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Come Early Morning (2006)
more than a film about a drinker who has casual sex
Ashley Judd gives a remarkable performance in this film but there are lots of other reasons to see it. Indeed, the music is very good, and there is a CD soundtrack (I checked Amazon as soon as I came home).
There are many painful moments as an extended and frayed family tries to talk to each other, or avoid it. It's about being stuck in old patterns and being clueless about making changes, no matter how old the people are.
I know one reason the film got local buzz is because it was filmed here, but as someone who hasn't lived in AR long, I was just an average movie goer looking to see Judd in something that was not a highly charged thriller. Ruby in Paradise (1993) was the first time I ever saw her, and that film about how to survive when no matter what you do doesn't seem enough, showed her talent. Come Early Morning evoked the same feelings.
The whole project seems a labor of love, love of real people living ordinary lives and doing the best they can.
Second Best (2004)
Admitting you're a loser takes a certain amount of perverted guts.
It may not be an honorable choice, to live life the way the main character does, but the movie is worthy of your attention. I bumped into it on a movie channel and hung around once I saw "Joey Pants" was in it. He's always interesting.
A group of aging men, bewildered at why life has not turned out better for them, meet on a regular basis, complain, kid themselves, and behave badly.
The film is funny, sad, and oddly touching. Only one of them, a Hollywood big shot, has 'made it' the way the guys left behind define it.
There's a great scene at a private club on the golf course that will make you wince.
Melinda and Melinda (2004)
two movies in one and Melinda is a problem in both of them
One of the best things about this movie is that Woody Allen does not make an appearance. His part is played by Will Ferrell and is the better for it. The debate around the table in a NY restaurant puts Wallace Shawn back in the picture. I figure he's had quite a few discussions over daily specials since My Dinner With Andre. Here the argument is age old. Is life a tragedy or a comedy? The bare outline of a story one of the diners tells is presented. The two writers insist, as a result of what they tend to write, that surely it is obviously a tragedy. No, a comedy. Some scenes overlap, the actors are different in the two points of view, except Miranda. Miranda is a train wreck in both the dark and light versions.
It contains some good lines, some quirky scenes, and provokes the constant amazement that anyone can afford those NY apartments with so many rooms and great architectural details.
haunting, Arkansas Gothic, good music, some too familiar types but most scenes rise above clichés
While some of the characters will confirm too many stereotypes about southern mountain residents, it's all too true that hard scrabble suffering abounds. In the character of Chrystal, the pain is both constant and transcendent. Lisa Blount somehow managed to convey a strange beauty and dignity, while wavering between pragmatic sanity and understandable lunacy due to a horrible car crash twenty years earlier. Since I didn't see Levity, I could appreciate Billy Bob Thornton's performance, and appreciate his range from Slingblade, to the Carville character in Primary Colors, to this film, in which the recently released prisoner tries hard to return to his world and make up for past sins.
A few more scenes of home grown music (since some musicologists from Chicago were trying to put a book together) would have been a nice distraction from the bleak living and the constant threats of violence.
The film is about ghosts, but without the supernatural hooey that some blockbuster films exploit.
In America (2002)
A quiet gem, even though the neighbor downstairs is known as the screaming man.
Usually voice overs annoy me, but the insights and narrative focus coming from the pre teen daughter in this piece creates much of the magic in this film. In American Beauty, for example, the voice over of Kevin Spacey's character told us the ending, removing much of the tension. This young narrator had more
An Irish family, suffering a horrible loss, takes one last chance to save itself as a family by moving to NYC, so that the father can try to become an actor. The wife, a teacher in Ireland, takes a job in Heaven. It's an ice cream parlor across the street, and the only job she could find while still keeping at least one good eye on her two girls. Money is beyond tight. They live in a creepy loft in a junkie ridden neighborhood.
Out of all this effort to survive day to day comes an enriching story about the real importance of family, friends, and trust. The screaming man downstairs is a
dying artist, a guardian angel, and a frightening vision if you don't ignore the sign on the door that says "Go Away."
See it, if only to hear a pitch perfect version Desperado, out of the mouth of a ten year old.
21 Grams (2003)
Jagged and overrated, this alleged masterpiece was painful to watch in the worst sense of the phrase.
Our local paper gave this film an A+, noting it was a masterpiece that required patience and concentration, but would ultimately reward. For me, alas, it did not. I swear, I was patient. I'm quite used to films with nonlinear set ups: Memento, Betrayal, The Conversation, as well as the twining nature of most Altman films. 21 Grams was plain old annoying, although some of the actors and scenes were standouts.
Ultimately, the skipping around of events was not worth the energy and challenge. Comparing the strength in performance of Sean Penn in Mystic River to the blabber of his opening and closing musings in 21 Grams leads me to be even more bewildered when he was cited for giving two remarkable portrayals. He surely deserves an Academy Award for Mystic River. In 21 Grams Penn appeared lost as an actor, not just playing a loser of a character.
The Safety of Objects (2001)
Better than the 'B' our local newspaper critic gave it
The Safety of Objects was Altman-like in its intertwining of stories but without the messy overlay of voices and sound. The connections among the families in a suburban neighborhood created an interesting tension, as crucial information and backstory emerged. Watch how short stories from a collection are woven to make a quilt about life in the burbs (and the secret life of kids, as well as couples)
What I especially found provocative in this film was how some dangerous situations turned out as one would expect, but others teetered on the edge of 'Oh, no,' yet were resolved without harm.