Sunday, February 22, 2015


"I just kept thinking, 'That's Mr. Mom, man!'" -Jon

This is a story about the internal dialog/struggles/petty drama of an actor, self-absorbed and exhausting to watch battle his inner-demons but...

...this guy's inner demons include not just a failed marriage, dried up career, mountains of self-doubt, and a just-out-of-rehab daughter (though, those are there); this guys biggest demon is a Birdman character he played 20 years ago...and some some magical realism...and some incredible meta-dialog wrap-around storyline gymnastics. I was engrossed in it from the first scene to the last.

Like all of director Alejandro González Iñárritu's work, this is painstaking, tense and beautiful. There are moments of comic relief, but always at the expense of someone. 

The camera work is fantastic...edited and cut as if it were one continuous shot (almost) which gives it a cinéma vérité look and feel (although this is certainly not), which is also a nod to how the play unfolds within the movie as real-life bashes its way onto the stage and stretching the boundaries of the fourth wall become the key to resolution of the story.

I'd love to talk to a theater person about this's been a LONG time since I was on the stage or behind it and I think that would add another dimension all together.

Michael Keaton is really, really good in this.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Inherent Vice

Ahhhhh crap.  I fell off the wagon so quickly.  I vow to do better and write these damn  things up before I forget if I liked them or not.

So!  A couple things I loved about this:  Its very gritty /over-exposed look were super-reminiscent of late 60's early 70's sunbaked (baked) Southern California.  The costumes, the telephone, the cars...all spot on as P.T. Anderson can do. 

It was laugh-out-loud funny at times and had some great twists and surprises.

Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix were brilliant together in Walk the Line, so it was fun seeing them here too.

There is something Big Lebowski-ish and quotable in this missing person romp.  It's LA, it's a decade piece, it has fantastic characters (Martin Short absolutely steals the show about 2/3rds of the way in).

I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over.

Saturday, January 03, 2015


"I dunno" I shrugged at Jon. "Aren't these kinds of things more your thing?"  I was worried that I would need to know more about Edward Snowden than I did.  Not wanting the subtleties of the film (or even the greater meanings) to be lost on me because I don't read news with any regularity anymore. I was wrong. This movie was totally my thing.  It was exciting. Tense. Human. It made me mad. It made me appreciate that there are people in this world who will act when they see something that is wrong. It made me respect Snowden for his smarts and bravado and for choosing the right journalists to tell his story. 

Snowden was a high level computer engineer, contracted at the NSA, who had access to any level of classified of data. He wrote code and managed systems on which metadata is being captured on everyone (literally) and cataloged in searchable ways.  He knew this was wrong so he decided to reach out to two journalists who he knew would respect the story and its weight and told them what he knew and shared documents with them. The film unfolds mainly over a week or so and follows journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras as they meet with Snowden to hear what he has to say in a Hong Kong hotel room. It is informative and revealing, emotional and haunting.  

What I liked most about this documentary are the times that you see the person behind the story...Snowden's nervous tics and awkward phone conversations with the hotel staff . The long, steady shots of him thinking, looking out the hotel window or fussing with his hair. He's a person. You can feel his resolve even when he is clearly uncertain about what comes next.

The story is still unfolding and, truthfully, I felt helpless when the movie ended. We are still being listened to and watched. Drones, cell phones, search engines - the tools are in the hands of the watchers. It feels like it's too late.

Back in the Saddle!

After a five year hiatus, I am firing up the movieblog again!  I've got an unofficial goal of 26 movies in the theater this year.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Politist, adj. (Police, Adjective.)

I loved this movie. However, I have to admit that I fell asleep a couple times in the beginning, but it wasn't out of boredom or not wanting to see it. I am just freaking exhausted these days.

This film shouldn't be slept through, though. In my defense, the tempo of the first half is very slow and quiet. We watch as Dragos Bucur (of The Paper will be Blue "fame") goes about his slow, quiet life as a police officer on a case.

Dialog and action increase as we get a peek into his relationship with his new wife, who is a school teacher. We start to understand that he doesn't believe in what he is doing and, indeed is unclear on his role as police officer in a case such as the one he is working on.

Lots of great word play and discussion of words and metaphors, meanings of words and why we use them as symbols and rely on them to encompass ideas.

Engaging and well-acted. Every time I see a Romanian film, I am reminded how much I like Romanian cinema.

Learned: there is a sport called, "foot tennis" which is like soccer and tennis combined.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces)

Really enjoyed this as I do Almodóvar in general. He has this great way of telling engaging, unique stories purely though his fairly normal characters. His muse, Penelope Cruz, is pitch perfect as usual.

These are everyday people in their everyday lives and extraordinary things happen. Sometimes I feel like there are Almodóvar films happening all around us all, all the time.

After watching this I decided that Almodóvar is a version of Woody Allen. A gay, Spanish, Woody Allen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam has made some fantastic and extraordinary films - like this and this and this. The Imaginarium, isn't in the league of those, but it's close - it wants to be and I want it to be, but it's not.

The things I loved:
*Tom Waits, first and foremost, plays the perfect devil. He is spectacular and I was giddy with....giddiness?...whatever, so psyched whenever he was on screen.
*The four actors playing the role of Tony, I think worked great and added a bonus surreality to the movie that was fun and unexpected (even though I had read that it was coming.)
*The costumes, the props and the sets - even the CGI (is that what that is called?) stuff which I tend not to like inside the imaginarium - were gorgeous.

The things I didn't love: ...are harder to put into words.

*I was left feeling a little overworked to sort out all the plots at the end. I think things tied up clumsily and forgettably. I think Gilliam is capable of better and I wanted extraordinary.

*The premise of the film requires (as Gilliam often does) a HUGE amount just letting go and enjoying what's happening without worrying over the details. I am happy to do that, for sure, but it would be a better movie if Gilliam worked on those details and little more.

*Lily Cole's tiny chin made me nervous.

And last but not least - for the just effin' weird file: At one point in the Imaginarium, Heath Ledger's character sees a crying child on the side of a river and wonders aloud if this is where he must chose between good and evil. In response, Lily Cole's character, with whom we sympathize, exclaims, "That's not a choice, it's a child!" I audibly gasped and was distracted by it for the rest of the film. WTF? Is Gilliam anti-abortion?

I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5 stars rating - go see it, but know that Gilliam could have (and has!) done better.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our (pathetic) 2009 movie list

The Wrestler (3 stars)
Milk (4 stars)
Je suis Pierre Riviere (1 star? I fell asleep)
Gomorrah (2.5 stars)
Limits of Control (3 stars)
Tokyo! (3 stars)
Home (4 stars)
In the Loop (1 star)
Moon (4 stars)
Cold Souls (1.5 stars)
Informant! (3.5 stars)
Precious (2.5 stars)
The Road (4 stars)
A Serious Man (4 stars)
Where the Wild Things Are (2.5 stars)

Well, there you have it. I might have missed a few, but I stopped keeping my ticket stubs because I wasn't updating the blog at all. We averaged 1.2 movies a month, and my ratings averaged about 3 stars, which doesn't seem very good when you consider how many 4 stars ratings are up there. I put my top 5 in bold.

Here's to more movies in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 was not my movie year

I can't believe I haven't updated this since February. Actually, I can. I have a home business, a part time job and an 18 month old. So those are my excuses.

I won't even attempt to go back and write reviews for the movies we have seen in the theater this year, but I will make a list (maybe with star-ratings?) so that we can at least remember what we saw...

...this is pathetic. Here's to a more diligent movie blogging 2010!

The list will be posted next week.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I, Pierre Rivière, Having Butchered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother…

I have no place reviewing this film. I fell asleep. It wasn't that it was bad. I am just a sleep-deprived mom. The part I saw was tres francais and a little bit weird. Did I mention it was long? And dark and warm in the theater? And there was no baby crying or wanting to nurse? Pure heaven.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wrestler

I so appreciated that this movie didn't do anything it wasn't meant to do. It was just the right amounts of funny and sweet and weird and gross. Nothing drastic or shocking happens, it doesn't wrap things in a pretty bow, but it was touching and realistic. Micky Roarke is pretty incredible, albeit pretty horrific to look at. I think the surprise here is Marisa Tomei, who delivers an amazing performance for which she is nominated for an Oscar. (I CANNOT believe she is 43!)

Saturday, January 03, 2009


I knew a little bit about Harvey Milk from my Queer Studies class at UC Santa Cruz. It certainly wasn't necessary to know anything about him to thoroughly enjoy this sad, inspiring biopic. Sean Penn, who does very little that I enjoy (except this and this) (and I didn't realize he did this, but I liked it a lot too), was phenomenal. Completely great. I loved the 70's vibe that Van Sant captured and I feel like Van Sant's approach to this movie was so much more accessible than most of his other movies, many of which I really enjoy, but I respect that he wanted this to reach more people. Nicely done.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our 2008 Movie List

4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days)
A Casa de Alice (Alice's House)
Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, O (The Year my Parents Went on Vacation)
Be Kind Rewind
Beed-e majnoon (The Willow Tree)
Before the Rains
Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness
Burn After Reading
Cassandra's Dream
Chicago 10
Cidade dos Homens (City of Men)
Du Levande (You, the Living)
El Orfanto (The Orphanage)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Fall
Frozen River
Irina Palm
It's Fine! Everything is Fine
Man on Wire
Military Intelligence and You
Mio fratello è figlio unico (My Brother is an Only...
Mister Lonely
Monster Camp
OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies
Paranoid Park
Roman de gare
Sukkar banat (Caramel)
There Will Be Blood
Va, vis et deviens (Live and Become)
The Visitor
Voyage du ballon rouge, Le (The Flight of the Red Balloon)
The Wackness
Young at Heart

Friday, November 07, 2008


This movie was amazing...weird and convoluted and wonderful. And I saw it 3 months I have nothing valuable to add to anything that has been written here or here or here. I don't agree with all these reviews, but they are all good ones to read.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is an amazing actor.

I could talk about what happens in the film, but I have no idea what really happened.

This might have been the last movie we saw in 2008. I'm not sure which is more sad: the fact it might have been the last 2008 movie or the fact that I can't remember if it is...either way it is the baby's fault.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Burn After Reading

I think this is the Coen brothers' funniest since Lebowski. They are such amazing crafters of plot and dialog.

I saw this 4 months ago and am just posting about it now so I don't remember what else I was going to say

...ugh. Motherhood ate my blog.

I really liked this film and want to see it again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monster Camp

We watch as adults (mostly) play live-action role playing games and talk about how it is more an important part of their lives than all that reality stuff.

The filmakers appeared to be trying to capture these folks earnestly, but it amounts to the same -- they could have been trying to point their fingers and laugh.

I wished it was less of a freakshow and more of a comedy, but I guess in the end, people dressed up as butterfly warriors and cat-elfs banging each other with padded sticks and yelling out hit point losses is just not all that entertaining afterall.

Clunky as a documentary but it does have some very funny moments and it wasn't as bad as I am making it sound.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Encounters at the End of the World

Werner Herzog is becoming my new hero. (As an aside, the trivia in his bio on IMDB is fascinating!)

Grizzly Man was weird and funny and tragic. He showed up in Mister Lonely for a bizarre small role, and now this.

Herzog sets out with his camera to find out about the people who go to Antarctica to turns out there is some kind of weirdo magnet down there and pretty much all he had to do was turn the camera on and let it roll, but the results are stunning and not without the wonderful Herzog charm, brought to you in long still shots, hilarious overdubs and scenes of scientists laying face-down on the ice listening to seals.

From fork-lift driving philosophers to electric guitar playing scientists to a man who keeps a backpack packed at all times with everything he would need to pick up and go - including a kayak(!), the motley crew he encounters at the end of the world is quite entertaining, but the film is much more than that. It is gorgeous and sad and good in that way that keeps coming back to you for days after you've watched it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Wackness

I want to put on the record that this is the first movie we saw after Tilia was born.

It made me feel old.

Nothing more than a teen love story where the guy gets his heart broken, but the twist is that he sells pot out of an ice cream trolley. A lot of pot. And they show him having sex...imagine that in Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club.

My oh my how times have changed.

And yet, they haven't -- this, like the John Hughes movies of my time, was very conscious of its tragically hip self and as such shouldn't be expected to be any more than a Pretty in Pink for the Y Generation as they graduate from high school.

The main character's teacher (following the Hughes narrative again, all Hughes movies also had a wise teacher character) is played by Ben Kingsley who was amazing. He can play any character in the world masterfully. He made/saved this movie for me.

Speaking of Ferris Bueller -- Josh Peck who plays the main character kept looking so much like Alan Ruck who played Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, that I was convinced it was his son! Figuring out that that was possible made me really start feeling old. A quick IMDB search proved that they don't look anything like each other -- age takes its toll on the mind.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Frozen River

We picked this movie out of the SIFF lineup because it was on a day and time that we had free. This is not a good reason to see a movie...or is it? We knew very little going in, and were pleasantly surprised....sort of.

At first, I was completely put off by the dialog and storyline. It felt forced and contrived. But after about 30 minutes, I began to see another side of it: a creative tale of two women helping each other. Women doing what needs to be done to care for their children. Above all, I think the location was the best character in this film...bleak and cold and frustrating -- the environment really added to the feeling of hopelessness and desperation.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to everyone, but as a writing and directing debut it was solid and captivating.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Man on Wire

I was sure we were watching a mockumentary for most of this movie...there were such wonderfully silly moments that I would have bet money they were staged and I watched in delighted disbelief. Later, when I realized the events in the film were real, I felt these great touches of true whimsy lightened the mood in just the right way.

This is an inspirational and shocking and silly film and utterly delightful.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Fascinating documentary about a family of nine children who grow up somewhat wild under the iron first and open heart of their surf-guru dad, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, an ex-doctor who dropped off the grid to raise child after child in a 24-foot long camper wherever he had the whim to take them all. He was obsessed with health, fitness and surfing, told his kids that school is dangerous, and taught them to be good people using the laws of nature and "clean living." He's obviously crazy, but some of his philosophy does work out in the end...his kid love him (despite his foibles) and they turn into good, loving parents, overall. The story is well told with old pictures and footage mixed with modern-day looks at the family and who they have all become.

The Fall

We saw this hours ago and I am still completely blown away. I think some time might need to pass before I write anything meaningful about it. Here's what I want to say now: It is gorgeous. Sincere. The performance by 11 year-old Cantinca Untaru is spellbinding. The saturated colors, quirky, beautiful costumes and otherworldly images are all completely mesmerizing. The two stories are perfectly entwined, sad, dark, funny, timeless, surreal. It might go to my top 20 of all time. I know I'm gushing. I'll stop...and maybe I'll be able to put something more coherent together about it later. This is was just perfect film making for me. I had very high expectations based on seeing one preview and those were totally blown out of the water.

Before the Rains

Trite and disappointing. I at least hoped for an intelligent period piece and if not that than a good love story and if not that than at least a pretty picture with nice camera work and stunning, sweeping shots of the gorgeous Indian countryside. I was let down on all accounts. The politics of the time are dumbed down for the viewing public and the stunning camera work was all displayed in the previews. The love story never develops beyond the heartless white spice baron conquering the exotic Indian "landscape." Colonialism is bad. Everyone loses. In the end the Indian woman's soul is freed and she turns back into a dragonfly. The end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies

We chose this movie as a back up to getting into a film festival film (The Fall, which actually opens next week in wide release here in Seattle) which was sold out and we didn't make it into and we picked OSS 117 because it started a half-hour later. We both knew it would be silly and light, we didn't know it would also be boring and dumb.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mister Lonely

Weirdo Harmony Korine is at it again and, if you can believe it, it seems like he has refined his technique. Far from the offensive, uncomfortable tales of Gummo and the troublesome morals of Kids, this is a fairy tale with 10 years on Gummo and a world apart.

Celebrity impersonators live in a commune is Scotland. Michael Jackson is asked to join the group by Marilyn Monroe (the voluptuous and amazing Samantha Morton) who is married to Charlie Chaplain. The stooges are there too along with Buckwheat and Abe Lincoln (whose foul mouth adds to the fun.) Non sequitur scenes (some named by Jackson's songs) ramble along beautifully and take you to another reality. There is a culminating scene and "plot" but it didn't really matter to me. The gorgeous colors, bizarro events and a completely unrelated (as best as I can tell) story line about nuns in South America who can fly (encouraged by none other than Father Wener Hertzog) are the stars of this show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Du Levande (You, the Living)

Surreal and drably lit, this black comedy highlighted the ups and downs of human, dogs, tubas and the fact that there is always someone observing you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Roman de gare

The title is taken from the trashy pulp novels that one used to buy in French train stations. That suits this movie - there's not much substance, but it's not an altogether bad read, either.

My complaint is there is too much going on. Some scenes/characters/events only appear to plant a seed of confusion or doubt about what is really happening, and then they disappear. There are plot lines headed every which-way and only one or two of the really matter. I was disappointed by the ending. There is a lot of deus ex machina going on.

My highest compliments go to Dominique Pinon (City of Lost Children, Amelie, Delicatessen) whose rubbery face really saves this movie.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mio fratello è figlio unico (My Brother is an Only Child)

Part coming of age comedy, part political drama -- two brothers wind up on opposite sides of the fascist/communist divide in Italy in the 60s and 70s. This was a part of history that I knew nothing about and don't feel much more educated for having watched the movie, but I really did enjoy the performances by the two actors who played the brothers.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Voyage du ballon rouge, Le (The Flight of the Red Balloon)

I can't tell you how much I love Juliette Binoche. She is flawless. She completely inhabits her characters in a way that other actors cannot. I am always blown away by her -- even in mediocre movies. She is almost upstaged in this movie by the little boy who plays Simon, but not quite.

This is a "remake" of the 1950's original The Red Balloon, but it's not necessary to be familiar with the original to enjoy this movie -- in fact, I remember very little of except that the red balloon follows the boy and then floats away (?) maybe I don't remember as well as I thought.

Anyway, this is a very sweet and detailed's about outsiders and imagination and the minutia of life that makes us all tick.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Young at Heart

I knew we would laugh and cry, but I had no idea...this was an amazingly touching, funny and respectful look at a performing troupe of senior citizens who sing The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, and Coldplay. That's really all you need to know.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Visitor

When Jon and I saw The Station Agent in 2004 (?) I was stunned to find out that it was Thomas McCarthy's first film. So delicate were the characters approached and so subtlety funny were the humorous movements in that sad film about a lonely man, that I was sure this was an experienced and skilled hand at work. I was wrong.

When I discovered (after seeing it) that The Visitor is his movie as well, it made perfect sense.
The Visitor is another film about a lonely person -- another film that is perfectly cast and played -- another film that tackles something as big as isolation and solitude without being heavy handed.

Walter, the main character (played perfectly by Richard Jenkins who was the father/ghost on Six Feet Under), finds his way though his sadness by meeting a guide (actually a few guides) who shepherd him though his own baggage. He is as surprised as we are at the man who emerges.

This film tackles some bigger issues in the periphery, but it transcends the need to solve or answer or even comment on the big picture by just showing us what we need to know or what Walter needs to know.

Thoughtful and well done.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Irina Palm

Oh no we didn't....we didn't just go to this to see Marianne Faithfull playing the "wanking widow" who, apparently has the "best right hand in London" and uses it to pay her grandson's medical bills. Well, actually, we did. If it hadn't been the lovely Ms. Faithfull, we wouldn't have been caught dead at this film. It had some good moments, a few great lines, but not nearly enough to carry the awkward plot and bizarre ending.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, O (The Year my Parents Went on Vacation)

What I have to say first that this film is directed by a guy named Cao Hamburger (I'm not up on my Brazilian Portuguese but I think that's pronounced "cow.")

What I will say second is that Mr. Hamburger has directed a very sweet and original coming of age story set in a very interesting time in Brazil. 1970 was the year Brazil won the world cup and a year of political upheaval and unrest. It was also the year that Shlomo's freedom fighter parents had to run from the police and go on "vacation" leaving him with his Jewish grandfather until, they promise, they will return to watch the World Cup with him.

Great characters and wonderful acting by the kids, especially. Watching the scenes of the city shutting down for each round of the finals that their team made it through, Jon and I got a great flashback to when we were in Rome during the World Cup that Italy won in 2006.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness

Debut feature-length movie from film school weirdo Laurin Federlein. The main character gas-huffs his way across the Scottish countryside on a scooter talking to locals about how they might support and collaborate on his "traveling disco." It is as weird as it sounds and weirder. For one thing, the locals are not actors. They are actually locals who have only been asked if they want to be in a film, and then the camera rolls. The other thing is the look of the film -- Federlein turned the contrast way up and forced us all to squint and look away about half-way through the film from the dreamy, gas-huffing, glare of lime green and burgundy landscapes.

Part of what made me enjoy this was that I wasn't quite sure what I was watching. We knew nothing going into it and some of the dialog (all improvised, so near as we could tell) and camera shots are so fantastically bizarre, you can hardly believe what you are hearing and seeing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sukkar banat (Caramel)

Peek into the daily lives of five women living in Beirut. Think Steel Magnolias set in Lebanon (OK, so I never saw Steel Magnolias, but I'm pretty sure the analogy holds up. ) We read Charles (did we see the same movie?) Mudede's review in The Stranger and had high hopes for it reaching outside the salon and their petty (and sometimes bizarre) problems and solutions to problems, but it stayed in the blow-dry chair the whole time. And blew.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Va, vis et deviens (Live and Become)

Epic (by which I mean long and over-reaching) journey of a young boy whose mother forces him to leave her, pretend to be Jewish and pretend to be another woman's son so that he will be evacuated from Ethiopia as part of "Operation Moses" to Israel in the early 80s.

In Israel, with his new family, he grows up, finds new meanings of faith and family and eventually, happiness and closure. Neat.

The problems, however, overshadowed -- they included awkward dialog, trite plot turns and a little too much deus ex machina to be enjoyable for me. The good things were the actor who played the young Schlomo and the historical context which I had never learned about before.

We decided we needed to coin another tag for these kinds of movies: the Heavy-Hearted Foreign Film.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paranoid Park

Gus Van Sant is so good at being Gus Van Sant. He can take a relatively bland and conventional story, which this is, and make it contemplative, dark and dreamy. He revisits the milieu of Last Days or Elephant in that he takes relatively unheard of actors, or people who have never acted before, and thrusts them into his grainy, repeating-scene world. Jon and I noted that if he hadn't put his stamp on this, it would have been boring, with a capital b, but what we got was pure Van Sant -- almost too much so (enough with the young skateboard hotties taking their shirts off!) -- well lit, well shot, story well told.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


A stunningly beautiful and fascinating fairy tale. As we slowly progress through the story of Bab'aziz, we meet unusual and interesting characters whose lives intersect, seemingly at the whim of the storyteller. In this desert landscape, blind men journey without direction, wandering bands of musicians head toward "the gathering," humans become animals only to change back to humans and soul-seekers are made insane by their quests. I was simply in love with the granddaughter.Though she and her grandfather never say, "I love you" to one another, you can see it in their touch, their trust and their eyes. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicago 10

I knew the story of the Chicago 8, but was curious who the additional 2 were. The movie didn't provide any answers, and Jon had to look it up after we watched the film. The mix of animation and archival footage was fun and funny and dramatic and I learned a ton about the trial and the actual events over the days that Abby Hoffman and Co. were involved. The other two were the lawyers who were actually slapped with several contempt of court charges during the trail in which the 8 were eventually found not guilty. Great soundtrack.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

This is not the Michel Gondry we have met before. This is a new, lighter, less complicated and in some ways, less enjoyable Michel Gondry. But, we had to see this, knowing it wouldn't be Eternal Sunshine or The Science of Sleep, we had to see it, and I am glad we did.

Mos Def is left in charge of a video (actual VHS video) store while owner Danny Glover is away. Jack Black, through a completely implausible accident, ruins all the videos forcing the duo to remake all the films ('sweding' them). Black is the only person who could have played his character. In fact, I think he plays that character so much that we believe that is who Jack Black is. Loud, crazy, annoying, dim, enthusiastic. We buy it when he plays it. At least I do. So we go along with the goofy idea and find ourselves caught up in the fun.

Wonderful, whimsical cardboard cutouts on the sets, fancy camera angles to produce great visuals, a completely absurd plot and silly characters combined to carry this movie through. Mos Def was pitch perfect. It rode the line between sweet and schlocky, perfectly.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Military Intelligence and You

Sarcastic and spoofy take on a WWII military training film of the 40s. The idea is that if you say "Iraq" each time they say "Germany", the results are hee-larious, but it really misses the mark. Kind of too true to be funny, what had real biting political commentary potential was basically wasted on Airplane!-style jokes and repetitive melodrama/slapstick. It has a few good moments for sure, but not enough to carry the idea.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Cidade dos Homens (City of Men)

Intense drama set in the favelas of Brazil. Based on a TV show that was a spin-off of the movie City of God by the same director. The themes of fatherhood, friendship and responsibilities are right on the surface, but kept interesting by the phenomenal performances by the two leading men. The sweltering heat and gang violence and poverty are so close you can feel the pressure and the need for things you can count on. Not complicated or surprising but a very well told story with hope as a footnote in the lives of the characters.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Casa de Alice (Alice's House)

The performance by Carla Ribas in this is amazing. Somewhere Jon read that this was meant to be a "state of feminism" in Brazil today picture, which, if it is, is very depressing....even more depressing than the simple, subtle, flavorful character drama that is appears at face-value. The director has, until now, I believe, only made documentaries, and you can feel that approach come through, with interesting details highlighted without being part of the story. I felt sorry for this woman and her mom and her client who lies about her life and the young girl who finds an older, married man to flirt with -- these women are all controlled in every way by the men around them -- their lovers, sons and husbands. No one is happy. Life carries on.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days)

What surprised me most about this movie is that it is about the friend who arranges an illegal abortion for her friend, not about the friend having the abortion. We follow them both through about 6-8 hours in almost real time, but the main character is the one who we really feel for, her irresponsible friend, by virtue of not being able to take care of herself, asking far too much too many times in this unfortunate scenario. Set 1980's Romania where the oppressive government touches almost every aspect of people's lives, even the most private and personal.

There are interesting moments in this film, directorial touches that made me pause and appreciate how hard it is to paint in all gray. But they are few and far between deserts of difficult, sad, slow circumstances. Some of the emotional horror is far too intense, and there is little or no redemption for anyone. I left this film feeling depleted and tired.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I saw Marjane Satrapi speak a few years ago about her autobiographical graphic novels by the same name of this movie. She was incredibly funny and spoke eloquently of her surprise at finding her way to be a "comics artist." She had me as a fan for life and I was thrilled when I heard about the film.

The film was impeccably done. They kept Satrapi's style, spirit and touch so perfectly, you might beleive she drew the whole thing herself. Magnificent shades of gray envelop each scene with wonderful details and palpable emotion. We are transported with sadness, patriotism, joy and adventure.

Even though Marjane lived in Iran through war and revolution and moved to Austria and Paris, her life was not that remarkable. It is her gift for storytelling that draws us in and wraps us up in journey.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Beed-e majnoon (The Willow Tree)

In the lobby of the theater, one of the employees said that folks coming out of this movie thought it would be lighter and beautiful, but most were surprised to find that it was intense and depressing. "That's my kind of movie!" I said, suddenly much more excited to see it.

It was intense and depressing. Somewhat hard to watch at times, but in many ways really beautiful and haunting. The director stayed away from the cliches that might have been easy and obvious way to illustrate what Yusef was going through. Instead we get a evocative look at his psychological life before and after this sight is regained.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cassandra's Dream

Oh seems that you don't even try sometimes now.

This story was almost exactly like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (which I didn't really like either), which begs the question, why take a tired storyline and put actors that seem totally wrong for their roles and have an awkward chemistry together and rehash it half-baked into a poorly named movie? Sometimes Allen seems to make movies just to have one each year, whether or not they are well-conceived, constructed or executed.

I have to admit, I was sucked into the drama a few times, but this was despite, not because of the acting, the dialog or the characters. Ironically, only one of the minor characters stuck out as realistic and believable. Sally Hawkins who played Kate hasn't been in much but British TV before, but she is the one who Woody got a great performance out of.

Finally...why is the boat called Cassandra? Was the one regretful brother's half-baked, drunk reservations before they do the deed supposed to call up visions of the Greek Cassandra whose fierce portents were ignored by all? Hardly. The more I thought about this, the more I disliked the whole film.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's Fine! Everything is Fine

Part two in delightful freakshow Crispin Glover's "It" trilogy. He opened the movie with a slideshow and dramatic reading of pages of eight of his books. That part was weird, funny, enjoyable. The movie, however, was none of that. I am certain it's art. I'm sure some of the equally-as-weird-as-Crispin audience enjoyed it (I actually saw a guy in Grateful Dead MC Hammer pants!), but the point of scene after scene of graphic elderly Cerebral Palsy patient porn was lost on me. I understand the main character wrote the screenplay and he played himself in this psycho-sexual fantasy of his own making, but there are just some things I just don't want to see. Thanks, Crispin, but no thanks.

There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis gives the performance of a lifetime in what basically amounts to a one-man show -- he is in every scene and in every scene he recites what might as well be monologues. Really -- there are other characters, but they are there to support his lines, his character development and the story, which is him. But it's completely gripping. His character is so gritty and dark and single-minded that I was drawn into his drama as it unfolded. Shakespearian in its tension, bloodiness and morals -- think Hamlet or King Lear.

P.T. Anderson crafts the perfect environment for Lewis' character Plainview. The landscape is dusty and dry and the scene is desperate. Tensions between religion, family, community and money are clawed by dirty hands to the surface for us to pick through and find our fortune.

I'm finished!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

El Orfanto (The Orphanage)

We were lured in by reviews which said that this is a spooky movie, and not for people with a short attention span. I guess we expected a smart, scary film, but it wasn't really either. It ended up being slow and somewhat predictable in the end. I did enjoy the few major jolts that started happening about halfway through. I like a good suspenseful moment with great payoff. One of these moments, caused several people to actually scream in the theater, so you do get some bang for your buck. I liked some things about it (the story and the main child actor) but truthfully, it's not much more than a mainstream horror movie.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Our 2007 Movie List

2006 Live Action Academy Award Nominated Shorts
28 Weeks Later
A Mighty Heart
A Zed and Two Noughts
Across the Universe
L'Advocat de la terreur (Terror's Advocate)
Angels in the Dust
The Aura
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Belle de Jour
Belle Tourjours
Black Snake Moan
The Cats of Mirkitani
Cha no aji (The Taste of Tea)
Colour Me Kubrick: A True....ish Story
Czech Dream
Da hong deng long gao gao gua (Raise the Red Lante...
The Darjeeling Limited
The Devil Came on Horseback
Eastern Promises
Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding)
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
En el hoyo (In the Pit)
Fanny and Alexander
Fay Grim
God Grew Tired of Us
Gwoemul (The Host)
Hîrtia va fi albastrã (The Paper Will be Blue)
I'm Not There
Inland Empire
Into Great Silence
Into the Wild
The Italian
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
Killer of Sheep
King of Kong
La Môme (La Vie en Rose)
The Landlord
The Last King of Scotland
The Lives of Others
The Lookout
Love in the Time of Cholera
Margot at the Wedding
Michael Clayton
Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint
Morirse en domingo (Never on a Sunday)
No Country for Old Men
No End in Sight
Pan's Labyrinth
Paris, je t'aime
Romance and Cigarettes
The Rules of the Game
The Savages
Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and ...
Se, Jui (Lust Caution)
The Simpsons Movie
Son of Rambow
Southland Tales
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tears of the Black Tiger
Ten Canoes
This is England
The Treasures of Long Gone John
War Dance
When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan
Wie man sein Leben kocht (How to Cook Your Life)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Youth Without Youth
Zwartboek (The Black Book)

Top 10 are in bold. What a hard choice! Special mentions go to: Control, The Lives of Others and Inland Empire.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Savages

I guess Jon and I both had pretty high expectations for this one, our last movie of 2007. It wasn't bad, but neither of us really got drawn in.

Perhaps we are too young for it to hit us emotionally. We think the days of putting our parents into a nursing home/assisted living/hospital are all too far away for us to sympathize more than just cerebrally. Were we closer in age and situation to the characters or had we been through something like this, we might have related more. The story was predictable, easy. There is hope and redemption at the end. We both left saying it was "cute." In general, we don't like "cute." The story is sad and then happy. The siblings don't get a long very well and then they do better. Oh well.

I'd like to note, though, that every time I see Philip Seymour Hoffman, I am more impressed. He has really come into his own since playing roles like those in Boogie Nights (in which he was fabulous) and The Big Lebowski (in which he was fabulous, but kind of in the same way.) Since then we have seen him play a stunning array of roles and all well -- if not brilliantly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

God I hate musicals.

Even gorgeous, dark, stylized, gothic, gory musicals about a heartbroken barber who murders his customers and the lady downstairs makes meat pies out of their corpses. I just hate the earnest bursting into song. The cheesy lyrics and the suspension of disbelief that everyone in the room knows the words. I can't help but feel like all musicals are a little bit "Red White and Blaine" from Waiting for Guffman.

All that said, this is a pretty fantastic movie. Burton weaves a beautiful palate of gray and black and red. The costumes are great, the makeup was amazing. The sets were grim and pitch perfect. In truth, without the songs we wouldn't tolerate the artsy gore. They make the simple story and two dimensional characters worthwhile somehow, but I can't help thinking what a great movie Burton could have made without all the goddamn singing.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Youth Without Youth

Francis Ford Coppola came out of his 10 year hiatus to make this.


Let me try that line again:

Francis Ford Coppola came out of his 10 year hiatus to make this?!

Not that I am a huge Coppola fan, but I did think he give us a film more worthy of a comeback.

It is weird and a little confusing. It has an oldy-timey feel - like a film from the 40s, but it over-reaches, tries to take on too many things...lets fiction, Nazis, the origins of man, eastern philosophy, multiple dimensions, a love story. I made it all the way to the end dutifully doing the mental yoga that Coppola is asking of his viewers, suspending disbelief and following the great leaps in theme and storyline, but then in the last 10 minutes, I fell asleep.

I love Tim Roth, but he was not at his best.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Based on a true story of a man who suffers a stroke-like event and is paralyzed except for one eye. He wakes up in the hospital from a coma and we are brought into his world. We are "locked-in" with him. We hear a voice that is his, but it is inside his head. We are inside his diving bell, unable to speak or move, and we discover this along with him.

As doctors come and go, telling him bad news and worse news about his condition, we see the world through his one hazy eye and through the faces and feelings of those he sees. At first, he despairs and then heeds the advice of his father to not lose that which is human within him. He begins to communicate with the help of a speech therapist who recites a special alphabet to him and he blinks when she reaches the letter he is choosing. It's exhausting to watch. Slow and laborious and frustrating.

Now that he can express himself, others can see that he fully experiences the hospital he is in -- its history and his memories of that seaside town as a young boy. He has a sense of humor, he is lusty and bored and lonely. He likes to be outdoors, and wants to feel the wind in his hair. He misses his children and their mother. We see that it's not the senses we are born with that we need to experience the world around us, but whatever we have at the moment. Human capacity for joy is not diminished easily.

Breath-taking performance by Mathieu Amalric whose role of Jean-Dominique Bauby was probably one of the most complex and difficult that I have ever seen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Romance and Cigarettes

All I can say is that for the mindblowing cast alone, I recommend this movie. Here are the highlights:

James Gandolfini
Susan Sarandon
Kate Winslet
Steve Buscemi
Mandy Moore
Mary-Louise Parker
Aida Turturro
Christopher Walken
Eddie Izzard
Amy Sedaris

Yes. It is that good.
And did I mention they sing? They do. And dance. And there are surreal interludes with firemen twirling and swinging hoses to The Buena Vista Social Club, underwater love songs, choreographed policemen soft-shoeing in the suburbs, deadpan humor and dialog that knocked me off my feet and Janis Joplin being sung by a church choir. It all takes itself only half-seriously which you can tell by the way that every song and dance involves someone swinging whimsically on a pole "Singing in the Rain" style and yet, the whole package is presented so convincingly 100% that you can't help but cheer for the working class hero.

John Turturro obviously had the kind of fun creating this bizarre and hilarious love song to 1980's working-class New York that he allowed the story (which is not a complicated one) to take a backseat to the concept and the performances and the characters which are simply top notch. I loved this film.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The two movies that come to mind when I think of Guy Ritchie are Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which I liked and Snatch, which I liked, but not as much. He does fast-paced mystery/crime/dramas with weird camera angles, zoom-in, slow-mo, tricky twisty plots and usually they are smart and keep you guessing. I enjoy this.

Revolver tried to be all those things, with a little bit of weird thrown in. Wait. A lot of weird. The end is weird. But it didn't quite make it. The plot wasn't as smart as I expected. Some big plot holes and pretty formulaic story. The worst thing is that I guessed the big surprise at the end about half-way through and was so disappointed when they revealed the big twist that that was it, that I almost didn't care about how weird the end was.

Monday, December 10, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Oh, you crafty Coens! The story and characters are Cormac McCarthy's creations, but the Coens build from them a horrific, tense, scary, suspenseful and very Coen-esque landscape. Dry desert roads, amazingly cast characters who are so spot-on that you feel you have met them in person, recurring themes (coins, life-changing choices) abound, recurring camera angels and shots are, in typical Coen style, artful and heavy with reference.

I think the most successful part of the film is the horrific monster they created in Chigur (expertly played by an unbelievably fabulous Javier Bardem) with his freaky-deaky hairdo, quiet detachment and bizarre accent.

My one complaint is that there are a few moments when you have to suspend your disbelief a little too far for the story to make sense. I suspect, if reading the book, more of the loose ends would tie together and some of the weird mysteries might clear up...or maybe it just requires another viewing. Like many Coen films, this one would, no doubt, get richer, deeper and more crafty on multiple viewings.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

War Dance

Documentary about a group of students from a school in a Northern Uganda displacement camp. The families there have been torn apart by the war. The children are often orphans. Some have seen their parents or siblings killed. Some were forced to kill along side the rebel soldiers. Against some hard odds, their school has made it into the national dance competition and we follow a handful of the students closely, hearing about their horrific past and how they see dance and music as a way to prove they can offer something to their world, in their different ways.

What I took away from this movie was a new understanding of the sheer resilience of humankind. That parents love their children in the same way all over the world. That kids are kids no matter what they have been through. This film was heartbreaking and hopeful -- a difficult balance.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

This movie is about Nicole Kidman's character who is a self-absorbed nut-job. Her family's problems are splayed out in all their uncomfortable glory for us to see - the lying, cheating, hurtful back-stabbing, gossiping, masturbating glory. It's a bit like watching a horrific car crash, but one that involves a clown car (played by a very-well cast Jack Black) so you don't feel so bad about wanting to watch the crash unfold before you.