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I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
Like a lot of people, when I heard about this film, I assumed it had something to do with cigarettes.
Then when I heard it was a gay-themed film starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, I promised myself I'd go see it. Which I often do and then don't go.
So I was very happy to get myself into a theater and not be disappointed.
There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this film, thanks to the direction and Jim Carrey. And Ewan McGregor does do a fantastic, soft, sensitive portrayal.
I went to see it myself. Is it a straight date movie? It's pretty hard to quantify, a con-artist/prison film/dramedy/gay romance. Since guys are more often Jim Carrey fans, would a guy suggest to his girlfriend that they go see Jim in a gay romance? Probably not. So where is the market for this film? DVD rentals most likely.
And it may well be the sleeper of the year.
It has a lot of honesty about it, nice comic touches, sensitive portrayals (especially by McGregor), a twist, but it doesn't hold back on the big absurd laugh moments, like when the guys are dancing to "Chances Are" with the extended fight going on.
I also liked the moments in flashback when the camera is moving through the summer grasses at a kid's level. Nice touch.
I like this film, was glad I contributed my 13 bucks and thought the portrayals were sensitively done by Carrey and McGregor. I recommend it.
It's likely that if you want alternative love to be accepted, you have to be willing to laugh at it.
Mic Macs à Tire-Larigot (2009)
Jeunet, what can you say?
Before seeing this new Jeunet film, I happened upon a brief interview that asked him why he declined to direct a "Harry Potter" film.
Possibly responding from his "Aliens" experience, he said (paraphrased) that "the elements were all already in place, people had their habits and knew what to do" so there was little for him to do but say "action". He admitted the money was tempting.
You have to admire him for his dedication to his craft over money.
Although, I could see his sense of visual humor in the ALIEN film he directed.
I haven't been out to see a film in over a year for various reasons but I got out to see "Micmacs" (at the Angelica in NYC) which was a return to form for Jeunet after "A Very Long Engagement".
As someone else said, he's almost TOO brilliant. He doesn't miss a trick but it works. Like Ridley Scott in "Bladerunner", the acting, the visuals, the writing, it's all there and I mean ALL of it.
The mechanical designs of the super-strong inventor were charming; there's rarely a lack of charm in Jeunet's films.
And the contortionist. Was she for real?
He's brilliant. I wonder if he sleeps.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
This film, in my humble opinion, is just about perfect. It's influenced by "Bringing Up Baby" but it's BETTER than BUB and I love it.
Barbra Streisand was at her brilliant comedic best in this film, without flaw in every word and action. Ryan O'Neal was excellent. If he was "doing" Cary Grant, he made it his own. His delivery and timing were fantastico. Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton were all brilliantly charming and perfect.
The scene in the ballroom with Austin Pendleton and Kenneth Mars, before the table and AT the table is comic perfection with Austin smiling charmingly when he isn't speaking and Kenneth flipping his hair with disdain while polishing his cutlery.
Exteriors shot in San Francisco's Nob Hill, Chinatown, Sunset District, I wish I had been in this movie.
Buck Henry is one of the best comedy writers ever. The dialogue and plot in WUD? are unbelievable:
"He's in discussions with Leonard Bernstein about conducting an avalanche in E flat."
"You're The Top" by Cole Porter energetically arranged and performed.
This film is still fresh and refreshing 37 years later.
"Must you stand...quite so close?"
The Razor's Edge (1984)
Bill Murray as litmus test for humans.
I've never seen the original "Razor's Edge" with Tyrone but I guess I'll have to look it up.
I feel badly for Bill Murray because he must have a hard time living up to his expectations of himself. It must be difficult to be so excellent.
I'm a fan, apparently. I think if you don't like Bill Murray, there's got to be something wrong with you.
I saw this film at a time when I had no expectations of anything (my twenties) and was impressed by all the elements of the film: the acting, humor, message, cinematography, casting, etc., even though I knew nothing about anything.
I loved that Larry made a promise to Isabel then had to regretfully go back on it rather than try to be faithful to a stupid promise. It's a mark of maturity to believe it's a man's prerogative to change his mind, I believe. Of course, he delayed commitment in the first place, a smart move.
I loved when Larry said to Isabel at the end, so perfectly, "you just don't get it" when he really wanted to kill her, I would imagine.
It was excellent when he responds to Denholm Elliot's, "an itinerant..." with "fishmonger?" and then he goes on to make his final moments happy ones. Denholm was excellent as the 2nd class snob with a heart.
I love at the end of the film when Bill is vaulting up the steps at Montmartre. He makes vaulting look easy.
This is a spiritual film that succeeds by not taking itself too seriously. RAZOR's EDGE has been described as BM's dramatic turning point but, even then, he was smart enough not to forget the comedy and to not get overly dramatic, i.e., when he was mourning the death of his real-life brother. Brian was also excellent as the cynical superior officer. Both Murrays are excellent at manifesting darkness when it's required. Apparently.
I loved the scene where Isabel tempts Sophie with the fantastic wine, she was so cold and pitiless. Catherine Hicks was excellent as the cutie with a darkside agenda and Theresa Russell was never better than as the "betrayed by life" sexpot.
This, to me, isn't just a good movie, it should be mandatory viewing in high school. It teaches with charm and brings great literature to life.
Henry Poole Is Here (2008)
Pissin' in the Poole
Luke Wilson is hard not to like. I've tried to dislike him but he slipped by me.
I wish this film had maintained a more consistent comic tone. I think if JD Salinger had been on the set, he would have said, "hey, can we throw some jokes here near the end?"
At the beginning of the film, I like when Luke chastises the ladies for their trespasses, then he singles out the old woman and they cut to her. It seems to break the damn "tone" of the film but I liked it anyway.
Not much later, he and the little girl are in the yard and he makes a joke WHICH SHE DOESN'T LAUGH AT, that "he has to go/he's busy" then he hops on the stationary bike. This is a sophisticated joke, very dry and subtle to deal to a little girl and it suggests that he's respecting her intelligence. She doesn't laugh and neither does he. Of course, she's "mute" but she also doesn't FAKE laugh, to indicate that she gets it. Neither does he. That's a nice moment. Also nice because he's depressed out of his skull but the girl brings intentional humor out of him.
It's hard for a kid to dislike an adult who doesn't insult their intelligence as it's hard not to like a kid who shuts up once in a while.
Then there's the bit about the clumsy blood-taker. Unnecessary but still appreciated, trying to keep it light.
This is an ambitious film that tries to say a lot with music, light, some video-style editing, sun and memory. All the indy music was a bit much but who am I to criticize indy music? Nobody, that's who.
Esperanza Martinez, who plays the irritating neighbor, is so good I sometimes wanted to kill her and wished Luke would, she was so damn irritating.
When Luke woke up in the hospital and found Esperanza, if he had just called for security, I'd have been more happy.
I just wish the film hadn't lost it's sense of humor somewhere along the line.
Hey, word-guys (heh-heh)
I laughed at this film but I'm not a particularly political guy so I'm just going to mention two people: Josh Brolin and Thandie Newton.
And I'm not going to be articulate because that's a strain.
Who ever would have thought that Thandie Newton could be so funny? Yes, she was over-the-top but who cares? She was having fun and doing weird things with her mouth and I was amazed by her comedy skills. Very excellent.
And Josh Brolin with his little ...heh, hehs... There were moments of comedy brilliance with his multiple sandwich bitings and "Hey, word-guys".
This film was sad because it was funny and certainly unjustified war and big-brotherism aren't funny but Josh and Thandy were amazingly great.
Fighting for your freedom (?) but not their own.
This is a surprisingly good film about the effects of war on young minds, brainwashing and the illusion of freedom.
Brandon doesn't return to the front because he believes it's the right thing to do but because he doesn't want to be on the run for the rest of his life. He's caught in a well-laid trap.
Why they opted for Mexico had to be to help make the final "decision" easier; any idiot would have opted to head back to Toronto since that was the best and original plan. Mexico?
Abbie Cornish is sexy (I've never seen her before) but she really was sexier than sexy in this no sex, no nudity film. Beautiful, caring and cool. I admired her subtext. I realized later that it was because she acted HUMAN rather than like a female. She didn't act like a GIRL stereotype or a GUY, she acted like a PERSON. Very charming and unusual.
The one scene that bothered me was when Brandon was on the ground getting kicked by 3 guys then gets up and kicks their asses. That's unrealistic and might convince some young nut to JOIN the army (to learn to fight) rather than run in the other direction. I had an experience with "An Officer And A Gentleman" when I was young and stupid where I wound up at the recruiters the next day and, fortunately, didn't sign when common sense prevailed. Some of these films (like "Top Gun") may be subtle recruitment films that draw enlisters for the wrong reasons.
The scene I DID love was when Phillipe and Cornish left Rodriguez and the smile on his face dropped away and we realized he was giving us a positive spin on a worse than lousy situation.
Interesting that they cast Timothy Oliphant as the charming Sarge who brings in enlisters, employing friendship and charm rather than the realities of war.
Then the excellent fight in the cemetery with independent thinker Brandon versus "bought the brainwashing" Steve who just doesn't get it. That's the problem with every army, they want the soldiers to be smart enough to fight but not smart enough to break ranks and walk away.
Gran Torino (2008)
Clint Eastwood mows the lawn, fixes the clothes dryer.
"Gran Torino" is a funny movie. There are comments that it is a "racist" film but it's a film about racism which you can't make without racists.
Monsieur Eastwood found all sorts of opportunities to be funny but I liked when he found himself in the neighbor's basement with a bunch of kids, leaned against an unlevel dryer, got down and adjusted it. That was a beautiful, almost embarrassing, funny "old man" moment that was unexpected and so real. The machine is unlevel, get down and fix it. Totally unimportant to the scene but perfect.
"Watch out for Mr. Kowalski. He'll beat up your cousin, fix your dryer and make you like it."
There were some improbable scenes in this film like Walt being able to get close enough to the gangster to throw him down the stairs and the gangsters not spotting his white Ford pickup tailing them or across the street. Whatever. It was worth it to watch him mow the lawn.
Though it was a set-up for a joke, I could have lived without the barber-shop scene where Thau is being trained to trash-talk. But this is a film where Eastwood is playing an imperfect character who smokes, drinks, hates people and can't express his emotions except with negativity. He's playing the nasty, old racist next door and he does it well. Perfect characters make for boring films. And the punchline really was pretty good.
It was a great moment when he spat with disdain at the old Hmong woman and she out-spit him. God knows what she was spitting and it's unlikely that Walt would chew AND smoke but it was funny anyway.
When the Hispanics brought out their gun and the Hmong brought out their machine gun, that was funny. CE didn't shy away from finding humor in subtle places. Both the Hmong and Hispanic car drivers where wearing the same headbands in the same style.
Since the gangs may have been a metaphor for street soldiers, it's interesting that they started out defending Thau and tried to indoctrinate him but were ultimately a badguy gang of cowards.
Someone has said that Clint is playing a character here who supports war but that's not the message I got. Walt seemed to regret his memories of the war and participation in it.
C.Eastwood really is perfect in this film and the supporting players were understated and natural.
Walt didn't miss a philosophical beat dealing with Thau's immature idea that they were going to find the gangsters, do some damage and come home unscathed. That only happens "in the movies". Walt uses some tricky maneuvering to utilize the "never around when you need them" police and legal system to get the gangsters off the scene, save Thau and gracefully put himself out of his own "dying in an oncology ward" misery.
Walt sticks to his guns and, though he softens, he never gives in to the priestly pap but winds up teaching the priest instead. Maybe Walt learns something about forgiveness but the priest also learns how little HE knows about reality. Walt compromised without giving in. Wow.
Since the movie moves along as movies do without giving you much time to think, I didn't realize that Walt was getting a suit fitted for his own funeral. It's the kind of detail that they throw in, don't comment on and leave you to realize at your leisure. They could have thrown in some line from the tailor to make us question why Walt is getting a DARK suit fitted but they didn't and I completely missed the point until later. It was perfectly done since it didn't give away Walt's plan unless you're smarter than I am which isn't unlikely. I missed it.
This is a well-written script shot simply and acted amazingly well.
War and Peace (1956)
I slept through this film. Please enjoy this commentary!
OF COURSE, I slept through it. It was long and boring and one needed the drug of sleep to endure the stagey direction and acting.
Audrey Hepburn was at her beautiful, charming, irritating, over-acting best in this film. It was only her personal charm and loveliness that kept her from making me sick with fakeness.
The scene where Pierre tells her he's getting married, her head turns so fast I'm surprised it didn't break her lovely neck. People in real life don't act that way because they'd risk physical injury if they did.
Henry: I'm getting married. What's wrong?
Audrey: I hope you're happy with your new wife but I just broke my neck.
Obviously she was trying to convey the enthusiasm and energy of youth so that we could see the change to her character resulting from war, experience and time but her enthusiasm was stagey and irritating. She was so damn happy to see everyone in this film I'm surprised they didn't smack her.
Henry Fonda was less fake but he had his moments, too. At his father's death scene when he falls to one knee, I'm surprised he didn't injure himself. They must have put padding on the floor.
Henry: My father..is dead...and my knee...is broken...
Many other examples from Ferrer and minor characters.
King Vidor apparently never heard of film minimalism.
Henry was supposed to be clumsy, I guess, and he bumped into a few walls and tripped over a log but he certainly could have been funnier. He had some charm early on but he missed a lot of opportunities for humor.
I found it funny when he stepped forward to be shot without waiting for orders. They could have had a guard put a hand on his elbow to guide him forward then have the commander stop the guard. Instead, Henry moves forward to the firing post of his own volition to be stopped by destiny. Funny.
You hear a lot about conflict between actors and directors on the set but Audrey and Henry are good actors and I'm surprised they let this stuff go without saying "Isn't this going to look a little stupid?" I guess Henry really DID need the money.
I've never had the energy or time to read the book and I hoped that this film might enlighten me a bit but...
I slept through it.
If you're tired and want to see a really GOOD movie that encourages sleep, I recommend "2001: A Space Odyssey". It's a beautiful movie but the scenes and visuals are so slow you'd better bring a large cappuccino.
Now You Know (2002)
Relationships in a nut's/hell
This is a movie that is trying too hard to appeal to everyone but it does one thing very well: It explains why the divorce rate is so high.
The plot device of this film is that the couple breaks up but the girl will never explain why. Stupid yet believable. If a male did that, we'd think he was insane but the writers expect us to accept it as normal behavior from a female.
Which is it's own statement.
In the breakup conversation that we never see but later hear about , the girl apparently communicates as if someone asks her to recite the alphabet and she starts with the letter "Z". In other words, instead of saying "You seem a bit uncertain lately, is everything alright?" she says "I think we should cancel the wedding. What do you think?" Typically, 90 minutes later film-time, she makes it sound like his fault that she started at "Z" and blames him for not making up for her communication shortcomings. He agrees that it's all his fault and begs for her forgiveness.
Wow, what a recipe for success! "Why didn't you STOP me" she cries, self-righteously. Patent pending.
She even emphasizes that HE cancelled the wedding during her explanation when she clearly bought the tickets, he only agreed to go for the ride.
The writer must have done some serious juggling to make this female-friendly but we are now accustomed as viewers to having the man agree to any stupid thing the woman says. (Marketing Film To Female Audience: 101) Help us, dear Jesus.
If they do get married, they're doomed to divorce as they are both cute but immature idiots.
This movie is worth watching only as an education on 1) why people shouldn't get married until they're at least ! 30 and 2) for a reasonable facsimile of what passes for communication in the female mind because that is, unfortunately, captured here.
Moral: Immature women play a lot of stupid games then the man gets blamed when everyone loses. Cupid, release thy bow unto my yearning heart.
Yes, he was stupid but she was MORE stupid for expecting the stupid guy to make up for her more stupid behavior. They should sign a contract promising not to breed.
My apologies to the 214 women out there who AREn't gameplaying idiots.
The dialogue and acting in this film seemed forced. The actors all seem talented but they were frequently overplaying it.
HEY, another stupid scene where a stupid girl knees a guy in the balls. In this stupid film, he literally takes it lying down. What message is that sending?
"Women, attack a man and they won't smack you back, they'll make JOKES about it."
The recipe for domestic violence, yours for the price of admission.