You Know How to Whistle, Don't You?

"You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow." - Lauren Bacall, To Have and Have Not

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Short Cuts - 2003-2004

A bunch of little reviews or thoughts I've had on movies I've seen. I'm getting all my old stuff up here, hoping it will spur me to write new material!
Amandla! - Excellent, moving documentary on South African protest music and the anti-apartheid struggle. The wrenching subject material is balanced by music so ineffably confident that I wanted to dance through the whole screening.
Adaptation.– Not all I thought it would be. Nicolas Cage is good, but still Nicolas Cage, and he sweats more than I ever need to see again from anyone. Tilda Swinton’s cameo was a breath of cool crisp air, and Chris Cooper was magnetic, though not overwhelming. Meryl Streep played Meryl Streep playing Susan Orlean, or at least that’s how it felt. You could see the acting. The third act wasn’t half as confusing as people led me to believe. Clever, but it never took my breath away.
A Mighty Wind – Another great Christopher Guest film, although slighter and more hurried than the others, and more formulaic. The counterpoint of the Folksmen’s zany PP and ultimately M act and the far too young New Main Street Singers with the sweet and so sad Mitch and Mickey was the best aspect of the film. Catherine O’Hara played her part straight and heartbreaking, even when Eugene Levy went a little too far with his Mitch. Jennifer Coolidge’s humming and her model trains line brought down the house.
Divided City – Very homespun effort from a D.C. director about the drug trade here. Some good contrasts of Washington the power place with D.C. the divided city, and one very moving scene between a hopeless young man and his would-be mentor. Otherwise, the over the top story line and amateur actors made it close to unwatchable.
Bend It Like Beckham – Deserved all the hype unfairly given to My Big Fat Greek Monstrosity. Parminder Nagra made her character moderate and sympathetic when she could have easily come off whiney or self-involved. Keira Knightley was charismatic and sporty-hot. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was unconvincing, but so fine in that white dress shirt that I forgave him all. Good on Jess for wanting both soccer and her family, tradition, etc. Good on both girls for getting over the man issue and continuing their friendship.
Bloody Sunday – Fucking phenomenal. I saw it in the tiny Inner Circle theater here in Washington. Sitting right up against the screen and watching handheld, gritty camera work makes you feel like you're there. James Nesbitt is understated and riveting as the Protestant MP trying to lead a peaceful protest and my neglected boyfriend Nicholas Farrell does an excellent conscience-ridden British military coordinator. The Romeo and Juliet subplot was extraneous—we didn’t need that to hook our emotions, because the whole film is so raw and so deeply felt. It manages never to overextend its dramatic moments, while still leaving you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut. Wonderful, passionate filmmaking.
Lost in La Mancha – People said seeing this movie would make you never want to make a film. It only made me want to never make a Terry Gilliam film. The scale and scope of his Don Quixote movie seemed so over the top that its failure wasn’t all that surprising, even if the specific disasters weren’t predictable—NATO jets flying over location constantly, flash floods, etc. Gilliam comes across as a bit of an egomaniac. You feel worst for Jim, the first AD, who’s doing all he can to hold everything together and so clearly taking all the failure personally. Johnny Depp has the most memorable bit—a wonderful bit of action with a fish which is itself enough to make you wish the movie had made it to screen.


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