Okay, so there’s a lot that I’ve seen of late, and like the lazy person that I was when I started this blog with Alex, I have been too lazy to write about the millions of things that I’ve seen. It’s not that I’ve been watching unremarkable films, but rather life makes me tired! So, in no particular order (and not counting those films that I cannot remember watching), here is a quick run down of what I’ve seen within the last week or two.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
What I initially thought was a Steven Soderbergh headed production (and to which I was wrong) turned out to be a film directed by Grant Heslov (of Good Night and Good Luck co-writing fame) in his second and more widely publicized outing. With a stellar cast, including Oscar winners George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey, along with Ewan McGregor, the film is based on a novel by Jon Ronson. The acting, the script, and everything involved is just a few heartbeats above average. While this was in now way a bad film, it is not as good as it should be. It also does not have anywhere near enough goats in it either. However, it’s saving grace: flashbacks to the alternative hippy militia training montages.
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Or also known as: the film where you see Ann-Margret’s boobs. In another astonishingly perfect move, Mike Nichols made a film, that despite in its relatively liberal times, the talking about and subsequent showing of carnal acts seems in itself taboo. Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel (that’s right, Art Garfunkel…) play two college virgins, desperate to lose their virginity. After meeting Candice Bergen at a “mixer” both men soon discover the pleasures and pains of adulthood, with its failing expectations and the desires of what they are not in possession of. Throwing in Ann-Margret in what is quite the amazing performance, Nicholson, Garfunkel and Bergen are all matched with an excellent script, met with ingenius direction by the king himself, Mr. Mike Nichols.
Naturally there was something in me that was dying to see the latest environment destroying the universe tale. With director Roland Emmerich at the helm, I know that 2012 would be the kind of sit back, relax, be slightly disturbed by not only the amazing visual effects, but by the generally dull and formulaic storylines. It’s not surprising to see these films achieving success at the box office. It’s plain to see when footage is replayed of 9/11 and footage of other tragedies, whether it be man-made or natural disasters, being repeated again and again. There is a fascination that we have in seeing the real as the fake, and the fake as the beyond likely. Of course, I admit to laughing much more that one should in an apocalyptic destruction film, however, I just couldn’t resist. The film is of course an hour too long, and did not hold enough interest from me to be able to stay away from the laptop. However, the fact that I think John Cusack is a God among men works in this films favor. But perhaps not in his.
Beautiful Kate (2009)
Not many filmmakers can boast that their film presents a taboo topic as quite tender and beautiful. So it is quite the achievement that in her feature film debut, Rachel Ward manages to get this response after watching Beautiful Kate. Richly developed characters are seen, thanks to Ward and the talents of her actors, especially Ben Mendelsohn, newcomer Sophie Lowe (as the titular Kate, and I use this word purposefully!), Rachel Griffiths and Bryan Brown. Despite Griffiths’ almost cameo frequented appearances, she is great. Brown is spectacular playing a man much older than his years, Lowe is mystifyingly ethereal and Mendelsohn holds the film. Ward should be very proud of, what will hopefully be a long and interesting filmmaking career.
Actor Clark Gregg wrote, directed and co-starred in the adaption of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’s book Choke. Sam Rockwell stars as Victor, a sex addict who works as a historical recreationist (“the backbone of colonial America”) with an aging mother with acute dementia in a mental institution. Throw in a couple of curveballs, and you’ve got the contents for an interesting, funny and yet poignant film. While the actual film did not hit as hard as I thought it might have, it was still wonderful to see Rockwell, Angelica Huston as Vincent’s mother Ida and Kelly Macdonald as Victor’s love interest (among other things). Rendered in fiction, which must be remembered (this is a film, not reality), Choke entertains on many levels.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Classic melodrama often comes with many laughable points. Like when watching Choke, I put myself in the land of fiction and any point that seem to be incredulous was backed up with the idea that we were watching a movie. Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her role as the selfless mother who wanted to give her children the best. The film starts with a murder, and we are guided through flashbacks to learn how the murder came about, and who the murderer is. Crawford has probably never been better in that Golden Age of Hollywood time, (however, me must not forget post-Golden era What Ever Happened to Baby Jane). Directed by Michael Curtiz (of Casablanca fame) the film also looks clear as crystal on my big tele. Always a plus with the older films!