Archive for January 7th, 2009

It’s Oscar season

Let me just put out there since the time that I mentioned that BoDeans song in my previous post, I hear it everywhere. I know it’s possible that my awareness of it is suddenly heightened, but I don’t see how that can be. I’ve been craving hearing the song for some time now and those cravings went unsatisfied. But just the other day I heard it pumping out of Anthropologie  as I was walking by, and I just heard it coming from the downstairs Milio’s when I went and got a soda. It’s like when you learn a new word and suddenly it’s the only word anyone ever uses.

Ok, that aside, let’s get started on this genuinely awesome movie season. Of what I consider note, I have seen Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt and Milk so far. If I had to pick best pic from these three, I surprise myself when I say I think I would go with Milk. I really enjoyed Slumdog (for the most part — what is it with Danny Boyle and toilet scenes?) and thought that it was an awesome tale and a great love story. It was pretty creative and neat-looking and the soundtrack accompanying the images was outstanding. The main character — I consider Jamal the Young Adult to be the main guy — was just terrific: all hero, all innocent, all lovely. And his acting was great — understated, patient and true. But, for whatever reason, the movie just hasn’t exactly stayed with me as I thought it would.

Then I saw Doubt. What an acting tour de force. Kent Williams, the main movie reviewer in the Isthmus, said that he thought the acting was a problem because the three main actors all had such different styles that it seemed they were in three different movies. With all due respect to Mr. Williams (whom I do respect a great deal), I totally disagree. I thought that Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and PSH all worked beautifully together to achieve a great piece of work. Additionally, I thought that the play was brought to the screen with love and care, but also in a very cinematic way. For example, when PSH gives his sermon on gossip, the movie shows us the unforgettable image of the feathers falling from the rooftop. This is an image that would not be feasibly rendered from the stage and it’s the very best things about film — you can do anything. Ultimately, though, I was disappointed in the ending. Not in the fact that Sister Aloysius got her way or that Sister James didn’t have to be there when Father Flynn gave his goodbyes, but in the very, very ending. I found it nearly incredible that Sister Aloysius — immediately upon telling Sister James that her lie had confirmed for her her own truth — would break down into tears expressing her doubts. I just didn’t buy it. And I don’t think it was necessary. While she was a cold woman with an unmalleable agenda, she was not a one-dimensional character that the audience needed to see some form of humanity in. That was amply demostrated, I thought, by her talk with Donald Miller’s mother. As she struggles to understand what Mrs. Miller is telling her, we can see in her eyes that while she doesn’t like it, she knows the world isn’t so black and white. I don’t know: for me, it just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Then I saw Milk. I forced myself to see it. I admit, I was not keen on it. Ever since Sean Penn did I Am Sam, I haven’t been very interested in him. But since it’s award season and I knew I’d be asked if I saw it and, if I hadn’t, I’d be inundated with the age-old, “You HAVE to”s that I decided to suck it up and sit down and watch. Oh dear. I LOVED it. I thought that Sean Penn was sheer genius. He was loving without being sappy, funny without being cheesy and charming with all the sincerity in the world. And I thought James Franco gave an outstanding performance — subtle and smiley. The scene in which he shoos out all of the campaign workers and insists that he and Harvey have dinner may have been my favorite scene this movie season (I know — still lots to see). It felt so emotional, compassionate and loving to me. It felt honest and not forced. Like the whole film, really. I also liked that Dan White’s motivations were not really explored, but just gently suggested (is he just struggling to make ends meet? is he in the closet? is he just a bigot? is he just lost?). Because we don’t know what his thinking really was, I think it best not to draft a theory and make the man’s actions fit that theory, but instead to lay it out for the audience: this is who he was to those around him; we don’t know why he did what he did; your guess is as good as mine.  And as far as a cinematic piece of film goes, I thought it lovely.  I loved looking at Penn’s and Franco’s faces close-up — seeing the lines from both stress and smiling — and the candlelight march is about as haunting and beautiful a scene as there can be.  I just really embrace this film.

Still to see: Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, The Reader (I am not into WWII movies but feel compelled — please tell me if I needn’t be), The Wrestler, Gran Torino and Last Chance Harvey.  Am I forgetting anything?  Because Kristin declared Benjamin Button to be ‘crap-tastic,’ I think I am nixing that one from my list.  Can’t say I’m disappointed.  


January 2009

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