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Cora Unashamed (2000)
Very, very good.
I caught this movie very, very late one evening. (Our PBS station replays the prime time shows after midnight. Good for sleepless night owls!). I have to say, I was floored by the not only the cast, but the plot and direction as well. It is terse, succint, yet eloquent. Right after the showing there was a mini "promo" on other tele-plays to come. These were all from the same series "American Short Stories" Sadly, these other plays never seemed to have come to fruition. But I was glad this one made it. I highly suggest it. Especially for anyone interested in African American literature, a truly under-appreciated, incredibly important form of American writing.
The Haunting (1999)
Really, really bad. Really.
The first time I saw this I spent 2 precious hours in Scotland during Christmas time watching this on Channel 4. I thought to myself that this was about the worst-or, at least one of the worst-movies ever. Some of the lines and the direction were so campy, it came across as a satire of a horror movie. So when my SO came home the other night with this tucked under his arm, I figured that maybe I was being too judgmental and would give it another chance. Well, it wasn't much better. What I did do this time, was to enjoy the scenery. The mansion is pretty cool. Liam Neeson is quite dishy. Catherine Zeta Jones' spends a fair amount of time running around in lace and tall boots. Lily Taylor plays the quirky girl to the max. And Owen Wilson brings in the bad-boy humor. Imagine: a bad movie that has something for everyone!
La strada (1954)
Interesting morality play
This drew mixed reactions in our house: some of us enjoyed the film and it's cinematography. Others felt it was too slow to show it's plot. Yes, it is slow. But remember that you are watching the foolish Gelsomina grow wiser, while Zampanò, the strong man, is succumbing to a force stronger than his body: his conscience. That kind of plot takes time to develop, unless you use more literal tactics. (Personally, I liked the subtlety). But, if you're one who doesn't enjoy a character driven plot, then sit back and drink in the scenery: a beautifully shot black and white film in post war Italy with some odd characters that could only be called "Fellini-esque".
Better in the Original Japanese Soundtrack
The art work alone is worthy of the engulfment one experiences when watching the big screen, making me wish I had seen it on the big screen. That is, unless the major release in the US was the English language version.
We ended up renting the DVD and watching it in English. The sound, the voice of Chihiro in particular, grated our ears like nails on a chalk board. After watching it, we played around with the DVD and found the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. Far more subtle and simply put, an AMAZING difference.
So, I would suggest watching it in both languages. English so that you can concentrate on the scenery (with the sound turned down low. Really, the screeching and shouting in English is annoying). Then watch it in Japanese for the color and mood the dialog provides.
Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
More Ironic than Comedic
I enjoyed it. I was, however, expecting a more knee-slapping, laugh out loud comedy. But was pleasantly surprised by the story and the glimpse into pre-Unification East Berlin.
What I liked most about this story was the incredible love these kids felt for their mother and their wish to protect from the realities of the New East Germany. Their secret is later revealed by the young man's girlfriend. But you find the mother continuing to go with it, almost as though she were returning the favor to her son, out of love for her children and her understanding of their wanting to protect her. See it for yourself and don't forget the bag of popcorn.
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Sets by Pottery Barn. Wardrobe by J Crew.
I liked the IDEA of this movie. Just like pouring over the colorful catalogs from my mailbox, it seemed to provoke a hope of better things and a better life through buying stuff but somehow disappointing when the package finally arrives. I couldn't deal with watching it after the what should have been the obvious ending (but continued for another hour), so ended up stealing ideas for decorating my own house. While trying to figure out if the set designers used Atmosphere Blue paint from Restoration Hardware, it occurred to me that I hadn't missed a single beat in the story. Yes, it was that slow. (I think this was when Diane Keaton had her week-long crying fit).
I liked the artwork in the house. And the beach. The beach was really nice. And Keanu Reeves. Especially when he called a 50 + year old woman beautiful. Wow. I wonder if I could buy that in a catalog?
Lost in Translation (2003)
Lip my eyes out
I want so much to like this movie. Everyone else does. It's watchable, the acting is decent, the photography is superb (it's no Manhattan, but it's really, really good.), and the subject is intriguing.
Yes, I get it. I understand that it's about connection and communication on levels beyond language, that two lost, misunderstood, under-appreciated souls find each other in a sea foreign tongues, mispronounced "Engrish" and Japanese kitsch. The non-verbal communication where Scarlett Johanson was just looking at Bill Murry spoke volumes on how intimacy can be built by two people put into awkward situations together. And it was cool that Bill didn't seduce her, so that makes him super nice and sympathetic.
Yeah right. Like that would ever happen. I guess that was my problem with the movie, it just didn't seem plausible. On any level. But, it's still watchable.
Will history repeat itself?
I just saw this movie for the first time, and it's given me pause to think about the political climate of the world these days.
An interesting inside view of a conservative man investigating the murder of his son during the coup in Chile of the 70's. The phrases: "defending capitalism", "preserving our way of life", are less than discrete reminders that America's government believes that the lives and interests of it's people come before anything and anyone else in the world, whether it's in their own country or not.
Anyway, it's well-acted, with spectacular performances handed in by Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.
Bacheha-Ye aseman (1997)
Simple and Complex
I believe that we tend to view people from Iran, or other parts of the Middle East, as one-dimensional people. We read news stories, listen to politicians, never hearing about the mundanities of everyday life.
This story is about 2 sibliings faced with a dilemma: the boy loses his sister's shoes, leaving one pair of shoes between them, which they share. While this might not be such a travesty in the USA, for these children, it's about the worse thing that can happen to them. They understand their parent's circumstances and never tell them, almost knowing that it would add to their miserable financial circumstances. Watch the film to see how the boy tries to fix the situation.
Beautifully filmed, nicely acted, with a not-overly preachy message, it would be a good film for any self-indulgent teenager to see, the next time they argue with their parents over money for the newest or latest status symbols.
In the Bedroom (2001)
Thank Heavens for IMDB
Last week, my husband and I went to see Cold Mountain. I sat through it and thought: "Geez. Not as good as it was hyped to be." I got on this site as soon as we came home and found that many others made similar comments. I felt like I was in good company here.
Tonight, I rented "In The Bedroom". Hearing that it was one of the best movies of 2001, I settled in for what I hoped was an interesting, off-beat drama, not too "chick flick-ish". The users comments on this site showed me that my assessment of this film wasn't too far off base.
Normally, I like films that are character driven, gorgeous to look at, fairly unusual, generally foreign. In other words, I am greatly forgiving, and a huge fan of movies that fall outside of the typical Hollywood fare. Fifteen minutes into this film had me looking at the clock. One hour had me twirling my hair. Two hours, I started to question my motives for sitting through this (Big fan of Thomas Newman's music scores, but that's another story). Finally, 5 minutes or so after the second hour, it ends. sigh
Well acted. Beautifully photographed. Great cast. So what's wrong? The plot moves at a snails pace. Huge amounts of time are used to show scenes-sans music-of the Maine countryside, and to try and develop as much of the characters emotions as possible. If 45-60 minutes were edited out, it would make for an interesting vignette on Bravo, or even PBS. Otherwise, there's just too much of nothing to see on the big screen-if that makes sense.