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12 and Holding (2005)
Excellent, Touching Film
I don't review *many* films on here at all, simply because I know word is out on most (popular) films and some of them speak for themselves. While I could comment on a "Children of Men" or "Babel" enough people have seen these titles to where I don't feel my review would make much of a difference in persuading someone else to see it.
But then there's a film like "Twelve and Holding" which has very limited distribution and marketing. And it's a complete shame, because I'd probably put it on my top ten most engaging cinematic experiences of all time. To me (and no, you don't have to agree), this is the definitive movie on children growing up (I'm 18 now.) It touches on so many elements and difficulties kids have to deal with these days, most of which have been around forever. And not only that, but paralleling them to their corresponding parental units, who sometimes act more like our idea of how the children should be.
"Twelve and Holding" is essentially a film about maturity and living in the aftermath of a tragic event. It is complimented by absolutely phenomenal performances by the children, especially Conor Donovan, who handles one of the more difficult child roles I've seen in a while to near perfection. It has one of those "oh yeah, I've seen that guy" casts that functions extremely well in the context of this movie - every performer has a purpose and plays his/her role well. Cuesta has complete control over every minute of the film, none going to waste, and uses several to point out ironies, curiosities or general problems with parenting or social responsibility. Several of the visuals are very powerful, lending themselves well to the atmosphere or poignancy of the corresponding part of the film. And perhaps most effective, Cuesta employs one of the better movie soundtracks I've heard in a while.
This is one of those films that comes along and takes you by complete surprise with its beauty and courage to portray difficult events without batting an eye or sugarcoating the facts. I can't recommend it enough.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Character And Comedy In a Winning Proportion
I don't usually write reviews, but felt this warranted one.
I just attended a screening in Indianapolis and, wow, this movie exceeded every expectation I had.
For one, the cast is amazing - so dynamic in their roles and as a dysfunctional whole. It's hard to single out individual performances, as they all mesh so well. Each character is disillusioned or caught up in their own ways, only finding solace and togetherness in the innocence and beauty of their daughter Olive.
Admittedly, the first act starts out a bit slow. But watch out, because like the family car, once this movie gets rolling it isn't stopping with the laughs! A good deal of the comedy in this movie revolves around the parallel between the family and their VW Bus they're driving the Redondo Beach, which provides many of the memorable gags throughout. Surprisingly enough, none of these gags ever seem to wear thin and, if anything, become better as they become more absurd. The film builds up to a great third act, where Olive provides an impromptu quote that seems so fitting for the film.
It's funny, pointed, twisted, clever and confident, a film driven by the strength of its characters...literally at times.