Category Archives: movies

That’s Entertainment! – KonMari

Yeah, I know (and that really doesn’t properly convey the enormity of what I had). Continue reading

Shooting the Past

It’s been awhile since I posted about anything other than food, so let me switch gears for a little bit.  Awhile back, a colleague recommended a TV movie to me called Shooting the Past by Stephen Poliakoff. I put it on my Netflix queue where it remained for sometime. A week or so ago, it finally made its way to my home.

Marilyn, (Lindsay Duncan) is in charge of a photo archive (10 million photos) that is owned by a company. The company has let them to their own devices for years but has recently been sold to American businessman Liam Cunningham (now playing Davos Seaworth on the excellent Game of Thrones). Unbeknownst to her, he’s been writing her colleague who handles the business end of stuff, Oswald (Timothy Spall) that the best photos of the collection are to be sold and the rest of it destroyed. Oswald has not shared this info with any of the archive’s employees so they’re totally unprepared for the news.

Now it’s up to her to try and convince him that the collection needs to be kept intact. This is part 1 of a really great scene :

This is quite a remarkable story and a remarkable movie. While some of the archive employees are exaggerated, I have met people somewhat like them in the library world before. Cunningham’s character is not a monster. He’s a decent enough man who has done the appropriate thing and is now flung into a situation not of his own making.

I am also very familiar with the central crux of the dilemma faced by the archive. Marilyn is told by others that the contents of the archive are mostly duplicated elsewhere. The argument she needs to make is a difficult one. Why does this collection need to remain intact? Through a series of “stories” that Marilyn has the chance to tell, she manages to make her case.

Timothy Spall is slightly over-the-top, but everyone else gives wonderful performances. The music, the direction, the writing, the amazing images, all make this really worth the time to hunt it down. (Hint, hint, it appears to be on YouTube)

I’m a power user of Goodreads, which is a seriously awesome social networking site for books. For a long time now I’ve been looking for an similar site for movies and really, if there’s anything comparable I haven’t found it. And then in a post somewhere deep in Goodreads, I heard about is very much in beta. So far the only way to get in is to request an invite from the site. They’re working on it and it’s a long way from being what I think it could be, but it’s got potential. What you can do now:

  • add movies to lists (SeenThat, OwnThat, MustSee, and Recommend)
  • review films
  • rate them (and you can give half stars too!)
  • contribute to “chatter”

It’s a bit clunky, but they have a feedback function and it’s coming along. For a movie lover, I think this is worth your time exploring.


Ready, Ok?

As a major Lost fan, I’ve become fascinated by Michael Emerson. So I started looking into his credits and found that he had a part in a film done by his wife’s film company, actress Carrie Preston. Actually he has made a couple of movies for her film company, but the one I ended up seeing was Ready? Ok.

Ready? OK!
is about a little boy who wants very much to be a cheerleader. His mom, played by Carrie Preston, is raising him by herself and wants very much for him to be a little boy who conforms with mainstream society. Emerson plays her gay neighbor who is sympathetic to her son’s struggles. The film is worth seeing just to watch Michael Emerson do a cheer, but I found it quite poignant and really well done.

Some very nice performances from John G. Preston, Tara Karsian, and Lurie Poston.

They don’t make movies like this anymore

So my friend RJ had The Last of Sheila in her queue on Netflix and on impulse I put it in mine. Wow. What a clever, literate, well-done film. Stephen Sondheim (yes, that Sondheim and no, this is not a musical) and Anthony Perkins (yes, the actor) wrote the script. Cast: the incomparable James Mason, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, Ian McShane, Joan Hackett, Richard Benjamin, and Raquel Welch. The weak link in the actors is Welch, but she doesn’t have the biggest part, and her costars more than make up for her.

It’s a mystery movie that requires you to pay attention. There are visual and spoken clues all over the place, and if you pay attention, you can solve the puzzle yourself.

Sheila Greene is dead. Her husband, Clinton (Coburn) has invited his friends–all of whom were present at the party where she died (accidentally? or not?)–for a week on his yacht in the South of France. He’s devised a game that they’re all going to play. The game takes an unexpected turn and suddenly the guests are playing it for real.

I can’t say more without spoiling the movie. DVD only has a couple of extras. The commentary track is worth listening to–again Welch is the lightweight, but the stuff from Cannon and Benjamin is really fascinating stuff.

Go rent this film.

Unexpected gems

A work colleague loaned me her copy of Eve’s Bayou. Somehow I missed this when it made its debut in movie theaters back in 1997. Although, I suspect I wouldn’t have appreciated it nearly as much as I did now.

Set in a bayou in Louisiana, it’s about one particular summer in the life of a wealthy family who have several issues come to fore in a suitably dramatic manner. Gothic but not unduly so. Great cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, and a young actress named Jurnee Smollett.

The family and the rest of the characters are all African-American, but race never plays any kind of a role in the movie–and it shouldn’t. That’s not what the movie is about. It’s almost a coming-of-age story.

Also caught Transamerica with Felicity Huffman and Kevin Zegers. Didn’t have the highest expectations of it, but I was pleasantly surprised. Huffman plays a transgendered individual about to have surgery to become a female, who discovers that she’s got a son (Zegers). Zegers has some problems and is looking for his dad to get him out of jail.

Delicate subject matter, but it was handled really well. Funny and touching movie. Huffman managed to convince me that she was a transgendered man–hard task to accomplish.

Different side of the coin

It’s hard not to compare “Infamous” with Capote. Both films cover roughly the same time period and the same series of events. Both films were released within a year or so of each other. I’m not sure what happened with that, but it’s unfortunate because I suspect most people ended up seeing “Capote” (released first) and passed Infamous by. That said, I’m going to bow to pressure and compare them.

I’m not sure one is superior to the other. I liked both for different reasons. Sandra Bullock did a surprisingly good job as Harper Lee–not Bullock’s biggest fan–but she brought a haunted quality to the part that I liked a lot. Director and screenwriter, Douglas McGrath uses “testimonials,” to punctuate the plot. Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Diana Vreeland, even Gore Vidal periodically share their thoughts on Capote. It’s artificial, but it does work. Given that New York and the society in which Capote traveled are so prominent in “Infamous,” perhaps it’s even a shrewd move.

Where I think the movie falls apart for me is in the portrayal of Perry Smith, one of the two murderers. In “Capote,” Clifton Collins, Jr. plays Smith as part naive and part psychopath. Daniel Craig of James Bond fame is mercurial, violent, and charming, but … it didn’t work for me. Nor did the film’s premise.

Truman Capote was never the same after completing “In Cold Blood. ” The fundamental question that both of these films poses and answers is why. What about this period in Capote’s life changed him so? What broke him? Because I’m not a Truman Capote scholar, I don’t really know.

“Capote” suggests that it was the author’s betrayal and manipulation of his subjects. Infamous suggests it was the emotional relationship between the author and his subject itself. As convincingly as Toby Jones and Daniel Craig play it, McGrath’s solution seems too pat, too Hollywood for me. There’s an elegance in “Capote” that “Infamous” lacks.

I do agree with the New Yorker review. You “should not not see it.” Well worth your time and the rental fee.

Music and Murder

Picked up two movies from a discount bin a couple of weekends ago. Totally different types of films too.

Mad Hot Ballroom is a charming if light documentary about a program that incorporates ballroom dancing into elementary schools. It’s a neat idea in and of itself. The filmmakers follow three different schools as they prepare for a final citywide competition. A lot of the reviews were critical about the focus on the competition in lieu of focus on the children. I can see the point. This is not a hard-hitting documentary and I have to wonder if the filmmakers made a conscious choice to go this way. It probably was more marketable if only because it had a recognizable/Hollywoodesque plot. It is still worth seeing, however.

On the other end of the spectrum was Capote. The focus of the film is on Truman Capote’s research into the Clutter murders (two ex-cons broke into a Kansas farm house in the erroneous belief there was money and brutally murdered an entire family) that eventually became his “non-fiction novel,” In Cold Blood. Capote is masterfully portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, which seems like weird casting. Hoffman is a stocky 5’9′; Capote was 5’3.” But he nails it. Catherine Keener plays Harper Lee and in a throwaway role, Chris Cooper is the local state police chief.

It’s a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing movie. Capote feels drawn to one of the killers (Clifton Collins Jr.) whose life has marked parallels to his own. Nonetheless as he pours literally years into writing the book, he comes to realize that for a successful ending, he needs the killers to die.

Notes on a Scandal

Had the chance to see Notes on a Scandal last weekend, which I’ve been anxiously anticipating since I first saw the preview. Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, the incomparable Bill Nighy: it’s an instant recipe for success. I was not disappointed.

Dench plays Barbara Covett, a rather embittered spinster schoolteacher who becomes fascinated by Blanchett’s Sheba Hart. The “Notes” of the title refers to Barbara’s diaries. Ostensibly about Sheba, we nonetheless learn an awful lot about Barbara, who is less than psychologically stable. Actually when I think about it, both women are not too stable (Sheba has an affair with a 15-year-old–iffy ground there) and they are certainly both rather unhappy. Anyhow, Barbara learns about the affair and by revealing this to Sheba, manages to insinuate herself into Sheba’s life to an uncomfortable degree.

Notes on a Scandal is very much a character-driven film and it’s a very good one. The screenplay, the direction, the acting–all of it is superb. The Oscar nods are very well deserved.

On a roll

Saw The Holiday while I was on vacation. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are leading lives of romantic desperation in LA and England respectively. They meet on a Home Exchange site and decide to swap houses for their Christmas vacations. It was a cute movie, but nothing special. I must admit I really did enjoy Winslet’s scenes with Eli Wallach. Wallach plays a Billy Wilder-like elderly screenwriter who she befriends.

Also got to see a play in New York. It was…wait for it…Evil Dead: The Musical. Great fun, lots of good songs, a leading man who really does look like Bruce Campbell, and loads of fake blood (they even have several rows designated as the “splatter zone”).