Monday, January 5, 2009

"Like Movies?"

I do.

It was a good holiday for movies. In no particular order, here are my thoughts.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

"We were meant to lose people. How else would we know how important they are?" Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button

Even with a pile of CGI, I lost myself in this film. It helped that that the audience in the packed theatre seemed as riveted as me. It's so rare these days to not be distracted, so this was a pleasure indeed. The film explores themes of aging, love, and loss. The cast is full of wonderful women: the warm and radiant Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's foster mother, Julia Ormond, and Food, Film, Fiction faves Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. We're spoiled for good actors when you have someone like Blanchett, and you know she'll be radiant, fascinating, and own the screen every second she's on it. Tilda Swinton has some sort of unearthly presence, with her pale face, her dark, seemingly lashless eyes, and that expression that sits between fear and ferocity. I'll watch her in anything. The rest of the cast, the cinematography, the editing, the music is superb... I loved all of it! This gets 10 dark chocolate truffles out of 10.

The Deep End (2001)

"Like movies?" Goran Visnjic as Alek Spera

I saw this when it first came out in the cinema and I watched it again this week, on dvd loan from my friend B. Tilda Swinton plays a mother, living on the shores of Lake Tahoe, with her growing children and a fragile father-in-law, while her husband - in the US navy - sails the north Atlantic. A tragedy occurs, and in one of those fatal movie moments, Swinton's character makes a decision that reverberates like the splash circles in a lake, after a body has been dropped into it. Goran Visnjic is handsome and deadly and I won't say anything more, because this is a good thriller, and - damn - they're hard to find. But... I had no idea that Lake Tahoe or Visnjic, from tv's ER (never watched it) were so easy on the eyes. 7 truffles!

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

"You could have told me how lonely you were. You never trusted me to help you. I'm not saying I was so fucking fabulous, but I was here." Bill Nighy as Richard Hart

A wonderful cast takes on a Patrick Marber script to devastating ends. Judi Dench is a close-to-retirement teacher, who becomes obsessed with Cate Blanchett, a new teacher in the same school who is all light on the surface, but has a challenging home life that strains her marriage to Bill Nighy, her former professor. She makes a choice that makes her painfully vulnerable to Judi Dench, who uses this to assuage her own bitter loneliness. Oh boy, it's intense. 9 truffles!

Gran Torino (2008)

"Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have messed with? That's me." Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski

I wasn't sure what to think as the movie started. It took me a while to start laughing, and to realize it was okay to do so. This is part comedy, part tragedy, not seamless and ultimately schizophrenic. Clint Eastwood plays a retired, recently widowed, bitter old man, whose general intolerance for all human beings is deeply rooted in his dreadful experiences as a soldier in Korea. He treats his family like idiots (some members are deserving) and all his neighbours are painted with a racist brush, using terms and words that flow flawlessly from his puckered angry mouth, his eyes almost obliterated by his glowering brow. A happy encounter with a lovely young neighbour, Ahney Her as Sue - who gives as good as she gets - melts him slightly. This small fissure in his hateful ways wakes him to look out for his neighbours, to devastating ends. If you like Clint Eastwood (I love him!) you will probably want to see it. 5 truffles

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

"Maria Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic." Javier Bardem as Juan Antonio

Woody Allen's latest was a delicious romp through the beautiful parts of Barcelona with a gorgeous cast and some clever comments on life and what we make of it, art and how we express it, and love and how we fulfill it. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall (daughter of British director Peter Hall and American opera singer Maria Ewing) are two American women travelling for a summer to Barcelona. Hall is engaged to a nice, preppy fellow, and it is not long before she is questioning her safe decision to pursue a life she dreamed of for herself once, but perhaps no longer. Johansson is a free spirit, neurotically wed to the idea that love is about suffering and passion is about pain. Throw Javier (damn, what a profile) Bardem, playing an artist, into the mix, with his low, Spanish accent and limp, linen shirts, and you have a good film! Hall has the Woody Allen leading lady hand flaps, stammers, mutterings and unfinished thoughts down pat. Johansson is radiant and pouty. Penelope Cruz is hysterical and beautiful as Bardem's former wife, also an artist. Bardem holds his own against all the female beauty. Damn, he's gorgous. 9 truffles!


willow said...

Can't wait to see the new Woody Allen. Glad to hear you liked it! I saw Curious Case over the weekend and was lost in the magic of the story. I loved Tilda Swenton even more than my favorite Cate Blanchet!

Edward Hegstrom said...

GRAN TORINO hasn't opened here yet, and I can't work up any enthusiasm for BENJAMIN BUTTON, but amen to VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA, easily one of the year's best. Maybe the character arcs aren't entirely surprising, but it somehow grows emotionally deeper as it goes along, and the final shot was, I thought, almost unbearably sad. After all the legitimately great films he's already made, Woody Allen just keeps getting better.

Blog Princess G said...

Willow: I'm so thrilled you loved it too!

Ed: I love Woody Allen!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

We're heading to Benjamin on Friday and are looking forward to seeing it. Even more so after your rave.

Judi Dench in Notes was one of the scariest portrayals I've ever seen. Completely creepy. Great movie.

Blog Princess G said...

Judi Dench is a GODDESS!