During some recent rainstorms, Sarah & I began getting caught up on movies, as it’s getting toward Oscar time, and we like to try to see as many of the contenders as we can before the awards. Read on for my brief thoughts on the aforementioned films
Felicity Huffman does a superb job playing a pre-op transsexual man in this well-done drama. She learns, just before her gender reassignment surgery, that she has a son in jail in NYC. On the advice of her therapist, she flies out and winds up driving with him cross-country back to LA.
There’s a moderate amount of humorous incidents, as well as some very serious ones, particularly an encounter with the boy’s step-father. Huffman’s character is played sympathetically, not as a freak, and its no wonder she got a Golden Globe for her performance. The other characters are uniformly good, but it’s Huffman who carries the show.
This, the first Woody Allen film I’ve seen in many years, is a fascinating meditation on the nature of luck as well as touch on class and morality themes. Unlike many of Allen’s prior films, there is no neurotic NY jewish character, and the story is set in the UK.
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ lead character is a tennis pro who becomes involved with an upper-crust British family through his tennis lessons. Scarlett Johansson, playing a struggling American actress is his love interest initially, but in this film, not much unwinds in the way one might expect.
I don’t want to give much away, but there are myriad twists and turns, and Allen adeptly hops around, sometimes skipping a whole year in stride. The editing is taut, with no extraneous scenes to speak of, and just enough to lead us along at a reasonable pace. This is one of the better movies I’ve seen in some time.
Verdict: Hightly recommended.
This disturbing documentary by Werner Herzog describes the life and early death in 2003 of grizzly bear activist Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend by the claws and teeth of the creatures they were fighting to save.
Through a great deal of footage shot by Treadwell himself while camped amid these huge animals, as well as interviews with some of his friends and family, a picture of Treadwell emerges, un-flattering at times, as someone on the edge of sanity, but genuinely concerned about the bears who ultimately proved his demise.
Herzog does a good job with the story’s pacing, and even interjects himself into one scene where he listens to a tape recording of Timmy and Lisa’s death (not played in the movie, which is probably for the best). He often lets the camera linger after the interviewees finish talking, which gives the whole thing a sort of creepy feel, and makes some of the people seem a little off their rocker, which they may well be.
After the movie I felt weird and conflicted, which is undoubtedly the whole point.
Verdict: Average to Recommended
The Constant Gardener
White people go to Africa and have adventures interspersed with footage of the abject poverty of the residents, while the movie takes some jabs at multinational corporations. Not unlike “The Interpreter”, “The Constant Gardener” is an ok politico thriller, but I mostly fail to see what all of the fuss was about.
The acting is fine, but nothing special, and the character development is very lacking, especially for Justin (played by Ralph Fiennes). Although I understand the allusions behind the title, more work could have been done to convince us that Just was, in fact, an avid gardener in the botanical sense. Instead we get a handful of scenes here and there showing him gardening, but they seem tossed in, and lack a connection to the rest of the film, mostly. I just didn’t get any passion for botany out of his character, and think it might have worked better if they’d just left out the scenes of actual gardening, and let the title stand purely as a metaphor.
Rachael Weiss’ performance was the best of the bunch (while she was on-screen), and I did like the fact that the movie didn’t end on a typical Hollywood happy note.
Verdict: Good, but overrated.