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Match Point (2005)
Woody Allen Must Never Die
Having just returned from an afternoon screening of the latest Woody Allen film, all I can say is that I am in awe. In awe of a man, who after more than thirty years of film-making is still able to be so original, so poignant, so powerful, and so creative. Now into his seventies Woody has either written, directed or stared in (usually all three) a movie virtually ever year since 1969's 'Take The Money and Run' and with his latest 'Match Point' finally arriving in theaters he shows no signs of slowing down his prolific pace of unparalleled creativity as his latest project is undoubtedly his best in years.
The story revolves around an affluent British family and their particularly ambitious new son in-law. Chris (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a retired tennis pro who's recently taken a position as an instructor at one of London's most exclusive Country clubs. It is at this post that he meets and befriends Tom (Matthew Goode) a young executive in his father's highly successful London based business (the nature of which is never revealed). Tom introduces Chris to the high life, a world of garden parties and opera, a world Chris has dreamed of but has always been forced to view it from the outside like so many window displays that line Savell Row, Chris' new favorite shopping district. All seems to be running according to plan, Chris meets Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and the two hit it off, sparking a relationship that comes with a promising new career in the family business attached, when on a cloudy British afternoon Chris meets Nola (Scarlet Johansson) a struggling American actress from Boulder, Colorado who also happens to be Tom's fiancé. The two are instantly and irrevocably attracted to one another and begin to run into each other around London, each visit bringing an increased sexual tension until a countryside tryst confirms what both had suspected. Soon however, what they had falls apart as Nola doesn't wish to continue their deceitful liaisons. Eventually Tom and Nola end their engagement and Nola seems to disappear forcing Chris to settle into his perfect life, that is until a chance meeting at an art gallery drives the two to resume their ill-fated relationship, a relationship that will eventually prove deadly.
'Match Point' marks a return for Allen to the thematic ideas he's explored in previous outings such as 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' and 'Hannah and Her Sisters,' themes of lust, rejection, deceit and most of all luck. The theme of chance and opportunity is a common one throughout Woody's films but he had yet to attacked this topic with such fervor and brilliance. Let's not forget to mention suspense, Allen comes closer to Hitchcock than he or any other director of recent years has ever been able to, I guarantee you will spend the last twenty minutes of this film on no more that the edge of your seat.
Woody Allen is back in fine form, better than we've seen him a few years, there's no denying it, and I am personally begging you to do yourself a favor and join him at the theater; you won't be disappointed.
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Last night I had the privilege to view, for the second time, possibly the greatest film to be produced this year, at least the greatest that I am aware of. Co-written, and directed by Hollywood mega star George Clooney, "Good night, and Good Luck" breaks past the realm the typical motion picture generally strives to accomplish and delivers in addition to simple entertainment: education, and most importantly, inspiration.
This film attempts a task not easily achieved as it works to tackle a moment, and event in American history as important, and controversial, as any the country has ever known. Within a mere hour and a half, Clooney has managed to fully encapsulate an emotionally, and politically tumultuous time with the kind of relevance rarely seen in modern movie making. Centering around the CBS newsroom as run by one of televisions greatest news men Edward R Murrow (David Strathairn), during the communist witch hunts of the nineteen-fifties as run by the junior senator from Wisconsin Joe McCarthy, the film poses the types of questions that have faced television from it infancy, and continue to plague those of society who refuse to sit idly by while one of our most powerful resources is reduced to nothing more then fluff and entertainment catering to the very lowest common denominator.
As I came to the end of my original viewing of this film I felt as though there was so much more this film was attempting to tell me than what I had perceived. At first I was mostly taken by the stunning visuals presented, shot entirely in black and white, the director's use of shadow and light, camera angles, and imagery are enough to make repeat viewing a necessity. I found it refreshing to see that the film broke ranks with the typical story arc employed by so many biopics, choosing to focus above all else on a central theme. The film knows its goals and it doesn't waste time on peripherals. There was no talk of a world outside the newsroom, no family life, or socializing that would have taken this succinct and well paced film down with the type of biopic cliché's I was disappointed to find in another of this years high profile, personality driven films, the Johnny Cash project "Walk The Line."
Upon my second viewing, I realized that this film went far beyond a simple retelling, it examined the American politics of the nineteen-fifties, and reflected on what we can learn from the eerily similar situation the world finds itself in today. This film is about responsibility, it is about the misuse of a medium that even in it's earliest existence was so brimming with potential it's possibilities seemed endless. It was about a man's fight against the corporations who saw television as nothing more then a much larger, and further reaching billboard. Murrow's dream was that this new medium might educate the masses about their world, bridge differences between nations, enlighten the world in a way that no other means of communication had been able to before.
As I sat in the dark theater listening to the words of Murrow's closing speech, I couldn't help but think that those words were intended more for the television executives of today than Murrow's contemporaries; for just as history would eventually see Murrow's ideals, and ambitions for television become trumped by a fad of sub par T.V. game shows, so has the modern chances of television reaching out to the more artful realm of theater and motion-pictures, been eliminated by the likes of "American Idol" and the scores of reality based dribble. The failure of our society to live up to the challenge of Murrow's final statements rang loud through my mind, as the films final words echoed over the ending credits: "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire, but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box...Good night, and good luck," Murrow remarked as if wishing luck to the generations of news reporters who would follow in his footsteps attempting to accomplish his dream.
every once in a while in life you get the chance to glance at real greatness. last night i had just such an opportunity. in came in the form of a great movie. i discovered this film almost by accident as i was paging through the monthly programming guide of my local art house theater, when i stumbled upon one of the oddest titles i had ever seen. the title of course was 'searching for the wrong-eyed Jesus.' the title enough seemed like a good reason to see this film, but as i read the short synopsis, i became way more interested in seeing it. so the next day i called a good buddy and we headed downtown.
needless to say this was more then worth the trip through the torrential downpour we had to fight. the film is a documentary that follows a singer named Jim white as he travels through America's south in an attempt to discover the beauty that is so often overlooked. he accomplishes this task through an assortment of visits to Churches, prisons, barber shops, and roadside bars. he uncovers a small treasure of musical genius as he makes his way across Alabama, and Mississippi. he also reveals an inspiring, if a times disturbing faith that is held tightly by a people so close to complete physical, and emotional devastation that it makes you wonder why they bother at all. it was eye opening to see a world geographically not that far from the one i grew up in, yet ideologically, and sociologically as far as another planet. a world where poverty is so expected and anticipated, that faith in God is mandatory, if only because there is nothing else to have faith in.
the cinematography was also unlike anything else i had ever seen. from the first fade into the opening scene i could tell this was going to be something special, and i was right. when it was over i found myself disappointed that it couldn't go on longer for the same reason one is implored to keep staring a breathtaking painting, an amazing photograph, or a beautiful woman.
i would encourage everyone to see a movie like this if only to broaden your aesthetic palette. but be warned, too many films like this, and every other movie you see just won't stack up.