Sunday, February 26. 2012
I figured the eve of the Academy Awards would be as good a time as any to catch up on the movies I mostly didn't see in 2011. We wound up seeing less than twenty, even counting a couple picked up on TV well after the fact. (Laura may have seen more of the latter, since she controls the TV and I rarely notice what she's watching.) In past years we've seen upwards of 80% of the Oscar-nominated films, falling short mostly in the crash-and-burn categories, but lots of things held us back in 2011, including short runs. (I caught The Skin I Live In on the last day of a one-week run, but more often than not things just slipped by -- I can't recall movies like Beginners and A Better Life ever appearing here, while Albert Nobbs waited until the week we had to go to Detroit.)
Seems like an exceptionally shallow year, even taking account of my light sampling. One indication of how far the industry has dumbed down is that nine of the ten highest-grossing films were sequels: Harry Potter, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Twilight Saga, Mission Impossible, Kung Fu Panda, Fast Five (as in Fast and Furious), The Hangover, and Cars -- the sole exception, at number nine, was another well-known franchise, The Smurfs. Three are animated. Most of the rest are non-stop action trysts. This may not prove we're sinking into the new Dark Age -- although the Republican primaries are hard to dismiss in that regard -- but if not we're sure suffering from a nasty case of ADHD. (Curiously, television, which has long seemed culpable as the prime destroyer of our attention spans, has rarely produced so many smart series and specials -- not that the dreck hasn't increased apace.)
The trend I hate the most is 3D, which pretty much spoiled Hugo for me until I was later able to reconstruct it without the diversions. Curious that the two most Oscar-nominated pictures are nostalgic tributes to the silent film era, as if the Academy is desperate to escape from the world the industry has created. I was underwhelmed by The Artist, occasionally flashing back to films like Modern Times showing that history itself offered better resolutions.
My own favorite movie limited its nostalgia to the 1950s, which is all I can remember anyway. Nothing wrong with my top five movies, but I doubt I could find a year in the last fifty that yielded less. No time to research that. Let the lists follow.
Movies I saw but that didn't get nominated for anything:
Movies that looked like they might be worth seeing: The Adventures of Tintin, Anonymous, A Better Life, Contagion, A Dangerous Method, Drive, J. Edgar, Jane Eyre, Margin Call, The Muppets, The Tree of Life, The Way.
Less sure about: Carnage, Cedar Rapids, The Conspirator, The Debt, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, In the Land of Blood and Honey, The Iron Lady, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Melancholia, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Shame, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Super 8, Thor, War Horse, Warrior, Water for Elephants.
Also seems like some day I should see the Harry Potter movies.
Above lists come from perusing Wikipedia's 2011 in Film list. The list doesn't include some things, like any of the Foreign Language Film nominees (Bullhead, Footnote, In Darkness, Monsieur Lazhar, and A Separation).
Academy Awards by category:
Tuesday, March 1. 2011
Had thought about skipping the Oscars this year, figuring it would all be all too predictable, as indeed had a couple other awards shows I wound up watching. Still, was feeling pretty lethargic Sunday night, so that's where I wound up. The show itself was pretty dreadful, even with a couple of innovations to minimize the damage, like moving the director's award away from best picture -- look at how often the two are redundant -- and grouping the usual awful songs into two short segments. Other bright ideas didn't pan out so well. James Franco and Anne Hathaway showed why they'd always used comedian-emcees in the past. (Roger Ebert: "Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening.") Not even the stunt with Franco in a red dress came with a punchline. (I would have settled for styling it as a Tony Curtis tribute.) Having last year's director winner give out this year's prize reminds you why they always used actors for that job. Even more egregious were the wedding vows between the Academy and ABC. Setting the best picture nominees to the climactic speech from The King's Speech either proved that they had peeked into the envelope or that they didn't care. Having Celine Dion sing over the deathwatch prevented anyone from getting a word in edgewise. The best actor and actress toasts weren't as bad as last year, but mostly because Jeff Bridges was talented and sane enough to read them straight and dispose of them quickly.
As for the movies what won or even placed, they're a pretty sad set. I thought The King's Speech was very smartly done, but it is a pretty trivial travail, much like the constitutional monarchy itself. If you believe that bloviating in front of a radio microphone was the key to winning WWII, you're certainly aware that Britain didn't need much of an effort from King George -- Timothy Spall's small role as Churchill easily covered that base. I've seen people complain about Oscar's predeliction for "Merchant-Ivory costume dramas" but The King's Speech was silly compared to films like Howard's End or The Remains of the Day. Same thing if you tried standing True Grit up to Unforgiven. About the only contending movie that doesn't have an obviously superior referent in the near past is The Social Network. I particularly liked the detail of when what's-his-name had some serious hacking to do and invoked emacs. Still, in the end the movie's about people with money running roughshod over people with less money, with no interest in wishing otherwise.
It's been getting difficult to get out to movies here in Wichita, partly due to the local monopoly and partly due to our own habits. Among the winners, didn't see The Fighter, Inception, Alice in Wonderland, or Toy Story 3 -- all of which were here for ample runs, although lots else came and went fast, or didn't come at all. I've mostly stopped trying to write up notes on movies seen, but will try to at least list them here. (I think I did the same thing last year.) Scrounged through my notes, looked at Wikipedia's 2010 in film page, racked my brain, and came up with this, pretty much in rank order as best I can recall:
Some more we wanted to see but didn't manage (*like because they never came here): Alice in Wonderland; Barney's Version*; Biutiful*; Blue Valentine; The Fighter; Inside Job; The Kids Are All Right; Mao's Last Dancer; Rabbit Hole; Somewhere*; The Tempest*; Toy Story 3; You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
Some other reputable films we never seriously considered: 127 Hours; Casino Jack; Despicable Me; The Illusionist; Inception; Jack Goes Boating; Love and Other Drugs; Morning Glory; Restrepo; Robin Hood; The Runaways; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Saturday, November 13. 2010
Movie: The Hurt Locker: Finally watched the 2010 Academy Award Best Film on TV tonight. Politically, the film doesn't offer much, but least of all for liberals who think we might at least be trying to do something noble in Iraq. Conservatives won't be much bothered, because the terrorists come off as evil and ubiquitous and utterly without scruple, and the bystanders are suspicious and if they're technically innocent now, just give them time. The film is supposed to follow a support-your-troops line, but they all look like damaged goods, and even if they were damaged before they got to Iraq, I don't see why we should go around invading other countries just to satisfy their primal urges. The film is constructed around four or five bombs and an ambush, and they all provide the expected tension plus bits of technical sophistication. B+
Haven't been posting on movies lately. Haven't seen many, and haven't had much to say about those I've seen. I think the last movies I posted anything on, back in July, were Cyrus and The Secret in Their Eyes (both A-). Very briefly:
Movie: The Town: Nice aerial shots of Charlestown, MA, although I haven't been back since they built the new bridge, so the views strike me as a bit off. One bank robbery, one armored car, one more complicated caper at Fenway, plus some ancillary violence. Lead actor from The Hurt Locker returns as pretty much the same psychopath. Probably more gunplay this time, but that may just be that they prefer AK-47s and they run louder. I didn't buy the Rebecca Hall romance angle at all, but the FBI is as nefarious as ever. B+
Movie: The Social Network: The founding of Facebook and the squabbling over the spoils without anyone ever explaining why it's worth all the money it's supposedly worth. Works with sharp dialogue -- not least of which is that the technical jargon is fundamentally sound -- and lots of details that ring true even when they're ridiculous. A-
Movie: Never Let Me Go: Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Laura read it; found it "incredibly sad," which isn't really a good formula to transplant to the screen, not just because Carey Mulligan's tear (but not her mope) looked manufactured. More likely the novel has suspense and inner depth that couldn't be maintained or expanded. B
Movie: The Girl Who Played With Fire: Second in the trilogy that I haven't read but everyone else has. Good thing to have seen the first first. A-
Movie: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: In Swedish, finally granted a one-week showing as a warmup for the new second film. Swedish title: Män som hatar kvinnor. Over the top, what with the Nazi shit, but pretty extraordinary. A
Movie: Get Low: Robert Duvall plays a geezer, set in Tennessee in the late 1930s. He has something bad on his conscience, and decides to purge it by giving himself a funeral/party, offering his land as bait to draw a crowd. With Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek. A-
Movie: Winter's Bone: Set in Ozarks among meth heads, with a 17-year-old girl raising two younger siblings with dad gone -- dead, actually -- and mom lost to the world. Plot line doesn't remind me of my Ozark relatives, but cooking and cleaning do. A-
Bad timing and/or minor squabbles kept us from seeing: The Kids Are All Right; Inception; Jack Goes Boating; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; It's Kind of a Funny Story; You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger; not sure what else. Lots of things don't get here fast and don't last long when they do. Only saw Up in the Air on TV a couple months ago -- much better than The Hurt Locker.
By the way, a few days after seeing The Social Network I finally set up my own Facebook account. Been thinking about it, and fretting about it, for a while, mostly because it provides a communications channel with my nieces/nephews who otherwise aren't very good at keeping in touch. One reason for not doing it is fear of getting swamped by the music industry, who already hit me with way too much spam, and had already lined up with a long list of pending friend requests. My rule for now is to ignore everything that comes in from musicians and publicists (so if you're one of them, that's why). May change that later, depending on how it works out. Since starting up, almost all of my posts have been short notices of blog posts. Thus far I don't like anything, don't have any meaningful info public, don't have a picture, don't have any pictures, have written only a couple of very brief comments on other people's posts. Don't know what the limits or parameters are -- I'm tending to think of it like what I imagine Twitter to be, although I have no interest in going near Twitter to make sure.
Monday, July 26. 2010
Two movie weekend, the first time I can remember that happening in a long, long time. Indeed, can't remember the last time we even saw a movie. (Checking back in the notebook, I see I did some movie posts in April.) Good ones, too.
Movie: The Secret in Their Eyes [El secreto de sus ojos]: Argentinian film, set in 1999 when a recently retired crime investigator decides to write a book about a 1974 rape-murder, cutting back and forth to trace the crime and investigation then and unravel a few last details still unclear. The murderer was caught and confessed, then was let out of jail by higher-ups as he was employed in Argentina's Dirty War. In fact, the murderer turns the tables and pursues the investigator, who flees Buenos Aires for a safe country retreat, at least until the junta fell and democracy was restored. Not much on the Dirty War directly, so it helps to know some history. Some interesting discussion of the death penalty. Won Oscar for Best Foreign Film. A-
Movie: Cyrus: Small film gets by on actors and more or less improv dialogue. John C. Reilly is divorced from Catherine Keener, who graciously struggles to help him get over it. Doesn't much work until he stumbles across Marisa Tomei, who is starved for the attention Reilly offers, mostly because she's smothered by her 21-year-old unweened son, Jonah Hill. He feels the rivalry and sets out to subvert the budding relationship in a guerrilla war with O'Reilly. Works out, sort of. A-
Belatedly caught up with Yes Man [B] and The Invention of Lying [A-]. Jonah Hill had one of many good small parts in the latter. Again, words are key; goodwill too.
Sunday, April 18. 2010
Movie: The Ghost Writer: Film by Roman Polanski, about a deposed British Prime Minister with a long history of servitude to and seconding of the United States, including roles in American wars in the Middle East and possible war crimes, and a ghost writer picked to help out with the PM's memoirs. Ewan McGregor plays the writer; Pierce Brosnan the PM. McGregor replaced a previous writer who had somewhat mysteriously perished from a ferry, and who had left evidence that compromised Brosnan's background story. The plot machinations aren't that important, although the CIA will be flattered both to find out that they were able to manipulate a foreign government over decades and that they were so effective at killing people who might blow the story open. Brosnan's crimes seem unlikely to provoke either the ICC or the sudden mass of protestors -- Tony Blair never did, nor does George Bush appear to have much to worry about even though he did far worse -- but I suppose Polanski is free to dream of a better world. One thing he does enjoy here is the notion that the PM/war criminal should be forced to take refuge in the United States, the country that currently regards Polanski as a famous fugitive from justice. Some justice. A-
Saturday, April 17. 2010
Movie: Green Zone: Not often that I've read the book a movie is putatively based on, but I did make it through Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone. You might as well read the quotes since you won't get any of the information much less the flavor from Paul Greengrass's movie, which abbreviates a good deal more than the title, and makes up so much stuff you wonder why they didn't go all the way and make up new names for Baghdad and Iraq -- the answer there was probably that the scenarios of mass destruction were too tempting. The background scenes and the thick swell of anonymous people are the most noteworthy parts of the movie. Matt Damon is determined to get to the bottom of the WMD nonsense, but his aperçu that General Al-Rawi is informant "Magellan" is based on nothing more than the concidence of Al-Rawi travelling to Jordan at the same time as Greg Kinnear's character -- didn't Jordan in due course turn out to be where anyone met everyone? Searching for someone in the US government to be less stupid than Kinnear, Greengrass appoints the CIA chief, played by Brendan Gleeson, a role I see "loosely based on Jay Garner" (i.e., not on anyone actually in the CIA). The cat-and-mouse game between Damon and Al-Rawi provides a few chase sequences, where the US forces, riding humvees and helicopters, are so burdened down with armor and gear they resemble nothing more than clunky reptillian alien invaders -- a half-movie idea given that they couldn't bother to characterize any of the victims of the invasion, except for a translator named "Freddy," who manages to get off the one true line of the story, telling Damon that it's not America's right to decide what happens in his country. B
Movie: Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges is bad enough as Bad Blake in a country music-alcohol-rehab rehab film that doesn't get too cute or clever yet which still manages some uplift. B+
Movie: Shutter Island: Martin Scorsese film, based on Dennis Lehane novel, with Leonardo DiCaprio a marshall supposed to be investigating curious events at a Massachusetts Bay jail for the criminally insane before he and the film fall off the deep end. Flashbacks to the dead at Dachau and elsewhere unhinge any sense of reality, as does an improbably providential storm. C+
Movie: The Messenger: An injured Iraq War veteran assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service (Ben Foster), partnered with a frustrated Captain who got no more than a cup of coffee in the first Iraq War. They serve notice on a half dozen next-of-kins, with a range of reactions, a fair cross section of the recruit class -- no doubt more poignant for focusing on the families as opposed to the soldiers. Samantha Morton has a strong part as one of the bereaved -- her stoicism attracts Foster, but I was more impressed the one time she lost it, chasing off a pair of Army recruiters at a local mall. As for Woody Harrelson, who got the raves including an Oscar nomination, he reminds me of why is revered for its discipline but deep down is simply fucked up. A-
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).
Sunday, January 3. 2010
Tried to catch some movies over the holidays, but with all the inclement didn't manage to get out much.
Movie: Where the Wild Things Are: Didn't take a lot away from this, other than to remember childhood as a time best forgotten. The monsters didn't seem very functional: they did join enthusiastically into Max's violent fantasies, but the wear and tear was rough. B
Movie: Sherlock Holmes: Guy Ritchie's action film ultimately recapitulated the rational deductions of the master sleuth, but in quickly tossed off sequences after running us through huge amounts of hokum. The action sequences were better cut short for the trailer, where their outrageousness is more amusing. Robert Downey and Jude Law were entertaining, at least when Rachel McAdams wasn't around. Still, the only thing I was repeatedly struck by was the set direction. B
Movie: Invictus: Title comes from a poem by William Ernest Henley, referred to by Nelson Mandela trying to inspire the Springboks rugby team captain. A sports story tailor made for film: how post-Apartheid South Africa united behind a rugby team that had long been a symbol of Afrikaner racial dominance, and how the team's captain, and ultimately the team, picked itself up to win a World Cup. Someone would have inevitably done this, but we're lucky Clint Eastwood got the story -- not least for casting Nelson Mandela with the note-perfect Morgan Freeman. The scenes are eye-opening, the substory with the body guards measures the pulse of the movie. The big game drama is a bit of an ordeal, especially without much comprehension of the sport. My main thought during that slog was: thank God they're not playing cricket. B+
Saturday, December 5. 2009
Movie: Capitalism: A Love Story: Sure, a tale of woe and heartbreak if ever there was. This is Michael Moore, back in Flint 20 years after GM shut the city down to give him a plot for Roger & Me, but mostly on and about Wall Street, where he's like to toss everyone in the slammer, or at least find someone who can explain what the hell a deriviative is. Starts with a sequence on the fall of the Roman Empire, the scenes taken from movies -- I'd swear I caught a quick glimpse of Zero Mostel -- and intercut with contemporary American shots. It's a clever, telling sequence, followed by a loving paean to union-bolstered middle class life in the 1950s, which is in turn wrecked by a Jimmy Carter speech ("bummer") and as accurate a synopsis of Ronald Reagan as I've seen. Moore has a big advantage over every liberal pundit in America because he actually understands the new left paradigm, and because he's generally willing to let the chips fall where they may -- lots of politicians and bankers get skewered here, but Chris Dodd may suffer the most mortal wounds. In particular, he does a neat job of tying war into the build up and destruction of the middle class, starting with pictures of devastated Germany and Japan to illustrate how little competition GM had in the good old days. The one guy who catches a break is Obama, who is shown saying things that confirm Moore's ideal of change we can believe in, while the point about how much money Wall Street put into Obama's campaign is handled in a mere voiceover with corporate logos. And while Tim Geithner gets hit hard, nobody points out that he is Obama's Treasury Secretary. Moore's case stories are well selected, even though he could have come up with hundreds others just as effective: a lot of people get evicted, just like in Roger & Me, but this time he puts more emphasis on fighting back, and on a couple of occasions that even works. One bit I particularly liked showed two businesses owned and run democratically by employees. I'm a big believer in employee-owned businesses. One bit I enjoyed more than I expected to was the stuff with Jesus and the Catholic clergy vs. capitalism. The fact is that Christianity is one of the few pre-capitalist institutions that still has some sway these days, so why not make something of that. Even more important was FDR's Second Bill of Rights speech: something hardly any Americans know about, something all should. His aside that Roosevelt's dreams have in fact been implemented almost everywhere else in Europe and Japan could have been underscored. I didn't agree with Moore's conclusion: that capitalism is evil and can't be fixed by regulation. I think we can do a lot with regulation -- enough to make the productivity of capitalism balance favorably against the predatory instincts of capitalists. But the pendulum has swung so far the other way that a minor quibble with the correction doesn't detract from a superb movie. A
Catching up, working backwards:
Movie: An Education: Set in 1961, a 16-year-old English girl facing a steep uphill climb to college and the world falls in with an older con man, who is even more successful at seducing her parents than her. The relationship eventually goes bust, which comes as something of a relief. He isn't completely sordid, and she isn't completely naive, but the world she comes from was so claustrophobic that it really needed some opening up. Interesting that the BBC Masterpiece Collision had a very similar subplot, set today, the main difference being that the guy had to be much richer to get the attention of the girl. A-
Movie: A Serious Man: Coen Brothers movie, presumably set close to their own adolescence in suburban Minnesota in 1967. A tormented father (Michael Stuhlbarg), wife, two teenage children, the man the wife wants to marry, and a panoply of rabbis, lawyers, and a dentist. Mostly works (or doesn't) according to the Jewish in-humor, much quite funny. B+
Movie: Julie & Julia: Split story of Julia and Paul Child in Paris in the 1950s intercut with Julie Powell's blog year of cooking from Child's pathbreaking Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were superb as expected, but I enjoyed Amy Adams' performance as much, and thought it hit the right balance between idolatry and ambition. Also, Adams got most of the food shots, mostly finished dishes whereas Streep was more often slaving over a mountain of onions. Bought the book -- Child's cookbook, that is -- but I still have 524 recipes to go, ETA well over 365 days. A-
Movie: Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarrantino's WWII fantasy, really just another movie exaggerating the importance of movies, a subject Tarrantino actually knows something about (unlike WWII). As history revised beyond the point of absurdity, this reminded me of a Sylvester Stallone vehicle called Victory -- you know, the one where the Nazis, losing the war, decide to recoup their losses by staging a soccer match in Paris against allied POWs (including Brazilian star Pele) and manage to lose that too. I thought that Christoph Waltz's scenes were too hammy and ran on too long, and that Brad Pitt's command of English was even worse than his Italian. Of course, there is lots of marvelous stuff here, and the violence gets by with Tarrantino's usual catharsis, although somewhat less so than in the past. B+
Movie: Public Enemies: John Dillinger gangster movie, although I gather the book it was based on focused more broadly on the FBI from 1933-43. I can't say I was in the mood, but it was nicely shot, and the law enforcement officers were suitably creepy -- especially Billy Crudup's portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover. It's hard to think of anyone in US government whose reputation took a steeper nosedive immediately after his death. B
Saturday, August 15. 2009
I guess if I'm going to do movie notes I should get them over with quickly.
Movie: Star Trek: We waited long enough on this one to catch it at a second-run theater, affectionately referred to as the Cheap Seats. I have some pedigree as a fan, given that I watched the original TV series both when it came out and in endless reruns. Also saw the first four or five movies, but never sat still for Next Generation or any of the other spinoffs. This attempts to wipe the slate relatively clean by posing an alternate reality corrupted by time travel. Just as well, given how poorly the original crew aged -- especially the second tier actors, who never were very good in the first place. On the other hand, youth can be a handicap too. Especially for Kirk, whose brilliance is repeatedly asserted but rarely suggested much less proved: in fact, he spends much of the movie getting his face smashed in and getting out of jams only through the most improbable luck. Two scenes were especially rotten: when as a child he skids a vintage Corvette into the Grand Canyon of Iowa, and when he hacks the "no win" Kobayashi Maru simulation but he acts like it's a big joke. The new Spock is even less convincing. That these two are the best and brightest of Star Fleet suggests how far the current dumbing down of the military can go over the next three or four centuries. With the background development asides and the time chewed up by protracted action sequences -- the dragon on an ice planet was a low point -- there wasn't much time for plot development, so they ran through that part pretty quick. It's all pretty crackpot, but not that hard to take. It's still worth point out that the movies seem stuck with war plots, where the original TV series was more interested in exploring new worlds, especially ones that were sci-fi variations of our own. While the movie is now set up for a protracted series of movie sequels, it would be much more interesting to scale these new versions of the old characters back down to weekly TV size. One saving grace was Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime. He not only provided what little sense there was to the movie, he gave it some much needed dignity. The second-tier actors were also much better than their prototypes, especially Simon Pegg as Scotty. B
Sunday, August 9. 2009
Movie: Wanted: Saw this on TV last night (not sure of the source, since that's not my department). Supposedly based on a comic book, a convenient excuse for all sorts of nonsense. Aside from the physics, which starts with a guy who can run so fast his passing sucks papers out of file cabinets to all sorts of curving slow-motion bullet paths, the normal office dialog sets new levels for stupidity and plain meanness -- so bad that the ridiculous action sequences are appreciated more for rescuing the audience than for advancing the plot. Terence Stamp has a bit part that could have grown, but that too is cut short by another bloody assault. C-
Movie: Mamma Mia: Saw this on TV last week. Stage musical given an overly lavish set direction which does nothing to shape up the story. Not sure if any new music was written for this, as there were a couple of songs I didn't recognize -- fewer in reading the song list than in watching the movie, which says something about the performances. In any case, the fit of the songs to the story (or vice versa) is tenuous, and the father mystery is a slender joke to hang this all on -- something that could have used some more story but keeps succumbing to song, leaving Amanda Seyfried beamy-eyed, confused, and silly. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters supposedly have a little story, but they squander it in their numbers. The three male leads are good-natured props, except when they try to sing or show up in flashback photos. That leaves Meryl Streep, which is why anyone bothered watching this in the first place. C+
For a long time I wrote little notes/grades on movies I saw. Sometime over a year ago I fell behind -- last one I posted was November 2007 -- and never caught up, nor does it look like I'll catch up anytime soon. I do at least have a list with grades, which I'll flip around for most recent first. We haven't been seeing many movies since Warren shut down their low budget artsy theater. Bill Warren announced that the land had been called to a "higher use" then sold it off to a church. At the time, he promised more serious movies at his other venues, and pointed out that he had to because his wife was a big art movie fan. Not only did he double cross us there, he divorced the wife for good measure. A friend recently moved to Salina, and comparing notes I find out they get movies there that we never see. You might think someone could open a theater that would fill the niche of the one Warren shut down, but it would be awfully hard to raise the money to go up against his virtual monopoly in this town.
For whatever it's worth, the movies (note: only 4 from 2009):
While we're at it, I'll also list some 2008 (more or less) films I didn't note, probably because I caught them later on the tube.
Thursday, November 22. 2007
Movie: We Own the Night. A movie about New York cops, family guilt trips, and drug dealing Russian emigré gangsters. The most striking thing about it is that there are no more than 2 or 3 scenes in the whole film where anyone appears to be having a good time. They involve drug use, but are hardly limited to it. Rather, drugs are just one part of a free and open enjoyment of life. You sure don't find any pleasure among the cops, nor are the gangsters much better, but at least they aren't as stuck up as the cops. The latter don't even appear to have a bad apple on the take, less an avoidance of a cliché than an escape from reality. Mark Wahlberg plays the most rigidly hectoring cop in memory, at least until he gets shot and starts to smell the roses. By then his club manager brother [Joaquin Phoenix] has turned around to fill the breach. We're supposed to be inspired, but we can tell he's going to be a miserable prick for the rest of his probably short life, and he deserves it. (Robert Duvall, in a thankless role, plays the father who put these two basket cases together.) Some scenes are sharply drawn and a pleasure to watch. But if I had to draw a lesson from the film, it's that the worst two groups of people to allow anywhere near the drug trade are gangsters and cops. It would be so much better just to legalize the shit, treat those who can't handle them, and let everybody else enjoy their freedom. B-
Movie: Michael Clayton. I hate guys with gambling problems, not to mention movies about them, so that's one strike against the lawyer George Clooney plays here. That's about the only one. He has a sense of place, an understanding of what he's good at and when he's in over his head, that is refreshing, and put to good use. That's a skill that the corporate lawyer played by Tilda Swinton doesn't have, and she winds up paying for it in a deeply satisfying ending. Tom Wilkinson's unbalanced litigator doesn't have that skill either, but he has occasional moments of magnificence, and will get an Oscar nomination for them. A-
Movie: Gone Baby Gone. Boston crime movie, with private detectives [Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan] called in to augment the police investigation of a child abduction. The ultimate ending strikes me as much too pat, although it raises a real question about what Affleck should do and what it costs him to do that. Meanwhile, the characters, excepting the head cop [Morgan Freeman], are finely drawn, the local color is so bright you gotta wear shades, and the pacing has a couple of interesting twists. Affleck's gumshoe is an interesting mix of soft speak and quick moves -- Monaghan explains that he only looks young. A-
Movie: The Darjeeling Limited. Wes Anderson movie, follows three well-heeled brothers on a trek across India trying to put their relationships in order after their father died, their mother ran off to a convent in the Himalayas, and the dominant, presumably elder one [Owen Wilson] cracked his face in a motorcycle accident. The other two [Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman] are reticent, outwardly submissive, inwardly fraught. It doesn't make for much of a story, but sets up various skits. Meanwhile, the scene and its people take over the movie. India is so overwhelming it's hard to tell when or if it's being satirized. A stupid scene with a snake ends smartly. A funeral turns touching, in contrast to the father's flashbacked funeral. An encounter with the mother [Anjelica Huston] is anticlimactic. B+
Movie: Into the Wild. I read Jon Krakauer's book a few years ago, so for once I have that reference point. The book is far more ambivalent about its subject than the movie is, partly due to Krakauer's own troubled identification with Alexander Supertramp, partly because he's looking backwards for clues, whereas the movie's camera always has a clear shot of the story -- after all, no matter how skeptical we are about what we read, seeing is believing. The puzzle quality is retained in interleaving the fatal Alaska venture with the mostly good fortunes that preceded it. It's hard to draw any conclusions about either: each episode strikes me as arbitrary and meaningless, which is the way real life works but unknown in fiction. Given this, it's hard to derive any satisfaction from the story, but the film is something else. It shows you things you rarely if ever see, and gives you slices of lives that rarely if ever get shown. Numerous small performances are notable, especially Catherine Keener's. A-
Movie: Lions for Lambs. Supposedly, three legs will stand without wobbling even on uneven terrain. This story is built from three such sticks, but each is so flimsy they collapse of their own weight. In one, two Special Forces soldiers -- one Afro-American, one Mexican-American -- are sent on a "forward point" mission to the top of a mountain in Afghanistan. Their helicopter is shot up, they fall or jump onto an ice field, and are finished off by Taliban while their commanding officers watch helpless from some sort of satellite feed. Mission unaccomplished, FUBAR actually. Meanwhile, a Senator in DC, played by Tom Cruise, is trying to plant a story about how this new strategy will bring victory in the GWOT, lecturing and cajoling a skeptical reporter played by Meryl Streep. Cruise gets a phone call near the end of the interview which may be news of the mission's debacle, but that's not part of the story he's leaking. Streep then goes to her editor, who's eager to be spooned whatever the government wants to feed him, but rejects Streep's suspicions as not newsworthy. Meanwhile, a Stanford poli-sci professor, played by director Robert Redford, is chewing out a cynical, smart-alecky, rich kid student for not giving a damn and making a commitment -- unlike two underprivileged students he had who were so engaged by the professor they joined the army to prove themselves, and wound up in Afghanistan, dead in the ice high on a remote mountain -- an ending presumably unknown by Redford, although he's so full of shit it's hard to be sure. There's enough in these angles to yield some powerful lessons -- the impotence of the military, the callousness of the politicians, the callowness of the media, the fatuousness of academia, the futile hopes of the lower class and the withdrawal of the upper class -- but that would take more skill and brains than fit the budget here. (Aside from the name actors, the budget must have been pretty skimpy: the Afghanistan sequence looks crappy, and the rest, aside from a cab ride, was shot in interiors, mostly in two offices.) The best critique comes from the otherwise dislikable student when he observes that the only science in politics these days is the study of manipulation, and that in turn dismissed any interest he initially had in Redford's class. The Cruise-Streep thread has some interest for that reason alone -- he handles the word "victory" like a chef's knife, eviscerating Streep's instinct to resist. But Cruise's manipulations are slicker but not far from standard issue neocon propaganda: the willingness to say whatever it takes to get whatever one wants is the ethical norm. Redford's thread is hamstrung from the start, not least because he's bought the notion that process -- commitment, engagement, etc. -- is all that's needed to balance off the right. This asymmetry is indeed a big part of what's wrong: if I'm willing to share and you want it all, even a compromise favors you. The trap that Cruise and his ilk prey on is the concession that there's any justification for war. Give them an inch and they'll slip their favorite war through it, because even a little war compounds ferociously. Redford and Cruise both share blame for getting those soldiers killed: the former by getting them committed without giving them principles, and the latter by abusing their commitment. C+
Some movies that came to Wichita that we thought about seeing but didn't make it to: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Eastern Promises; Elizabeth: The Golden Age; The Kingdom; Rendition; Things We Lost in the Fire. Curiously, we saw trailers to two after they left town. Movies still here that we might get to: American Gangster; No Country for Old Men.
Tuesday, October 2. 2007
Movie: Hairspray. Somehow this one slipped my mind last time around. This, of course, is the recent movie version of the Broadway musical which preserves the characters and story line from John Waters' original movie, but unfortunately not the music. The original movie soundtrack was possibly the greatest soundtrack album of all time. Of course, the story line helped a lot -- the movie is about integrating teen dancing shows in Baltimore in the early 1960s, the golden age of one-shot dance-callout pop tunes like "Do the Twist." Still, you have to compliment Waters for his remarkably sharp ear. Replacing genuine teen dance toons with fake Broadway ones is a big step in the doo-doo, even if they're still better than the plot-advancing songs that bind Broadway theater in cliché. The other big change is in the acting. Waters' original was squeaky-PG-clean, at least if you're not allied with the Klan, but still it was a trip to see his usual troop of actors, like Divine and Mink Stole as well as arty celebs like Debbie Harry, working family fare. The new movie stick with bankable Hollywood stars -- the sole exception a cameo with Waters that is disposed with during the opening song-and-dance, a bit of humor they never dared return to. So the new movie falls short, if not completely off the table. The new stars are likable enough -- Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer are especially fine choices, and Amanda Bynes makes the most of a lollipop and a lot of pogo dancing. And the movie does remind me that the real merit of musicals isn't the music -- it's the dancing. It helps a lot that the plot allows for a lot of dancing. A-
Movie: In the Valley of Elah. This film touches a personal phobia of mine. I recall that back when the draft board figured me for cannon fodder in Vietnam, I was more afraid of the army than of the war. The military is a deliberately brutalizing culture -- how else can they accomplish their appointed tasks of destroying the enemy? This movie gives us both sides of the schizophrenia locked into that culture: the sense of duty that leads to killing and the casual madness that comes with it. Tommy Lee Jones, as the Vietnam vet father of an OIF soldier, pushes hard on the duty end. The son merely dies for it -- I'm more tempted to make him out as the victim of the father than of George Bush -- not that I'm inclined to let the latter off easy either. It's obvious to me that the experience of war damages soldiers -- I knew that even when I was a teenager. That's the small lesson here, and we get to see Jones recognize that much -- evidently he does recall something from Vietnam after all. Too bad he hadn't realized it earlier. A-
Movie: 3:10 to Yuma. Don't remember the original, which makes this one luckier than Hairspray. Reviewers say this one is more violent and more cynical. I'd say that anything else would have been a major uphill struggle against the times, and clearly this movie isn't to for that. On the other hand, the 14-year-old kid's suggestion that they just shoot Ben Wade would have been even more au courant, but following it would have left them without a movie -- so score that for cynical after all. The kid offers that same solution several times to several problems -- he's more trigger-happy than Indiana Jones if not George Bush. The main treat here is watching Russell Crowe suddenly kill one of his guards while the others watch dumbfoundedly, then smile wanly and escape any further consequences. Indeed, even after he is delivered to the train, you still realize there will be no consequences. He's as lucky a killer as Americans wish to be, and a lot better at it than Americans actually are. These days we're easily impressed by competency -- it's not like there's a lot of it around. The other treats are the gritty Arizona scenery and the minor characters. B
Saturday, September 8. 2007
Catching up on my movie notes, which by now cover quite a few months. Bill Warren sold his "Premier Palace" -- which had a virtual monopoly on films with intellectual merit around here -- off to a Baptist church group, promising to keep showing some such films in his other theaters, if for no better reason than because his wife likes them. But then he also divorced his wife, so we've lost even that thread.
Movie: The Namesake. The trailer was pretty good, but we saw it so many times the jokes all went stale and the exotic color turned ordinary. By the end I hated it so much I was reminded of the trailer for a movie with Kevin Kline a decade-plus ago which turned out to have excised every single good scene in the movie. This one turned out OK, although it does suffer from its schematicism, like trying to film the Cliff's Notes version of a bigger and richer novel. The story line, after all, involves two generations, two countries, a lot of people, and not enough time. Given all this, I was susprised (positively, if not pleasantly) that it proceeds chronologically with few flashbacks, so we get most of the parents' stories before having to deal with the children. B+
Movie: Grindhouse. Double feature by Roberto Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrantino, with extra trailers and missing reels. The former is a tolerable horror film, something I rarely grant the possibility of. The latter is a car-driven action film that is even better when the two sets of women are just talking. A-
Movie: Away From Her. Julie Christie plays a woman with Alzheimer's. It's a slight storyline, and a waste, of course, but the details work well enough, the treatment is horrible most of all in its coarse economy, the husband is credibly flawed, the end is temporarily kind. Throughout the movie we see brief glimpses of young Christie. I kept flashing back to when I saw Darling as a teenager. It's been a long strange life. B+
Movie: Waitress. Saw this on Father's Day, a pure accident -- as an orphan, and not a father myself, I pay no attention to the occasion, nor have anyone close who does. It's not a very nice movie to fathers, or to men in general, going way beyond the usual suspicions and complaints into the realm of pure caricature. I don't generally have much beef with that, so maybe it's just the occasion. Maybe it's just that the waitress at the center of this attracts such men: she certainly gives them plenty of opportunity to take advantage of her. B+
Movie: A Mighty Heart. Angelina Jolie as Marianne Pearl, wife of martyred journalist Daniel Pearl, in a film shot for realism and relatively free of cant. One thing that comes through is the privileged life of these well-connected journalists in poor Pakistan, and how the power structure bends to their will. B+
Movie: No End in Sight. Bush's Iraq war documented, emphasizing the disastrous failures of the first year of occupation. Draws credible witnesses from the occupiers, including some of the perpetrators -- with others refusing to be interviewed duly noted -- and some remarkable footage, like the inside of the bombed UN quarters. Main problem is that it leaves the impression that it could have gone better with saner figures than Paul Bremer in charge. I doubt that, in large part because the US military is mostly out of sight here. Their mission and their training made gross collateral damage all but inevitable, which most likely would have ignited the resentment even if the CPA had a clue. A-
Movie: The Bourne Ultimatum. Third movie with Matt Damon as trained CIA killer on the loose, broken free of his programming if not in full control of his senses, and therefore in need of killing to protect the bureaucratic bigwigs. First two installements were pretty good, and this one got raves, but I found it claustrophobic -- so tightly wound it's all increasingly preposterous action sequences. Moreover, the closer Damon gets to his source, the more ridiculous the story becomes. Also don't care for the way they build up the CIA's capability -- such lean efficiency has never been evinced in history. Even though they screw up here, they come much closer than they ever would in the real world. B
Movie: The Simpsons Movie. An early joke shames the audience for paying for something they could get for free, which is the ontological problem with this movie. Still, the storyline is a cut above the usual TV episode (or two, counting the "to be continued" break joke). But the usual big screen magnification and glorification is impossible, given their set look and feel. B+
Movie: Ratatouille. Pixar toon. I remember going to SIGGRAPH back in the '80s when the desk lamp animation was state of the art -- a giant leap forward over the usual run of teapots. Haven't seen the full set of toons they've released since then, but this one is remarkable both technically and for its story line. Both rats and people retain their essential characters, which are none too flattering in either case. The "little chef" succeeds without selling out, and his recognition doesn't upset the general order of things. Possibly the best chase scene ever, too. A
Saturday, April 7. 2007
Haven't written anything about movies since Marie Antoinette and The Queen in November. That was actually the beginning of the decent movie season here in Wichita, which winds down a few weeks after the Oscars. So we've seen a lot of stuff lately, but I haven't been keeping track. In looking back over the early notebooks, one thing I noticed is that a lot of times I just jotted down a grade. Too bad, given that I can't even recall some of the movies listed, but that's a precedent for the lapses that follow. Can't swear that I've seen them in this order, but this works as a first approximation. The first note was written at the time and squirrelled away in the scratch file. The others are catch-up quickies.
Movie: For Your Consideration. A Christopher Guest movie, with Eugene Levy co-writing, and the usual cast of characters working out. The setting is Hollywood during the filming of a '40s period movie called Home for Purim, with a pair of has-been or never-was leading actors at the center of a large cluster of roles -- supporting actors, director, writers, producers, agent, publicists, makeup, media flacks, and so forth. The movie, with its melodrama -- a dying mother hopes to reunite her family for one last Purim dinner -- and mix of Yiddish with southern accents, is deliciously off base, which makes the the outer film's central joke -- the buzz that the cast could be in line for Oscar nods -- a non-starter. That infects most of the jokes that follow -- some of which are still hilarious, although Catherine O'Hara's surgery is just painful. B+
Movie: The U.S. Versus John Lennon. The soundtrack itself is great, and very useful in the way it mixes Lennon's agitprop songs within his bedrock philosophy, an anti-religion pacifism. The film itself is less compelling. B+
Movie: Blood Diamond. Got panned for being preachy, but that's really only the last couple of minutes. Leonardo Di Caprio is terrific, and Africa is gorgeous and horrifying. A-
Movie: The Good Shepherd. I meant to dig up a quote from Lewis Lapham relevant here, where he recounts his job interview with the CIA. The real story of the CIA is one of those stranger than fiction tales: who would believe that the whole organization would have been so tightly wound around something like Skull and Bones? Yet it fits; it even helps explain some of the weirdness. Matt Damon is unusually wooden here, his brilliance often attested to but rarely demonstrated. B+
Movie: Children of Men. Anglo dystopianism, set in a near-future world lacking children, waiting to die. Seems to me it would have been better with less of the violent action that distracts from its philosphical heaviness. Also could have used more eccentrics, not that anyone else could top Michael Caine. B+
Movie: Charlotte's Web. Went twice to see Casino Royale only to find it sold out -- never did get back to it. Saw this as a second choice. I don't recall the classic story, which both pleased and annoyed. Not much impressed by the pig. Suggested we go for BBQ afterwards, but Laura opted for sushi. B
Movie: Babel. Don't see what's confusing here. The model is global north-south, how both fails, but the north forgives its own faults while the south suffers. Each of the stories involves two generations, so that's another dimension. Doesn't simplify or moralize: each fate speaks for itself. A
Movie: Dreamgirls. The problem with this as a Motown saga is the lack of great, or even good, music -- even Beyoncé kept her best shit out of this movie. Eddie Murphy gets a pass for pre-Motown grease. Sets were great with period details shined up to museum level. I wouldn't have given Jennifer Hudson that Oscar. B+
Movie: Flags of Our Fathers. Saw this late, on its second pass in support of Letters From Iwo Jima. It's roughly three movies in one, of which the least important is its chronicle of fearful assault -- what Spielberg started to do in Saving Private Ryan before he made his feel-good move. Eastwood finds no romance and no glory in that assault. It is, rather, a mere consequence of the decision of others to go to war -- the brunt suffered by people who had no say in the decision. Eastwood is equally unromantic about the home front -- a take that's even more unprecedented. The third is a riff on accidental fame and human fragility. The three Iwo Jima heroes provide distinct case studies, none viable. Along the way we see how the media simplifies and trivializes events that are nearly unfathomably complex. A
Movie: Letters From Iwo Jima. The view from the other side of the beach, the pillbox, the tunnel -- a view never before filmed by an American director. Eastwood wants to humanize the enemy here, which makes this a little softer, more sentimental than Flags, but he's right to recognize that we need help. Two officers have American connections, which plays nicely, but also rings true. The main enlisted man is a drafted baker; another is a flunkee from what seems to have been Japan's SS. One major difference is that for the Japanese impending doom was an endstate rather than a temporary terror. Hard to know how one should face that, especially given that it's so rare in American experience. A
Movie: Volver. Average Almodovar movie -- takes a while for that to sink in. The women are central; the men disposable, necessary props, or maybe even incidental. In the end, I was struck by the absence, indeed utter irrelevance, of the police in a movie that involves a killing. Very un-American thing to do. A-
Movie: The Last King of Scotland. The Idi Amin story. Plot got a little creepy toward the end, with the Scottish doctor tortured more by the writers than by the thugs, but no complaints about Forest Whitaker's Oscar. A-
Movie: Notes on a Scandal. Weak spot here is that I can't see this as much of a scandal, but then I recall a fondness for older women myself. Thought Cate Blanchett was better here than Helen Mirren was in The Queen. B+
Movie: Pan's Labyrinth. Didn't care much for the fantasy sequences as this got going, although they paid off in the end. Don't know whether the fantasy made the reality more credible, but this etches the face of Fascism in starkly realistic terms -- the Capitan is a complete monster, right down to his watch. He produces fear even when he shaves himself. A-
Movie: The Painted Veil. W. Somerset Maugham novel, a powerful story told a bit too sketchily. The rotten core of the west's exploitation of China is clear to behold even if it factors little into the story. B+
Movie: Venus. Same role Peter O'Toole played in My Favorite Year, but much older, of course. His old buddies are a plus. The young tart finally figures that out, and we all learn with her. A-
Movie: The Good German. So odd you suspect you're missing something. Looks ugly, deliberately so. Title seems to be ironic, but the case is too muddied to be sure. Also, I've never seen a leading man get into so many fights and get creamed so consistently -- even when Clooney kills someone near the end he winds up looking like a loser. Ending looks lifted from Casablanca, ignoring the more plausible one: Clooney should have left with the girl; either way would have been humiliating, but the separation leaves it all in vain. B
Movie: Breach. Spy vs. Spy. Taut enough as a movie, but could be better as history, if anyone cares what makes people like Hansen tick. Chris Cooper is very good. Too bad the movie's about the other guy, and the creeps in the background, including the clueless asshole who got to announce the sting. B+
Movie: The Lives of Others. Two pivot points here, each tuned precisely in terms of how they personally balance their ethics and their loyalty to the Communist order: one a writer, the other a Stasi spy monitoring the writer. The order itself fares less well, as secrecy breeds corruption backed with stifling violence. The story wouldn't be half as powerful, or half as damning of the GDR, without the idealism, nor would the idealism be credible without the personal quirks: the two may be Good Germans, but not always, or even principally -- Bertolt Brecht haunts the background, reminding us of the primacy of bestial acts. Movie of the year, even before the last line, which may be the best ever. A+
Movie: Zodiac. California murder case from the '70s, an era before caller ID. Killer managed to avoid identification, or prosecution at least, despite tweaking of the press. I like the strict chronological structure, which spreads out over decades, following a book by a cartoonist obsessed with the case, and featuring a journalist and a police detective who spend substantial parts of their careers with it more/less on their minds. Police work strikes me as realistic. Some echoes of personal experience, but also critical differences. A-
Two of the above (Breach; Zodiac) are 2007 releases. The others are 2006 releases. The following sums up the 2006 releases I saw and wrote about:
A list of 2006 movies I didn't see but more/less wish I had, in roughly descending order: Idlewild; Little Children; Casino Royale; Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; The Science of Sleep; Borat; United 93; A Scanner Darkly; Fast Food Nation; Who Killed the Electric Car?; Hollywoodland; L'Enfant; World Trade Center; 49 Up; Factotum.