Tuesday, March 9. 2010
Last time I decided to write up notes/grades on movies as I saw them, then I promptly failed to do so. This should catch me up:
Movie: The Road: Bleak post-apocalypse movie, in a world where virtually all plant and animal life have been decimated, with a man and his son trekking cross-country to find the shore and hopefully something better. Lots of rough spots, some with cannibals. Viggo Mortensen literally carries the movie. B+
Movie: Avatar: Tends to get by on its impressive technical achievements, but I actually enjoyed the human sequences, even with their mechanical overkill, more than the computer-generated stuff, which among other things scaled the sets way too vertically. Way too much in almost every way, not least the constant fighting both as law of the jungle and battle for the planet. Story line has been compared to Pocahontas, but note one big difference: these natives had a good share of domesticated animals. Shows someone has read Jared Diamond. B+
Movie: The Last Station: The last year of Leo Tolstoy, with his political interest, his cult followers, his estranged but not invisible wife -- the latter role most likely puffed up for the film, which is only fair for Helen Mirren. Seems awkward and troubling at first, with nobody really living up to their roles, but this has grown fonder over time, so maybe I have it underrated. B+
Movie: Coraline: Caught on TV. Animated feature, Oscar-nominated, mostly left me dumbfounded, although there's some brilliantly inventive visual gags, and the bacon frying sure looked tasty. B
Movie: Lemon Tree: We also saw this 2008 Israeli movie (on DVD), directed by Eran Riklis. The setup is an Israeli Defense Minister moves to a big new house adjacent to a lemon grove owned by a widowed Palestinian woman. The lemon trees are soon perceived to be a security threat, so the DM muscles his way into the grove, setting up a guard post, fencing the trees in where the owner can no longer take care of them or live off them, at one point sending troops in to steal lemons, and eventually pruning the trees to bare stumps beyond a huge concrete wall. The DM's wife observes all this with some disease but little resolve. The Palestinian woman recruits a lawyer to challenge the encroachment, and the case works its way to Israel's supreme kangaroo court. As the lawyer points out, happy endings only occur in American films. The conflict is contained in relatively simple terms: the impact of custom on both sides, the construction of barriers that cannot be broken down by neighbors, the omnipresent threat of Israeli force. In the end the Palestinian resource is destroyed and the DM's house is estranged from the world. For Israel this is what success looks like. A-
Watched the Oscars, which must mean that historically it has more credibility than the Grammys (which I never watch). Watched it with less interest than in many years, probably because I had seen so few movies this past year, maybe even because the few nominees that I had seen were so underwhelming.
Of course, Michael Moore's film isn't fair competition here. The best movie I saw this year was Cheri -- totally missed in the Oscar process even though Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates made the show as presenters.
I wound up dropping The Soloist a notch from my previous note; I may have A Serious Man and The Last Station a bit underrated. Lots of things we meant to see and didn't get to -- (500) Days of Summer, Broken Embraces, Coco Before Chanel, Crazy Heart, District 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Hurt Locker, The Informant, The Messenger, Nine, Precious, Sin Nombre, A Single Man, Up in the Air, The Young Victoria -- partly endless demands on weekends, partly the sad state of Wichita theatres (meaning local monopolist Warren Theatres).
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