Archive for the '2006 Movie Challenge' Category

2006 Movie Challenge recap

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

I watched 58 movies in 2006, averaging nearly 5 a month. Apologies for no italics or links, but all are linked in the 2006 Movie Challenge category on the right. I saw only ten in theaters, but I enjoyed all of them. I was more selective this year about what films I saw in theaters, and this made them worth the effort and cost of childcare, movie snacks, and non-matinee prices:

Brokeback Mountain
Casino Royale
Good Night, and Good Luck
Lawrence of Arabia
New World, The
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Thank You for Smoking
Walk the Line

Eighteen were from our home library, either on DVD or Tivo. I often skip over what we have unwatched at home in favor of something new from the library. As with books, I’m going to try and improve on the ratio, because there were fewer disappointments (Alfie, The Quiet Man, Sense & Sensibility) than delights (Happy Accidents, The Palm Beach Story, Triplets of Belleville, Wuthering Heights):

Alfie (1966)
Happy Accidents
Lady Eve, The
Palm Beach Story, The
Pride & Prejudice (1940)
Producers, The (1968)
Quiet Man, The
Ref, The
Sense & Sensibility
Spellbound (2002)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Triplets of Belleville
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
What’s Cooking
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Wuthering Heights (1939)

I borrowed thirty-two from the library, but only finished thirty of them, since I couldn’t stay awake for either Ong-Bak or Hero. There were a lot of disappointments here (13 Conversations About One Thing, The Family Stone, Junebug, Made, Nicholas Nickleby, Rumor Has It, Sky High, and The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill), especially compared to the few I thought were really good (The Constant Gardener and Inside Man). It’s further reason to be more selective about reserving items from the library. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re worth my time.

13 Conversations about One Thing
40 Year-Old Virgin, The
Broken Flowers
Bruce Almighty
Constant Gardener, The
Family Stone, The
Fever Pitch (2005)
Graduate, The
Grizzly Man
Hustle & Flow
In Her Shoes
Inside Man
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Last Holiday
Lord of War
Matador, The
Mysterious Skin
Nicholas Nickleby
Rumor Has It
Sky High
Upside of Anger, The
Wedding Crashers
Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill


Monday, January 1st, 2007

#58 in my movie challenge, Spellbound, the documentary not the Hitchcock film, was my last movie of the year. I finished watching just after midnight. It focuses on the kids, and doesn’t take cheap shots at them or their parents. It shows them all as complex people and does a fair job at showing why spelling is important to each of the kids. While the variance in economic background of those who made it to the finals was wide, it narrowed significantly as the spellers moved to the finals.

I went to the state spelling bee in 7th grade. I can’t remember if I got beyond the first round, but I will always remember the word I missed: jacamar. It’s a type of bird.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#57 in my movie challenge for the year was Wrath of Khan. My husband has joked that he married me even though I’d never seen this. Having befriended and dated geeks, though, I knew all the basic points. I was surprised to find Kirk’s “Khan!” not nearly as drawn out as it is in parody. Bad hair, bad wigs, bad costumes. Weirdly smooth pecs on Ricardo Montalban. Like many things geeks hold dear, its impact is not as strong for those of us who come to it later in life.

Not bad, but hardly epic.

Happy Accidents

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#56 in my movie challenge for the year was Happy Accidents, a weird indie mystery/romance from 2000. Marisa Tomei (who with red hair bears a startling resemblance to one of my friends from college) starts dating Vincent D’onofrio, who may or may not be from the future.

Funny, kooky and sweet.

Inside Man

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#55 in my movie challenge for the year was Spike Lee’s Inside Man. A solid thriller with a great cast, I found it oddly charming.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#54 in my movie challenge was Anchorman. Will Ferrell is funny, but it is (again) Steve Carell who makes this movie worthwhile. The humor was of the bizarre, often painful kind, but there was enough wacky charm to make me like the movie, in spite of its excesses.

Bruce Almighty

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#53 in my movie challenge was Bruce Almighty. Borrowed from the library when I read that a sequel, Evan Almighty, will star Steve Carell, the only reason to watch this fairly awful movie.

The Ref

Monday, January 1st, 2007

#52 in my movie challenge for the year was The Ref. My husband G. Grod chose this Chrismas flick instead of a feel-good holiday classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or The Shop Around the Corner. A thief (Denis Leary) takes a bickering couple hostage on Christmas Eve. Life lessons are learned. Leary is funny, though a bit too nobly wise. I suspect he was trying to emulate Bogart in To Have and Have Not, as a good guy with flexible ethics and a drunk partner.

Funny enough.

(Weird fact about me: I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life. As a child, I watched the Marlo Thomas remake, with Trapper John as her husband. Years later, when a friend described It’s a Wonderful Life, I realized I’d been watching a remake, then never got around to seeing the original.)

Casino Royale

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

# 51 in my movie challenge for the year. Yet another date night, and we managed to do both dinner and a movie, because the pizza at the newest Punch is ridiculously quick, and decent to boot. My husband G. Grod’s and my second date was Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan’s debut as Bond. It wasn’t great, but we’ve gone on these eleven years to have a pretty decent relationship in spite of merely OK movies on our first and second dates. (The first was Get Shorty.) But Casino Royale was something I wasn’t expecting: a very good Bond movie. It was fun to watch, it didn’t rely overmuch on gadgets, it had a nice homage to a classic Aston Martin, and it gave Judi Dench a good number of scenes in which to chew up the screen. Daniel Craig makes a very good Bond. He’s fit, he’s handsome, he’s a good actor. My only complaint is that he’s yet a bit long in the tooth to be playing the early-career Bond from this story. But I think it’s a problem inherent in the character. By the time an actor has enough panache to play the worldly Bond, they’re old enough that the three year gap between movies means for a quick obsolescence.

Oh, ouch. Craig is almost the exact same age as I am, even a few days younger. Then again, I’m just a midwestern American mother of two; I have no plans to appear as an action hero anytime soon.

The Matador

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

#50 in my movie challenge for the year was The Matador, with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, and Hope Davis, who are all very good in this. It’s darkly funny, slightly strange, and good, but not great. Brosnan plays an aging assassin, and Kinnear is the nice guy who accidentally befriends him. It was enjoyable, and playfully subverted Brosnan’s more usual role of the distinguished leading man.

Mysterious Skin

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

#49 in my movie challenge for the year was Mysterious Skin, based on the novel by Scott Heim. I do movie and book challenges to remind myself of what’s important, and to show it’s possible to have small kids and still find time to read and watch movies. It’s not easy, and many things go undone (our house is messy; we’ve all but given up on our yard), but it can be done.

I liked but didn’t love the book when I read it last year, and I felt similarly about the movie. It was a good, faithful adaptation of the book. Joseph Gordon Levitt was mesmerizing in the role of Neil, a young, small-town hustler. There’s rough, graphic sex and child abuse in the movie, so this is not for the faint of heart. But it is a well-done indie that handles tough subjects well, and has strong performances.


Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

#48 in my movie challenge for the year was our first family movie, Cars. All four of us went! Drake sat on G. Grod’s lap, and I had baby Guppy in the sling, where he mostly slept. Drake was attentive for the first hour, and rather wiggly but OK for the second. Cars was a long movie to pick as his first theater experience, but he did great. He mentioned popcorn several times the next day, and his Lightning McQueen and Sally cereal-box cars have been favorites ever since. I really enjoyed the movie as well. The animation was well done and I liked how the characters looked like the actors who voiced them. I thought it was a sweet story that wasn’t saccharine, and I only wish Owen Wilson could find a live action movie role so good.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Friday, September 8th, 2006

#47 in my movie challenge for the year was the darkly funny Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Robert Downey, Jr. is excellent as a thief who is mistakenly whisked to Hollywood, where he gets tangled up in noirish murder and mayhem. Joining him are his childhood sweetheart (played by Michelle Monaghan. Suggestion: cast an acress Downey’s age, rather than ELEVEN YEARS his junior. Just sayin’.) and his gay agent, played by Val Kilmer. The dialogue is superfast and hilarious. The movie is full of clever asides, and deprecating, self-referential voiceovers. It’s good, not-so-clean fun.

What’s Cooking

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

#46 in my movie challenge for the year was What’s Cooking. I recorded it for two Thanksgivings ago, and we finally felt like watching it nowhere near holiday season. It’s a decent holiday flick, switching between four LA families, one Jewish, Latino, African American, and Chinese. Each family has drama for both the parents and the children, and each family has different food and ways to celebrate. It’s overlong at about two hours, and some of the drama and performances are forced, but it’s got some sweet and funny moments that make it worthwhile, and nothing so over-the-top dreadful as what usually gets churned out by the studios each year.

The Graduate and Rumor Has It

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

#s 44 and 45 in my movie challenge for the year were, respectively, The Graduate and Rumor Has It. The Graduate is not long, but moves slow. My dad and mom saw this while she was pregnant with me, so apparently I experienced the film pretty young. Our movie book review says it’s uneven because the director, Mike Nichols, couldn’t decide whether it was social satire or farce. I think it works better as the former, because the elements of farce take away empathy for the characters. Bancroft was 36 when it was released, Hoffman was 30, so hardly young enough to be her son. I think it’s most memorable for his performance, which contains the humorous, nebbishy tics more familiar from his later roles. He turned down the Gene Wilder role in The Producers to do The Graduate, and the role made him a star.

Rumor Has It is a riff on The Graduate. Aniston plays a girl who discovers that her family was the basis for the Robinsons in The Graduate, so she seeks out Costner to find out if he’s her father. Maclaine, as the “real” Mrs. Robinson, steals every scene she’s in. Costner is believably charming, though his artfully mussed hair is an expensive variation on a combover. It’s billed as a comedy; while lightweight, it’s more bittersweet. It also had that rare character–a good father, played well by Richard Jenkins of Six Feet Under. I enjoyed it more for having watched The Graduate. It got poor reviews, but I enjoyed it.

Movie and Book Challenges, mid-year

Friday, August 4th, 2006

I’m likely to hit my minimum yearly book and movie goals of fifty, perhaps for books even by the end of August. After we had our first son, Drake, I found I was reading less often, and seeing movies hardly at all. Both reading and movies felt too important to become casualties (even temporarily) of parenthood, so last year and this I set movie and book challenges, with a hope that, at minimum, I’d be reading one book and seeing one movie a week. These challenges are reminders to myself (and perhaps to readers) that there IS time to read and to see movies. I make time for these things by not doing other things, like housecleaning and yard work, or doing them less often. Mental Multivitamin re-posted this entry on how she makes time to read/write/live/learn. Her post is a good reminder: time is limited and distractions many. My challenges help me focus on my priorities. My summer reading challenge has helped me focus on the reading list I set, rather than haring off whenever something new catches my eye, or comes in at the library. I’ve still departed from the list, but much less frequently, and with more deliberation, than I would if I had not set a reading list.


Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

#43 in my movie challenge for this year was last year’s Proof, directed by John Madden and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal. (There’s another movie by the same name from a while back, which was on that “overlooked movie” list.) I almost skipped this movie, since I felt so busy this week. I told the librarian to put it back in the queue since I didn’t have time to watch it. He shook his head, and told me to rearrange things so I could watch it. After that recommendation, I had to watch it, even though I knew it had gotten mixed reviews. It took a while for me to enjoy it; its origins as a play are quite clear, and some scenes were very stage-y. Additional, Gyllenhaal and Paltrow often sounded stilted, as if they were reading lines. But the story grew on me. Paltrow is the daughter of a mathematician played by Anthony Hopkins. The story jumps back and forth in time as we see their relationship, his madness, and as we try to determine which of them wrote a math proof, and whether she is going crazy, as he had. Uneven, but it finishes strong.


Sunday, July 30th, 2006

#42 in my movie challenge for the year was last year’s Junebug. It is an interesting contrast to The Family Stone, which I found heavy handed. Junebug was not overdetermined; I found it often perplexing. Amy Adams gave a great performance, and it deftly avoided the usual cliches about family and the south. At the end, I had many questions, most about George, the son who brings his new bride to meet the family. George spoke hardly at all, and the few times he did, he often contradicted something he’d said before. A good movie, with much to recommend it, but one I found ultimately unsatisfying.


Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

#41 in my movie challenge for the year was Syriana, which I had wanted to see in theaters, and never managed to pull off, since getting to a theater for a movie is much harder these days with two kids. I’m actually glad I didn’t. It’s a complex movie that I needed to do a few rewinds on for dialogue. It’s dark, challenging, and very well done. I’d been warned in advance that it’s hard to keep track of the plot, so I didn’t get too concerned about the details. It’s an impressionistic movie, and by the end, the story was clear in spite of so many details. Clooney’s performance is the anchor, yet the other actors–Chrisopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, Jeffrey Wright, Matt Damon, Alexander Siddig–are all excellent. There is a scene with a young boy, though, that so upset my husband G. Grod that he couldn’t finish the movie, and that still makes we uncomfortable, so if you’re the parent of a young child, you might want to save watching this for a day when you’re feeling emotionally resilient. This is a movie that would benefit from re-watching, yet it’s so bleak (nearly hopeless, I think) that I’m not sure I could bear to do so.

The Producers (1968)

Monday, July 17th, 2006

#40 in my movie challenge for the year was the original The Producers movie, directed by Mel Brooks, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. It is easy to envision this as a stage play, harder to imagine the recent film remake as an improvement, save perhaps for Will Farrell, who probably did wonderful things with the playwright role. Very funny, it has aged rather well. Wilder at times reminded me of my toddler, Drake: “I’m wet, I’m wet, I’m in pain!” Except that Drake doesn’t carry a blankie.