A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Saturday, February 10

Winter Movies: Part 2

I'm deep into a big freelance writing project at the moment, but find I can't ignore this space completely. Here, then, are just a few hasty words on the (mostly mediocre) movies I've seen these past few weeks.

Debbie and I both liked Breaking and Entering quite a bit—certainly much more than most reviewers I read—though I thought Jude Law's character got off too easy in the end. Another sticking point for me: the self-incriminating actions of the young thief seem totally unnecessary, undertaken solely to further the plot. Speaking of plot... in case you haven't seen the trailer, the story is this: Jude Law is a successful London architect who lives with his girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) and her autistic 13-year-old daughter (nicely played by Poppy Rogers). When Law's office gets robbed, he tracks down the thief—a teenage Bosnian immigrant—and proceeds to sleep with said thief's mom, the lovely Juliette Binoche. Complications ensue. Everyone is beautiful, the acting terrific, and London looks fabulous.

I wish all of Venus had been about the relationships among the elderly characters—Peter O'Toole, Vanessa Redgrave, Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths—and their physical and emotional struggles with getting old. These parts were warm, funny, charming, sad, insightful. And the inevitable ending was handled surprisingly well: low-key and respectful. Unfortunately, most of the movie concerns O'Toole's too-gross relationship with a barely legal girl. I don't undestand frozen-faced O'Toole's Oscar nod, either. He was OK, but no way was this one of the top five male performances of last year.

I agree with most reviewers that Steven Soderbergh's film-school treatment (it's all shot as an homage to 1940s noir flicks) of The Good German is more distracting than engaging, but, really? I thought that the tepid, illogical plotting is what truly undermined the mostly fine acting here. I just didn't believe the stated motivations of any of the characters, nor that the US Army, in Berlin, in 1945, would give a rat's ass about two-bit journalist George Clooney, much less cave to his demands left and right. Note: I saw this solo at the Paris on 58th Street, my first film ever at that venerable theater. I was surprised at how plush and well perserved the space was—I was expecting something much mustier—but, talk about old school, there are no cup holders on the seats! Is there any other theater in town that doesn't have those these days?

Debbie was dead on about Puccini for Beginners: "If this had been a mainstream Hollywood movie rather than a low-budget indie," she said, "no way would it have gotten such good reviews." So smart and insightful (and, of course, gorgeous) that Debbie! We liked this story of a commitment-phobe woman who simultaneously dates/sleeps with a man and a woman, who happen to be exes with each other, and it had its cute moments, but we weren't fooled by all those big words in the script.

The most unnecessary, unpleasant movie of the year—and I mean ALL of 2007—will undoubtedly be Alone With Her. Shot entirely through the POV of hidden surveillance cameras, this depressing tale of a nerdy stalker (Colin Hanks... yes, Tom's son) is pure voyeur porn with a violent twist. Creepier than the movie itself? The fact that MOST of the audience at the Sunday afternoon show we attended were single men. I can't think of another movie I've seen where that's been the case.



Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Gotta disagree about The Good German. It's not perfect, but the idea of the George Clooney character being used in order to suss out (and snuff out) a German who worked in the rocketry program is plausible.

The scientists who worked on the rockets were extremely prized as spoils of war...and seeking them out while suppressing outrage about their offenses against humanity (their use of slave labor under horrendous conditions) was a US government priority.

The scientist who probably fared best as a result of such suppression was Wernher von Braun, who exploited the slave labor to develop the V2, which killed thousands in Britain, and then turned himself over to the West rather than the Russians.

There is word that Braun, like a death camp commandant, was utterly unbothered by the slave corpses at Dora (the underground armaments factory mentioned in The Good German), yet in the post-war United States, Braun's WW2/Holocaust past was downplayed to the extent that he became something of a heroic figure as a leader in weapons development and space exploration. Another NASA leader, Arthur Rudolph, fled the United States in 1984 instead of finally facing charges that had committed war crimes at Dora.

Says one Internet source: "Sixty thousand prisoners passed through Dora in the brief year and a half the camp existed. United Nations and U.S. Army records reveal that at least 25,000 never got out alive. They were starved, beaten, hanged, and literally worked to death building Hitler's secret weapon, the V-2 rocket. 'The method of extermination was not the gas chamber, but of working them to death,' said a U.S. Army prosecutor in 1947." Yet scientists involved in this slave labor went on to assume positions of honor in the post-war United States.

The Good German is largely about Clooney not "getting" that, even as war crimes tribunals were being readied, some war criminals would be protected by the Allies because of their expertise in terms of ballistic missile and other military technology.

3:44 PM, February 13, 2007

Blogger Scott said...

Wow! Thanks for your post, umm... I mean, your comment, David.

Yeah, definitely it's disgusting how the "scientist" Nazis were saved in the name of US patriotism (or, anti-communism). How many souls were sold in those deals!?

What I was saying is this: I'm not buying that, in this movie (and the book, which I read years ago and found equally implausible), the US government would be playing around with a lowly reporter from the Nation (Clooney), much less use him to secure one of their biggest war prizes (or, put another way, commit one of their biggest war crimes).

I know it all really happened. And the story could make an excellent thriller. I just don't think (book author) Joseph Kanon pulled it off.

10:52 PM, February 13, 2007

Blogger Scott said...

More important: what about the cup holder issue? IS there another theater without them around still? Film Forum, maybe?

10:54 PM, February 13, 2007

Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Not sure about the cup holder...but are you telling me that the Paris was selling refreshments? If so, that's a new development. Or were you smuggling, a la the Tobey Maguire character in The Good German??

As for the Film Forum, I don't think there are cup holders there, now that I think about it. If there had been, I don't think my tea cup would've been knocked over on Monday night. (The good news is that the cup was empty.)

12:13 AM, February 14, 2007

Blogger Scott said...

Paris is absolutely selling concessions, such as the Diet Coke I enjoyed, though I was nervous about spilling on the rug which covers the entire theater. Especially without a cup holder.

I did smuggle in those amazing Fika cookies, though.

12:47 AM, February 14, 2007

Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Ah--so if the Paris is now vending, perhaps cupholders are just around the corner.

The Film Forum plans to change its seating, but I'll have to check on whether cupholders are under consideration.

4:35 PM, February 14, 2007


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