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Brokeback Mountain (2005)
I had been looking forward to seeing this movie since I read about it after the Toronto Film Festival in September. I always zealously applaud (and look forward to) movies that shed light on an aspect of society with which not many people are familiar (or don't want to be made familiar).
When I left the movie theater, I felt like I had just gotten a punch in the chest, leaving me completely winded. Breathtaking shots, passionate love story, heart-wrenching finale, poignant social commentary.
I don't want to say too much, because once I start talking about this movie I won't be able to stop. Just this...this movie made me want to jump inside and meet Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar.
Dated? I think not, my friends...
So I'm reading the reviews...none seem too terrible, most are lukewarm, and some are even good. But one theme seems to override them: the material is "dated." Figures that journalists, whose livelihoods depend on presenting news flashes that will easily fall into the shadows after something more captivating happens, would find this material dated. You really think the topic of people living with -- not dying from -- AIDS is dated? Wake-up, friends...I'm not one to throw around statistics, but even I can tell you that AIDS is a much bigger problem today than when Jonathan Larson -- a genius in his own right -- wrote this almost 20 years ago. And drug addiction? Yeah let's not even guess how much that statistic has surged.
True, the material is not as shocking as it was when it first graced the stages of NYC 10 years ago. But -- though I never knew the man -- I have a feeling Mr. Larson was not going for shock value. I am sure he realized in his day that his masterpiece would create quite a stir, but I highly doubt that was his purpose. What was it, then? If you ask me, it is obvious ...the human condition.
The elements of humanity that satiate the stage version are virtually all apparent in the film version. These characters are vastly different from each other on the surface -- but listen to their songs. They are all experiencing life. And not only that, for the most part they aren't afraid to experience life -- the devastations, the love, the convictions, the laughter, the tears. Just listen to Seasons of Love -- it's all in there. That song, to me, is the premise of Mr. Larson's story -- this is life. It isn't necessarily glamorous, it isn't always glorious, but this is what happens in a year of these peoples' lives. And the one thing that gets them through it is the fact that they have each other -- their love for one another overshadows all of the intricacies of day-to-day life. And that theme, to me, is never dated, especially when it is portrayed so well, as Chris Columbus and the incredible cast have managed to do.
I applaud everyone who had any part in this film -- aside from the excellent adaption of Jonathan Larson's exquisite piece of art, I think it is extremely important to constantly expose our society to controversial topics, about which most of us don't like to think. And I think the ones that are dubbed "dated" are the most important, because it means that those are probably the ones we have forgotten. But just because it seems "dated" does not mean it has gone away.
Stage Beauty (2004)
I'm not sure about this one
I have mixed reactions to this movie. My initial reaction was that my preconceived notion about movies -- that the actors' performances can make a bad movie good and vice versa -- were wrong. The performances in this movie were, in my mind, very good. However the movie remained, in my mind, not so good. I had high hopes for the movie for about the first 10 minutes -- I really thought I was going to like it a lot. Then, the story went asunder.
The biggest problem with this movie is the storyline. The conflict is not very well defined -- I'm still not quite sure what exactly the conflict was and why it arose. The relationship between Billy Crudup and Claire Danes' characters was not developed at all. You know right off the bat that she fancies him, yet they are to some degree enemies throughout the middle, then she suddenly cares about him again and helps him, and then they are passionately in love by the end. There were also a couple of consistency problems. For instance, the writer and director were on one hand clearly making a mockery out of some things (i.e, King Charles), yet on the other hand they seemed to shed a more serious light on other things (i.e., the importance of the role of the actor and the acting process). So for example in the movie there's a scene where King Charles is dressed in drag and it is clear that the audience is supposed to not be taking him seriously. Yet then Billy Crudup's character comes in to talk to him all distraught about his inability to act as a man. The dynamic in this scene was awkward. Another consistency problem was that for the first quarter or so of the movie, the characters were saying and doing somewhat crass things. I actually laughed at a couple of these instances and thought it would be comic relief for the movie, but then these laughable instances suddenly stopped and again it seemed like the writer/director were taking a more serious turn with the movie.
Depending on what your definition of a "good" movie is, you may like this movie and you may not. Personally I frequently found myself wondering why in the world things were happening and how the actions of the characters fell into any kind of sequential scheme. However, the acting itself was very good, the costumes, makeup, and sets were pretty good, and the cinematography was nice as well.