Tuesday, March 3, 2009

3 Films

Definitely, Maybe
HBO via On-Demand

Love Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks; hate this movie, which was clearly made by idiots. Reynolds is a divorcing dad who tells his daughter (Breslin) the story of how he met her mother and the other women he was dating at the time. That's kind of weird. Breslin's character doesn't immediately pick up on which one is her mom, which is really weird since she lives with her mother and spends two nights a week with her dad. Why wouldn't she know where her mother went to college, lived after graduation, and the story from her perspective of how she and her dad met? That's weird and really stupid. Then after completing the tale, which has a surprise twist that isn't twisty or surprising, the little girl -- and this is before the ink is even dry on the divorce papers -- goes with her dad to assist in the seduction of a woman not her mother. This is so wrong! So wrong on so many levels! Like an 8-year-old kid is just going to totally accept that her mom and dad aren't right for each other and help him reconnect with the free spirit he hooked up with back in the day. That's so dumb I don't even care that I just gave away the ending. Also, Definitely, Maybe treats working on the Clinton campaign as something to be proud of. I don't know about that either.

The Visitor
Starz via On-Demand

See, I told you I was going to see all the Oscar-nominated films! And maybe I will, if they're all as easy to get a hold of as The Visitor. Moments after I ordered it for free from the cable company I got an e-mail from Netflix letting me know it was also available through their streaming movies service. All the Richard Jenkins a man could want, and no waiting. The Visitor is a bittersweet little character piece with no name actors (sorry, Richard Kind, you don't count) about a university professor living life on autopilot and the magical not-quite-two-weeks in which he meets and befriends the multicultural Middle Eastern family that has been squatting in his rarely-used NYC apartment. The plot summary sort of lays out the whole story of the movie for you if you've seen more than two or three indie films in your life, but I liked how there was no heavy in the picture and no one tried to con or stab anybody else. The only villain here is bureaucracy. The Visitor is about little connections and little misunderstandings and if anything could stand to be a little more aggressive about its own worth. Jenkins is marvelous and completely deserved his Best Actor nomination, but the picture is a little like the actor, who had absolutely no chance of winning. It kind of disappears within itself. An obvious, quiet ending doesn't help at all -- sure, where it ends up is truer to life and the characters, but art's task isn't just to show, it's also to inspire. The lonely professor's friends all get deported... but he learns to play the djembe! I don't think that's going to be enough for most people.

DVD via my keyboard player

Movies about bands are tricky things. The trouble is, movies usually get made by directors and actors, and such personalities are deeply susceptible to the Lone Genius theory of music-making -- that is, that all bands are essentially the work of one brilliant mind and the other guys who play the instruments are about as important to the finished product as key grips and second second assistant directors are to filmmaking. One of the many charming things about Walk Hard is that the fictional support musicians for fictional star Dewey Cox in the film are more well-rounded, distinct presences than any of the backup players in the numerous pictures Walk Hard parodies, whether Ray, Walk the Line, or The Doors. Control is a film beautifully shot in black and white by video director Anton Corbijn, with amazing, vital music performed entirely by the actors who play the members of Joy Division in the film. The trouble is, just like 24 Hour Party People it's obsessed with the tragic, dead lead singer and can barely be troubled with the other three guys who (not insignificantly) wrote and played all the music. I can sort of see portraying Stephen Morris as a monosyllabic lunkhead not much interested in anything besides hitting things with sticks, but Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook were the musical forces between not one but two massively influential groups. They deserve more than "the kind of prissy guy" and "the guy with the beard." Plus the three non-Ian Curtis members of the band always appear as a set, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with a drummer, which suggests 1) they didn't have distinct personalities and (more damningly) 2) they had no individual relationships with Curtis outside the band. As a Joy Division fan as opposed to a slavering member of Ian Curtis's suicide cult, I'm deeply offended by this. And even as a movie about Curtis as opposed to the band, Control does the man some disservices. Sam Riley is far too beautiful and normally proportioned to play Ian Curtis, and the film treats his epilepsy as an inspiring specter rather than the serious illness it really was. I guess nobody's lining up to make Hook: No Not the Pirate, the Bass Player so this will have to do.

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