Friday, April 22, 2011

Notes on 7 films

Win Win
A lawyer / wrestling coach commits a criminally liable act but finds a way to redeem himself by helping a struggling teen and his recovering drug-addicted mother, which he would never have had the chance to do had he not done the crime. Every scene intricately ties into every subsequent scene until it builds to a satisfying whole. Its win, win for all involved including the audience.

Meek’s Cutoff
A family of homesteaders in Oregon are lost thanks to an incompetent mountain man named Meek whose cutoff has led them to a dry dusty plain. Slow, methodical, often very hushed this is a film that lingers like a summer afternoon. Shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a good number of shots that just observe the action rather than propel it forward. The film is not as engaging as it could be and perhaps a tad bit revisionist [or liberal] in its view of history but also more accurate than most westerns. Director Kelly Reichardt has built a respectable track record.

Bill Cunningham’s New York
An enjoyable documentary about an unpretentious man in a pretentious industry. Bill Cunningham is a 80-something down-to-earth fashion photographer who completely belies everything about the fashion world by photographing people on the New York City streets wearing the fashions of the day. He bicycles all around New York; he lives in an apartment with nothing but filing cabinets and a bed. He’s the real article and people love him for it - on his own terms. The documentary doesn’t dig deep into its subject but why should it?

The Princess of Montpensier
Four men vie for one woman in 16th century France while religious wars ensue, court intrigue and royal power plays manipulate everyone, sword fighting disrupts the order and beautiful castles dot the distant landscape. What’s not to love? This is Bertrand Tavernier at his best getting quality out of every performance, every line of dialogue and every foot of film. Save for the high production value this is a film Hollywood could not make. And I don't mean 'costume drama' because everyone does those - but instead that certain je ne sais quoi that only the French do so well. See it and you'll know what I mean.

Source Code
A movie that somehow has critics [and some scientists] embracing as darn near probably. Huh? How? Well, who cares? The movie is ‘Groundhogs Day’ [or maybe a Hindu tale] done as a sci-fi fantasy. It is enjoyable but when it attempts to display an emotional human core it stalls the narrative just long enough to make us think about what we are seeing - and that’s not what you want in this kind of film.

The Adjustment Bureau
A Matter of Life and Death by way of Wings of Desire, It’s A Wonderful Life, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Jump along with shades of Total Recall, Minority Report, Twilight Zone and the X-Files. It is about as original as a snack of milk and cookies but it is pleasant enough if you don’t stop to think about it much.

In A Better World
This Danish / Swedish drama is like watching a long row of domino's with spikes fall in slow motion along someone’s back; Predictable and painful. It is very well acted, directed, shot and edited but the story plods along imprisoning all the characters in a relentless world of fate. The parts of the film that take place in Africa are by far the best and could make a separate and better film than the other heavy-handed section about two boys wrecking their lives. There is no denying the talent behind and in front of the lens but director Susanne Bier has done better.

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