Archive for the '2006 Movie Challenge' Category

Last Holiday

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

After a string of disappointing movies, #39 in my movie challenge, Last Holiday, was a sweet little gem. Queen Latifah is told she has three weeks to live, so cashes in her savings and departs for the European luxury resort of her dreams. It’s utterly predictable, with a few eye-rolling scenes, and overlong at almost 2 hours. Yet it is mostly directed with a light touch, and features such charming actors (Latifah foremost among them), that the end result is winning. This is what a holiday movie should be–life affirming–not ham-handedly dreadful like The Family Stone.

The Family Stone

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

#38 in my movie challenge for the year was last year’s The Family Stone. Poorly written and directed, it was saved by the performance of Craig T. Nelson, in perhaps the film’s only likable role. The story and the characters were wildly uneven. At times it seemed to want to be a old-fashioned romantic comedy, but then it whipped into a scene invested with ham-handed attempts at drama. I didn’t hate this movie, but I came awfully close. It should have been a drama with gentle humor, or a comedy without maudlin attempts at realism. I found the mix of extremes often painful to watch.

Sense and Sensibility

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

#37 in my movie challenge for the year was Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. I was hoping that the condensing of Austen’s overlong narrative would be a good thing, but the movie disappointed me, as had the book. Perhaps the film hasn’t aged well, or perhaps I’m a curmudgeon, since I am at odds with ALL the critics. I didn’t think it as good as either the A & E or the more recent movie of Pride and Prejudice. The characters aren’t as likeable, and the production values aren’t as good. There was a shot in this movie where I became aware of the camera, and Marianne’s tearful repeated calls of Willoughby from the hill in the rain had me rolling my eyes. Hugh Grant could have chewed up the screen as Willoughby, but instead was a mumbling, shrinking presence as Edward. Rickman talked as if he had a mouthful of marbles. Hugh Laurie’s few lines had me wishing for so much more from his minor character. I know the male leads aren’t supposed to be dashing manly men, but both in the book and in the movie they are hardly compelling. It was a long 136 minutes.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Friday, June 16th, 2006

#36 in my movie challenge for the year, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was something of a “should” watch. I’d heard only good things about it, yet I doubted I would be wowed by it, and I wasn’t. It was a well-made, sweet documentary. But some of its charm may come from the anthropomorphisation of its parrot co-stars. Watching Grizzly Man made me acutely aware of the ease of, the desire for, and the danger inherent in, anthropomorphisation. Mark Bittner, the parrot guy, is either luckier or saner than poor, dead Timothy Treadwell in that he chose animals who don’t pose a physical danger to him if he treats them like people. I found WPoTH an interesting portrait of an interesting person. Bittner comes off as a lovable weirdo. He doesn’t have a conventional job, or a means of income, yet he has managed to procure a living space, as well as supplies to help him care for a local wild parrot flock. Also interesting is the distinction some people had between native and non-native species, the latter of which many people believe should be ignored, discouraged, or eliminated. But the parrots themselves were of only passing interest to me, so I think much of the documentary’s charm was lost on me. Then again, I was one of the few people who disliked that other popular animal documentary, so perhaps these cuddly, cutesy animal movies just aren’t for me.

I’ve slowed down the pace of the movie challenge. I wanted to spend more time reading. Also, there’s just not been as much, in theaters or on new release DVDs, that has interested me. My Tivo hard drive is still full, though, and we have a large library of unwatched DVDs we own. They can wait indefinitely for me to return to movie watching.

The Quiet Man

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

#35 in my movie challenge for the year was The Quiet Man, which was a pick of my husband’s off our Tivo’d cache. He enjoyed it more than I did. I found the Irish characters too calculatedly charming/drunk/whatever, and the Taming-of-the-Shrew-ish-ness of the story was more than a little troubling. It’s beautiful to look at, as is John Wayne as a young, tall, handsome man. But seeing Wayne drag O’Hara over miles to confront her brother over Wayne’s supposed cowardice had me staring in horror, especially as it was played for laughs. Additionally, the resolution, in which Wayne fights the brother, and wins back his bride, is both predictable and disappointing. Not as overtly sexist as Alfie, it nonetheless left the same yucky taste in my brain.

13 Conversations about One Thing

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

#34 in my movie challenge this year was 13 Conversations about One Thing. Stilted and boring, with an intrusive score. I’d heard this recommended as an overlooked movie worth checking out, one that covered some of the same ground as Crash but better. I disagree. Crash was a flawed film, but I found it well-acted and not boring.

Thank You For Smoking

Monday, May 8th, 2006

#33 in my movie challenge for the year was Thank You For Smoking. The main character is a tobacco lobbyist, and the conceit of the satire lies in his earning the audience’s sympathy, both within the film and in the theater. But my lingering impression is that it could have been darker and funnier.

Grizzly Man

Monday, May 8th, 2006

#32 in my movie challenge this year was Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, about Timothy Treadwell, self-styled protector of grizzly bears. He and his girlfriend eventually got eaten by one. Treadwell clearly had some mental problems, and he is by turns endearing and annoying. A compulsive self-filmer, his footage makes up most of the documentary. Herzog is a gentle, non-sensational documentarian. While he disagrees with Treadwell, he takes pains to show the many aspects of a complex person. Interestingly vague are Treadwell’s dead girlfriend, whose family refused to participate, and exactly how Treadwell protected the bears, which he insisted he did during his visits each summer for over a decade. Most scary was the fervent description of the deaths by the coroner, who seemed to enjoy his job way too much.

Alfie (1966)

Monday, May 8th, 2006

#31 in my movie challenge for the year was Alfie, the original, with Michael Caine. I was surprised to see how good looking Caine was as a young ‘un–he looked like Jude Law does now, who starred in the remake. But his acting outshines his looks; he’s completely believable as a cockney cad. The women finally realize what a jerk he is, and he’s alone at the end of the movie. But neither of these is enough to redeem all the sexist yuckiness that went before. Dated and depressing, this gave me no reason to seek out the remake.

Fever Pitch

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

#30 in my movie challenge for the year was Fever Pitch. (It came into the library with Sky High, a coincidental double feature. Last week’s was The Constant Gardener and Crash, so it was a whiplash change from last week to this.) Like Sky High, it had some good bits, especially about rabid fans, but Barrymore and Fallon aren’t convincing actors. It’s based on Nick Hornby’s book of the same title about his obsession with football (soccer), and there’s a previous English adaptation starring Colin Firth.

Sky High

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

#29 in my movie challenge was Sky High. It borrows liberally and unapologetically from Harry Potter and The Incredibles, the latter of which is a much better movie. Sky High has some funny bits, especially around superhero tropes and father/son dynamics, but the main story is a snooze, and the movie itself is probably better suited to kids than grownups.


Thursday, April 13th, 2006

#28 in my movie challenge this year is Crash. When I saw it in theaters last year, I was very moved. Watching it again on DVD, I was less so. In the days before and after the Oscars, many people kvetched about Crash. I found the complaints mean-spirited. On further reflection, having a negative opinion contrary to a popularly held one (as I have had on March of the Penguins and Prep, to name two recent examples) may rquire a little extra vitiol to counteract the prevailing saccharine. After re-watching Crash, I think the nay-sayers have a case. It felt contrived and overwrought in parts, though I again appreciated the dark, O. Henry-esque twists and, as usual, loved Don Cheadle’s performance.

The Constant Gardener

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

#27 in my movie challenge for the year was The Constant Gardener. I enjoyed this movie a lot. It was not told in in a linear fashion, which I sometimes have difficulty with, and on top of that I’m sleep deprived, and Guppy was on-and-off fussy while we watched so we had to spread it over two nights, but I nonetheless was able to follow both the mystery and the romance. I thought both were well done. Fiennes was good as the everyman who is pressed by circumstances into becoming a spy/detective, and Weisz deserved that Oscar. She was completely believable as the complex character she portrayed.

BTW, Guppy seems less inclines to hang out peacefully (awake or not) while we watch TV and movies at night, so I think my viewing extravaganza may be coming to a close for now.


Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#26 in my movie challenge for the year was Millions, a quirky little film. I can see watching this with Drake when he’s a few years older; this is a good family film. I enjoyed the characters a great deal. While Damian, the main character, is endearing, I also liked the older brother and the father. The film is clever in its portrayal of how Damian sees saints, and whether or not they’re real. Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of 2005. The ending is overdone, but the film overall is quite charming.

Lawrence of Arabia

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#25 in my movie challenge was a date with my husband to see Lawrence of Arabia. We got a babysitter, I spent three nights expressing enough milk for two bottles for Guppy–enough to cover a four-hour absence–and we indulged in popcorn, candy, and soda at a local theater showing a pristine print in 70mm. I had seen it before over ten years ago, but remembered almost nothing. It was beautiful to look at, and engaging even at almost four hours. Roger Ebert says seeing this film in 70 mm “is on the short list of things that must be done during the lifetime of every lover of film.” I’m glad we did.

Lord of War

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#24 for the year, Lord of War was the second of a bizarre double feature; it arrived in my library queue at the same time as In Her Shoes. Jared Leto is gently compelling as the little brother of Cage’s arms dealer. Reviews were mixed, but I found the film’s depressing message never outweighed the story, and was handled with deft, dark humor.


Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#23 in my movie challenge. I had to see Capote alone; my husband G. Grod was so aggravated by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s mannerisms that he not only refused to see the film, but fast forwarded through clips on television. Keener’s performance was good, but I didn’t think necessarily better than that in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I enjoyed Capote’s portrayal of writerly history.

Good Night, and Good Luck

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#22 in my movie challenge for the year. I enjoyed Clooney’s little-seen directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (click link; scroll down). His sophomore effort, Good Night, and Good Luck, is even better. The black and white is lovely, the performances are strong, Clooney’s voice is mesmerizing, and the interpolated music is both skillful and entertaining. Most surprising? The erudite vocabulary.

In Her Shoes

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#21 in my movie challenge for the year, In Her Shoes the movie is a good adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s book. Both get lumped–unfairly, I think–under the heading of chick stuff. Both have a braininess and a lessened (though not absent) sappiness that makes them worthwhile. My two quibbles: Mark Feuerstein, who plays Simon Stein, is too cute to make Toni Collette’s initial rebuff completely believable, and while Collette may have gained weight for the part, she looks normal, hardly heavy, as the script implies. My husband’s quibble: the senior citizens were uniformly funny, sassy, and wise.

Broken Flowers

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

#20 in my movie challenge for the year. The librarians behind the desk when I checked it out disagreed–one said Broken Flowers was boring and pointless, the other said it was great. I found it deliberately paced and subtle. Much was made of Murray’s understated performance, but two other things stood out for me. One, the formerly lovely Jessica Lange was nearly unrecognizable for the wrong reasons–artificially up-tilted almond eyes. Two, Tilda Swinton was unrecognizable with a cloud of dark hair, smudged eye makeup, and no trace of her native accent. Her character burned up the screen.