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The Soloist (2009)
Delicate and brilliant portrayal of Schizophrenia...
As a psychiatrist, and a person who has spent his career working directly with individuals with severe persistent mental illness, I found Jaime Foxx's portrayal of Nathaniel Ayers, a Julliard drop-out struggling with life on the streets of Los Angeles, and with schizophrenia, to be nothing short of brilliant. Mr. Foxx opened a window into the complexity of this fascinating but troubling disorder, while leaving Mr. Ayers', and by association, all those afflicted with schizophrenia's, dignity intact. In some ways he even elevated these "lost" members of our society to a much more human status than they are often given by the media and Hollywood. Robert Downy Jr.'s character, the columnist Steve Lopez, is also brilliantly played. His struggle with his own fallibility, and his self-doubt that has obviously grown from past failures, is palpable, but subtly presented so that he does not appear a tragic character, but a real man struggling with commitment and fearing his own inability to meet the expectations of others. Watching him re-attach to others out of necessity at first, then out of a love for Mr. Ayers, was redemptive and hopeful, and sent a message that needs to be heard by men all over! My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that psychiatry's role is somewhat belittled in this telling of the real life story of Nathaniel Ayers. While there are reasons enough to be suspicious of my profession, it doesn't help when psychiatrists are treated as outsiders in the lives of their patients. (Fortunately, this movie did not take the path of making psychiatrists appear sinister, as is often the case in Hollywood fare.) In conclusion, I can say only thank you Jaime Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Steve Lopez, Susannah Grant, Joe Wright, and most of all, Nathaniel Ayers, for letting us see into your world and for helping us understand!
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
"Confusing ending" requires attention through the movie! (some hints rather than outright spoilers)
Plenty has been written already about the outstanding work of the actors in this film, by viewers who know much more about movies and acting than I. However, one point has been raised that should be addressed by someone who knows behavior. That is the confusion some feel at the ending of this movie.
Without spoiling the actual ending, even though many have done so in previous posts, I offer this: it is not that Crowe's character grows to respect Bale's character, but, that he sees, for the first time, in Bale's character, a man who does as a father should do. Watch the scene in the hotel, when Bale's character sends his son away, before the "walk" to the train. Watch Crowe's face. It is here he begins to change. It would have been easy anywhere along the journey from the hotel to the train station, for him to take control, but he doesn't. When that critical moment comes when he is about to, Bale's character reminds him of that relationship he has with his son, and again, Crowe's character has no choice but to try and preserve something of the dignity of one man trying to something good, against incredible odds, with no real self-interest served, but the interest of his son given the highest priority.
Crowe's character describes his father, earlier in the movie. This is very revealing and lays the groundwork for his "change of heart" later in the movie. In the final scene, he sees his fantasy destroyed, then is shown mercy by the son, how could he do anything but what he does? I think the director astutely shows how this leopard's stripes really haven't changed, however, when Crowe's character gives his little whistle, his ultimate intentions are revealed.
Sometimes it is hard for us to understand the "morality" of a criminal. However, even a criminal of Wade's proportion, has some "rules" to live by. When he is one on one, and is forced to think about individuals, he makes moral decisions of his own. When he is at a distance, and doesn't have to know those he might destroy, it is easier and causes him less distress to do so. Just watch the decisions he makes throughout the film and you will see the conflict he obscures with that cool, vicious, yet charming charade. Beautifully portrayed by Crowe. Hats off to a man who knows people, as all great actors must!
Lastly, kudos to Bale, for I have yet, prior to this movie, seen him give such a subtle and convincing performance of such a complex character. His Batman was hard to swallow, and I couldn't stand him in The Prestige. What a difference here. I have little doubt that Crowe's stellar work in this film challenged Bale to give his all to this role. I look forward to more work of this caliber from him in the future!
Blow Out (1981)
I was shocked it was so bad! Beware spoilers...
Direction alone doesn't make a movie for me. The plot might be decent for this movie but the story built around it is unbelievable and poorly written. The police work is abysmal in the story since they are supposed to be investigating the death of a governor, and future presidential candidate. The car he wrecks isn't even impounded or investigated the night of the crash, but is left unguarded in a garage. The governor is able to "slip out the back door" of a major event where he's supposed to speak without anyone noticing. The police don't know how to get material evidence from the film maker? They aren't suspicious of a man "happening" to be there when the car wrecks? They don't ask for proof he filmed anything else that night? They can't find him several days later? My brother once shot photos of a burning building, the police confiscated the film for an investigation and he never saw it again. Give me a break. The continuity errors are many and ridiculously obvious, but nobody here is bothered? How about the broad daylight dash through town in the Jeep by Travolta, ending well after dark only a few minutes after the crash? How about the sequence of colors flashing on Travolta's face as he is struck by another of his "wired" helpers dying? Have you ever been to fireworks that cast shadows and flashed in constant consistent sequence like that? It was hard to watch the film and stay with it due to the shabby acting of the fem-fatal as well. She was poorly cast and couldn't hold a candle to Travolta. How about the critical judgment errors of Travolta's character... he never gave the girl's name, never mind her number, to the TV guy, how would the TV guy have called her not knowing who she was? Ugh... with any real examination of the story, it crumbles like a fragile house of cards. This was a real waste of a Saturday night for me.
Der Name der Rose (1986)
DVD AT LAST!!!
Ah, I can add a post script to my review of this delicious film. Annaud reveals, as I suspected, there was precious little Hollywood influence in this film. The DVD is finally here and we get to see the whole film, slightly longer than the vhs version. Also, the bonus materials shed light on the fact that Eco was consulted and realized it was his mistake that the labyrinth was flat.. he forgot stairs!!!! It is so easy to say the book is better than the movie.. that is a given with most books. However, to have so finely crafted a movie from such a long complicated book, is a phenomenal accomplishment. I love this film.
That Thing You Do! (1996)
Fun but didn't fill me up!
I am a bit surprised at all the positive reviews of this movie. I love Tom Hanks and much of the work he's done, but, this movie disappointed me. The story is fun and paints what seems like a reasonably accurate picture of the music business, especially in the 60's when one song would get you everything, including dropped like a hot potato when your light flickered. The problem was in the character development and the flow. Several characters are introduced and given enough camera time to make you think they are going to be vital to the story, then, poof, they are gone from the story. Some, like the bass player, stay to the last 15 minutes then disappear. It was easy to see that the drummer and Liv Tyler would end up together, just hard to tolerate how long it took. The chemistry between the characters was not compelling. The relationship between the lead singer and Liv was hard to believe. He never seemed to have any interest in her from the beginning. Lastly, the wrap up prior to the credits is nearly intolerable. It might be funny in a picture like Animal House to give the follow up bios of the characters, but, in this movie it was a lame catch up on the disappearing acts and hardly believable for some. If the movie was meant to be light hearted and superficial, it should have stayed light hearted and superficial. I don't think Mr. Hanks knew exactly what he wanted.. there was either too little drama or too much, too little emotion or too much. There was no balance and it made the movie feel like it was moving 45mph through a parking lot with speed bumps every 30 feet. I'd like to see it made by a more experienced Tom Hanks to see if he would change it in any way.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
At last, answers to all the great questions in life!
I've read the reviews and am convinced many of these people haven't actually seen this movie!! Finally we get the answers to all the really important questions in a package that is just outrageous enough to be proof of the Coen genius the truly devoted have come to love! Spoilers coming... minor compared to above... What happened to hippie activists from the 60's? Why, they end up burned out, over weight, unemployed and spend their time bowling! When they can't bowl, they listen to bowling on tape!! Wow, the rewards of fighting the good fight are rich indeed!
What happened to Viet Nam vets who didn't have PTSD and weren't consumed by the system when they came home? They convert to Judaism, level the world and all it's rationality with their over-blown opinions and reactionary jargon, and... go bowling!
What happened to surfers from the 60's? They become meek, voiceless, irrelevant punching bags for the oafish Viet Nam vets, and... go bowling!
Ah, life is good, I can rest at night! This movie is so genius, to call it genius might be an insult to the movie! (I think John Goodman's character should have said that in the movie!) The Coen brothers show their mastery of dialog, once again. Also, they have gifted us with a movie that opens up the lives of the truly average, and makes them interesting enough that we can't look away. (Just see Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo, and The Man Who Wasn't There if you want proof they can do this over and over!). The Coen touches that make this movie genius include the pointless Sam Elliot narration, Donnie the doormat, the Nihlists, the total inability of the characters to correctly identify a four legged animal, the omnipresent White Russian, smoking a J in a stranger's house without permission as though it were considered good etiquette, dream sequences that rival Madonna videos, a naked lady suspended from the ceiling painting her masterpiece, the car that wouldn't die, until it did, a photo of the dust bowl that is supposed to make a porno star homesick, and, the winner of the genius touches in a Coen brother's film, a famous television writer in his own livingroom in an Iron Lung in the 90's!!!! Wow, you couldn't find all these amazing things in 1000 movies combined and Joel and Ethan give them to us in one rousingly laid back adventure!! Thank you and hats off to the brothers! I'll keep on watching and keep on enjoying this one for years.
Under Capricorn (1949)
To be proper.. a bit of a let down, I'd say.
As a lover of Hitchcock I couldn't take 2 viewings of this one. The story has potential but the characters are horribly developed. The acting is fine, since the cast was superb. However, I wouldn't have wanted to be an actor in this one. Without spoiling, there is just too much anger without explanation. Too many characters lack character. The utter blindness of the leads to the glaring and painful flaws in the antagonists is almost comical. Finally, the sudden restoration of everyone's honesty and peace in the last scene is intolerable. A story is believable if the characters act like real humans would act. This film is an attempt to fool the viewer into thinking that a leopard can change it's spots in the blink of an eye! It is interesting to note that, even in a melodramatic story driven piece, Hitch still found a place for the falsely accused in the plot. Hitchcock was great, there will never be an equal, but, even he made a dud.. makes me feel better about myself!
High Fidelity (2000)
Funny, compelling, full of truth which hurts!
I agree with most of the comments I've read. My only addition is needed credit to Todd Louiso for a scene stealing performance that, at times, out shines even Jack Black. His face is amazing. His sincere fragility and his worship of Cusack's character are palpable without him having to say a word. Brilliant. The only weak spot I saw was Lisa Bonet. I just wasn't convinced she was worth the attention of the guys. She looks a little gaunt, and her acting was thin to match. Cusack was more sincere here than I've seen him. He was very suited to this role. I wish someone would go to Denmark and bring back Iben. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She has a natural look and her acting is so genuine. I like that she's not a typical American barbie doll. She has a face that's beautiful and full of character. Her smile... woa. Lastly, of course, Black.... hillarious as usual, and so over the top that you know this guy can't be made up! Great movie.
Nothing typical, everything beautiful in a movie.
This is not an ordinary movie. Watching this film is like watching a poem. it is too bad that some reviewers here have to see everything in the plug and play mode meant for short attention spans. This is a work of art intended to be tasted, smelled, seen, and touched. It enlivens the senses, touches the heart, and moves you with little dialog. Blanchett doesn't have to speak. Her face tells the pain of her loss, her remorse for her actions, and her lack of relief from her revenge. Ribisi is stunning as the outwardly simple, infatuated boy-like man with subtly revealed inner strength and cunning. Sometimes it is nice to take a break from the usual fare and take a ride on a work of art. I loved this film and will watch it again.
Scotland, Pa. (2001)
Macbeth does MacDonalds!
This movie is a combination of comedy, tragedy, and film-noir rolled into one! Outstanding for a first time writer/director. Surprisingly edgy performance by the lead actress (director's spouse) who usually plays gentle and nice. Supporting cast is a blast! I will watch this one again. I especially like the morphing of Shakespeare's story into a 70's lower middle-class America battle for money and power... over a diner! Funny on many levels! Enjoy!