet, enraptured with Rimbaud. And the movie star, and, memorably, the electric guitar-playing Dylan, portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Richard Gere doesn't have a lot to do beyond look wise and folksy, playing the late era Dylan.

You can't help be reminded of how wonderful the music is.

The movie is a commentary on fame, and identity, and authenticity. It is rich and complicated and a little too long but definitely worth your time.

I found the scenes with Heath Ledger almost unbearably poignant.

Also, although everyone is talking about Cate Blanchett, who has much the showiest role, we should pay attention to Christian Bale, whose portrayal of both the "folky" Dylan and the "Christian convert" Dylan, is quite eerily accurate.