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

Wednesday, March 21

Winter Movies: Part 4

Spring is finally here! Warm sun, evening light, Bo and Co running up the block in t-shirts, after-dinner walks for ice cream, lots of Debbie kisses on the street... and it all starts riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight NOW! But before I get too ridiculous with spring fever, here's a look at the final five movies I saw this winter:

Although it lacked some of the power of the excellent book, The Namesake was nonetheless a moving, warm, entertaining movie about the connections of family, about growing up, about the immigrant-to-America experience, about loss and pain and sweetness and love, as it takes us through the lives of a family that begins with an arranged marriage in India, and ends with a funeral in suburban New Jersey (or perhaps it's Queens?). Anyway, the trailer gives away some of the most tender moments, as well as a few of the biggest laughs, but even those spoilers don't diminish the overall appeal of this simple story, elevated by strong performances throughout, especially from Kal Penn as Gogol Ganguli—the son, and the namesake of the title—and even more especially from Tabu as the wonderfully underplayed homesick, determined, old-fashioned, bemused, deeply loving mother.

You won't see a better looking movie this year than The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and not just when our tweedily-dressed heroes and villains tromp and train and fight and kill their way through the lush Irish countryside. Even the interior shots are beautifully lit... heck, even the scene where someone gets their fingernails ripped out is easy on the eyes. That said, this is the famously (left-leaning) political director Ken Loach's often intense, unbelievably depressing story of the repression, betrayal, violence, fear and death that surrounded the founding of the IRA in 1920s. Like most war movies, there is little to distinguish the individual characters from one another here, though Cillian Murphy makes a strong presence as the apolitical-doctor-turned-Brits-out-radical (it's the first time I felt like he wasn't relying so heavily on his eyes to do all the work). And I wish I knew more Irish history, to get a sense of the bigger picture that these twenty or so young men were operating within. Also: it's almost impossible to penetrate the Gaelic accents in certain parts, further adding to my (and Debbie's) overall feeling of frustration with the film.

They tried for a lot in Two Weeks—the dynamics of adult siblings, with all the old jokes and resentments and familiar roles; these same adult siblings dealing with the death of their mother, the person that has held them together all these years; the feelings of determined courage and self-pity and anger of said Mom—and, ultimately, they missed. And, yes, the humor was often played way too slap-sticky for my taste. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy big sections of this weepie in which Sally Field dies of cancer surrounded by her four grown-up children. And if any of the above sounds at all appealing to you, it's definitely worth a rental.

In Hustle and Flow, writer/director Craig Brewer did a terrific job making the "mid-life crisis" of a two-bit Memphis pimp not only believable, but also totally engaging and even sympathetic. Brewer attempts a similar feat in the deliberately (overly?) provocative Black Snake Moan, but this time isn't nearly as successful. Cristina Ricci is cast in one of those "brave" hyper-sexual roles, and she does a mostly admirable job of screaming in her panties, but her battles with nymphomaniacal demons were just silly, I thought. And Samuel L. Jackson is competent as the old, bitter, recently-cuckolded blues singer who "cures" Ricci, but, honestly, it was much more fun to recently "see" him in this clip.

Finally, my last movie of the winter was also my least favorite, though plenty of otherwise-reasonably-intelligent critics seem to disagree. I thought The Host—the South Korean monster movie—was just stupid. The characters were stupid. The humor, stupid. The story, SO stupid. The message, so obvious it was stupid. But that's just me.



Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Don't be so hard on yourself--you're obviously not stupid!

11:32 PM, March 21, 2007


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