Friday, December 31, 2004

Closer 

We had two Lowe's movie passes left, and they were set to expire today. The catch: not valid during the first 10 days of a film's release. So sadly I had to pay 7 bucks for a MATINEE showing of Phantom the other day, and The Girl and I ended up using the passes to see Closer last night. There were other movies we wanted to see instead, but this was playing at the right time, at the right theater, and was available with the passes.

Getting there was quite a trip as well. The Girl had her drum lesson from 6:30-7:30, and the movie was playing at the Liberty Tree Mall at 7:55. According to Mapquest, the drive from the lesson to the movie is 15.71 miles (mostly highway) and a 21 minute drive. So yeah, we were cutting it close. Especially when she didn't emerge from her lesson into the parking lot where I was waiting until 7:35. But off we went. She was full of hope and optimism, but I was driving. It was actually going fairly well until traffic ground to a halt about a mile before our exit. So I took the exit before ours, and wound our way through the back roads and found our way to the mall. The Girl insisted that there would be at least 15 minutes of commercials and previews (but I love watching the previews!), so we would still make it.

Pretty good line at the ticket counter, but it moved along. Then at the entry to the theater area itself, there was some sort of confusion about Meet the Fockers. A group of kids had tickets to the just-started show, but the staff said there were no more seats. This went on for an excruciating amount of time (okay, maybe 45 seconds), but the large growling man behind us who kept shouting, "Come on, come on," sufficiently intimidated the ticket taker and he let the kids, then us, in. Theater 5, where we were headed, was of course at the far end of the very long hall, and was packed. But The Girl took charge and found us 2 seats in the middle of a row, and we sat down at 8:10. Sure enough, 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time, the feature presentation began running about 15 seconds after we sat down. I should have listened.

So anyway, the movie. About an hour in, I leaned over and whispered, "This movie kind of sucks."

So far in the awards season, Closer has won the National Board of Review award for Best Acting by an Ensemble and and was named by the NBR as one of the year's Top 10 Films, and is up for 5 Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture: Drama, Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supporting Actor (Clive Owen), Best Director (Mike Nichols), and Best Screenplay (Patrick Marber). Oddly enough, I think perhaps (okay, maybe I still have a few misgivings) all these nominations and awards are due, except for the Best Picture ones. The acting was superb, the direction was great, and the dialogue was well-written. But as a whole, it just didn't work for me. It was a series of character studies of people in crisis.

The soundtrack for the film was also great, but they really should have worked in the Indigo Girls song Reunion.


I laughed as I said it
This is my situation
It's not pictures or privilege
It's just self preservation
I don't want you to feel
Any obligation
It feels so funny to be free
All you pretty pretenders
Negligent vendors
Aren't you precious inside
I have no need for anger
With intimate strangers
And I got nothing to hide

Check out the rest of the lyrics here - they're perfect for this film of intimate strangers who dance and weave and change partners over the course of four years, only revealing truth in moments of desperation, both quiet and raging. I think the only character who was really honest throughout was the one waging the most consistent deception.

Clive Owen and Jude Law are driven by testosterone, sexual obsessions, and a desire to be the alpha male by possessing the beautiful prize. But who is the most beautiful prize? Usually the one you don't have.

Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts come across as sunflowers who turn all their attention to whichever sun is shining most brightly on them at any given moment. Portman's sunflower snaps her attention quickly and without hesitation, while Roberts' is more cautious and extends the transitions. When we first meet Natalie Portman's Alice, Jude Law's Dan describes her as "disarming." I agreed, until the scene switched to Julia Robert's Anna at work in her photography studio. My definition of disarming completely changed, and I had to agree with the comparison that Clive Owen's Larry made later on, that Alice is a girl, while Anna is a woman. He describes the attractiveness of early 20-somethings as "full of the moronic beauty of youth." I would have taken Anna over Alice any day. Until Anna began to appear to have accepted her role as a chew toy to be fought over by the two burly dogs, that is.

The jumps in time were problematic for me, not because of the jumps themselves, but because of the landing points. All we see of these four characters are their moments of crisis and angst. Any brief scene of happiness is surely just a setup for the soon to follow fall. It was exhausting, and it all just left me feeling hollow and empty and disturbed. Of course, I think that's how at least three of the characters were left feeling, so perhaps that's what Nichols (whose films I generally love) was going for.

Note of caution - don't go to this movie with anyone with whom you'd feel uncomfortable reading or hearing graphic sexual language, because you'll be both reading it and hearing it throughout Closer.

Reality Check: The Girl likes disturbing movies because it reassures her in her choices, life situation and relationships. She came out of this one feeling very good about us. And she thinks that Natalie Portman is more attractive than Julia Roberts because she doesn't like Julia Roberts' big lips. But she liked the first outfit that Julia Roberts was wearing.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/31/2004 09:39:00 AM
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Phantom of the Opera 

This film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber's successful theater production is spectacular, beautiful, lush, grand, full of beautiful people, sights and sounds. And sometimes it even works.

Sadly, at other times it's just too much. Of everything. There's a fine line between really cool execution of a really cool concept and just showing off all your neat toys, and unfortunately director Joel Schumacher jumps back and forth over that line throughout the show. When it works, it's fabulous. When it doesn't, I just really couldn't wait for the scene to end so they could move on.

Emmy Rossum has been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress: Musical or Comedy, and received the National Board of Review award for Breakthrough Performance by an Actress, and she does put forth a great performance. I wouldn't look for her at Oscar nomination time, but one of the nice features of the Golden Globes is that they have separate categories for "Drama" and "Musical or Comedy," which allows a wider variety of performances to be recognized. Rossum seems to glow from within through much of the film, and many of her expressions reminded me of Jennifer Beals in a combination of Flashdance and The Bride ("You didn't tell me about cats. I thought it was a tiny lion." BWAH!) - that sort of wide-eyed innocence combined with deer in the headlights look. But too much of that can be, well, too much. During the latter part of the movie Rossum's Christine becomes a little darker, a bit more jaded, and it's in these scenes that Schumacher allows Rossum to dig deeper and bring some power and layers to the show. Here we get a glimpse of what I hope we'll see develop in her future projects.

The first time I felt that Schumacher had gone astray was when Christine first comes face to face with the man who is the Phantom (up until that night he had stayed hidden, contacting her as a disembodied voice). It turned into one of those trippy, camera spinning, Vaseline on the lens while our heroine stares glassy-eyed into the camera kind of things, and it was more distracting than anything.

The final instance of directorial missteps for me was the swordfight scene towards the end. The shots alternated between distance and way too close, artsy and action, and it just didn't work. It would be like trying to combine the Uma Thurman - Lucy Liu swordfight in the snowy zen garden (Kill Bill, Vol. 1) with the Uma Thurman - Darryl Hannah swordfight in the dingy trailer (Kill Bill, Vol. 2). Both good scenes, but not compatible.

But when it worked it gave me goosebumps. The rooftop scene at the end of Act I, the underground sing-off among the Phantom, Raoul and Christine, the Phantom's Don Juan performance between the Phantom and Christine, and of course the chandelier-induced transition from the "present" to the "past" of the opera house, which was just spectacular (in a good way). Ironically, the "present" is shot in grainy black and white, while the "past" appears in full color and looks more modern. This was a nice choice, as it imbues the characters in their later settings with a sense of loss, longing, and thoughts of better times, while the "past" is full of the brightness and vigor of youth and the beginning of life's journey.

Speaking of vigor, Patrick Wilson was quite manly as Raoul, but he rather reminded me of the post-curse Beast in Beauty and the Beast - all chest, muscles and blonde mane. Then the contrast with the porcelain-skinned and soft glowy Christine made the comparison all the more pressing. To cap it off, the stained glass window in the Chapelle was quite reminiscent of the stained glass of the young pre-curse prince in the Disney show.

I've seen some mention that Minnie Driver overacted in her role of Carlotta, and I agree. But I also feel that it was entirely appropriate for the part. She was the most prima donna of them all, and the performance felt perfect for the part. She was one of the best things in the show, and usually came along just when the extravaganza was becoming a little overly extra.

Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry and of course Gerald Butler as the Phantom were marvelous.

Now if I could only get "The Music of the Night" out of my head, where it's been lodged since yesterday afternoon...

Reality Check: The Girl didn't see it, and I didn't press her to. She's a fan of neither opera, musicals nor period pieces, and this is all those rolled into one. Much of the dialogue is sung rather than spoken, and it just would have been way too much to ask of her.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/30/2004 03:13:00 PM
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

De-Lovely 

This look into the life and complicated relationship of Cole Porter and his wife, Linda Lee Porter, takes place in the form of Cole sitting in an empty theater with the "director" Gabe and looking back through his life. De-Lovely overall is a fabulous movie, but I found the first 15-30 minutes a little shallow and the characters difficult to care about. Once the Porters move from Venice to New York, however, the story and the characters begin to come through, and by the end The Girl and I were completely entranced.

Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) was an emphatically gay man who fell madly in love with the lovely Linda Lee. She loved him madly in return, with full knowledge that theirs wouldn't be a particularly exclusive or physical marriage. At times Cole's extramarital activities went beyond what Linda could accept, and Ashley Judd conveys her depth of emotional turmoil with a wondrous skill.

A bevy of musical guests perform some of Porter's songs, and I think I'll be picking up this soundtrack this weekend as well. My favorites were Elvis Costello ("Let's Misbehave"), Alanis Morissette ("Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love"), Sheryl Crow ("Begin the Beguine") and Natalie Cole ("Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye"). I was quietly crying all through "Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye," and when the whole cast of characters, led by Jonathan Pryce as Gabe, belted out "Blow Gabriel, Blow" I was sobbing, complete with gasps for air.

Reality Check: Granted, I'm a sap for musicals and The Girl really, really isn't, but she was right there grabbing the Kleenex with me.




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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/29/2004 01:03:00 PM

Jerry Orbach - 1935-2004 

Actor Jerry Orbach, most recently of Law and Order but with a prodigious body of work on television, film and the theater, died last night in New York City. He had been receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

You may also remember him as the father-doctor in Dirty Dancing (the clear winner in the "Which 80's dance movie rules?" poll - see left sidebar) and as the fabulous voice of Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I'd really like to have his recording of Be Our Guest announce at our upcoming wedding reception next summer that "we proudly present... your dinner."

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/29/2004 11:15:00 AM
Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sky Captain DVD 

In addition to today's news (to me, at least) about the awesome soundtrack CD for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I just also discovered that the DVD is going to be released on January 25!!! Psych!!!!!

The Guyfriend and I went to Barnes & Noble at lunchtime, as he was in search of the 2005 Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendar for his office, so I took the opportunity to check out the soundtrack. They promote that in their music department you can listen to any CD before you buy, but it's a very limited selection within any given CD. I was able to hear a short (maybe 10-15 second) clip from the opening track and the Over the Rainbow remake. But those two short clips sealed the deal for me - I'll be getting the CD this weekend.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/28/2004 02:29:00 PM

Susan Sontag, 1933-2004 

Award winning author, film maker and human rights activist Susan Sontag died this morning at the age of 71 in NYC, where she resided with photographer Annie Leibovitz. Her passing was announced Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

You can learn more about Sontag at her website. In 2001 the book Women was published, a joint project of Sontag and Leibovitz.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/28/2004 02:28:00 PM

Sky Captain Soundtrack Available 

SciFi.com has posted up a review of the recently released film soundtrack CD for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. They give it an A, and even classify it as good car driving music - not a classification generally assigned to sci-fi soundtracks. Then again, SciFi.com's audience is assuredly skewed toward sci-fi geeks, and speaking as one myself, I admit that I do have a number of sci-fi soundtracks on my MP3 player, and if The Girl isn't along for the ride, I do enjoy them in the car.

I think perhaps I'll be acquiring the CD this weekend, and I'll let you know how it fares. The score is by Edward Sheamur, and is performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, with one vocal performance by Jane Monheit.

On a related note, my own recommendation for a book-CD combination for hard core space/science/soundtrack geeks: Music From the Galaxies CD by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, which is the auditory companion to her book Heavenly Knowledge: An Astrophysicist Seeks Wisdom in the Stars. Dr. Terenzi is an Italian astrophysicist who developed a program that converts the radio waves sent out from various stars and other celestial bodies, and converts them into sound audible to the human ear. The book follows the project through its development, and the CD contains the final product. She's got a gift for presenting what could be an incredibly dry and overwhelmingly technical subject and makes it exciting and fast-paced. Check them both out.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/28/2004 02:27:00 PM
Monday, December 27, 2004

Trailer of Geeky Intrigue - Sin City 

One of the trailers we saw before The Aviator was for Sin City, a film of which up to that point I had not been aware. It looks intriguing - not like Sky Captain, mind you, but intriguing nonetheless.

Like Sky Captain, this one has the live actors filmed on digital cameras in front of green screen, and the backgrounds will all be digitally inserted later. It also resembles Sky Captain in the color scheme, with the trailer being mostly black and white, but with carefully placed colors and spots of brilliant glare. Sin City is the project over which Robert Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America, which also forced him to resign from the now-titled John Carter of Mars. Ironically, that gig then went to Kerry Conran, writer and director of Sky Captain.

Sin City is based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller, whose co-directing credit was the reason Rodriguez resigned from the DGA. Quentin Tarantino also directed one segment. The cast is loaded with big names, such as Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Maria Bello, Elijah Wood, Carla Gugino, Michael Clarke Duncan, and on and on. Check out the promo photos on Yahoo! Movies.

Definitely a dark, noir, crime, sex and violence type of movie, but it looks cool. The Girl has already rejected the idea of seeing it, so I guess I'll be on my own for this one.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/27/2004 02:17:00 PM

Welcome to Mooseport 

Lots of names and lots of fun in this movie about a mayoral race between former US president Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) who moves into his Maine vacation home after losing his Maryland house in a bitter divorce, and Handy Harrison (Ray Romano), the local plumber and hardware store owner. Adding to the competition is Cole's interest in Handy's long-term girlfriend Sally (Maura Tierney - yay!), the local veterinarian who is tired of waiting for Handy to take a risk and commit.

Contributing to the star-studded fun are Christine Baranski, Marcia Gay Harden, Fred Savage and Rip Torn.

The ex-president and his staff try to maneuver the potential risks and rewards of a small town campaign that was supposed to be a symbolic gesture, while Handy tries to make sense of his own choices and what's really important to him. Sally and Grace (Monroe Coles' chief of staff, Marcia Gay Harden) each try to deal with both stagnation and change in their lives and those around them. The golf course snack shop scene between Sally and Grace is understated perfection for these two fabulous actors.

My biggest question after this DVD, which I watched twice since The Girl fell asleep at the first very late-night viewing, was why is it that when Maura Tierney wears old jeans or cargo pants, a t-shirt and a flannel shirt she looks great, but when I wear it I'm a slob? I just don't understand.

Reality Check: The Girl enjoyed this one too, and thinks that Maura Tierney can wear anything and look great because she's a movie star and that's just the way things are.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/27/2004 01:09:00 PM

Mango Kiss 

It's occurred to me that I tend to post about movies I like, and not so much on movies that didn't really do much for me. So as a public service, I now make note of my thoughts on one of the new DVDs marketed to lesbians, Mango Kiss.

Dreck. Don't bother. Full of stereotypes and completely self-centered characters without much in the way of redeeming value, this one falls into the usual traps of indie lesbo films. First, it's poorly cast. The main characters are supposed to be early-20s recent college grads, but I'd say the actors portraying them haven't seen college in at least a decade. If they couldn't find any actors who could pull off a character of that age (because, you know, there's such a shortage of young actors out there), they could have written the characters as late-20's, early-30's. Second, the dialogue bounces around between annoying play fantasies and equally annoying attempts at profound feminist sociological analyses, succeeding at neither. Third, the filmmakers rely on lots of fun-filled montages to show us how fun and thrilling every little moment of the characters lives are. That is, when those lives aren't filled with self-inflicted drama.

A well-done, well-placed and carefully utilized montage can impart lots of useful information and advance a storyline in a nice compressed timeframe, but when used like this they're just bad.

I think this movie could have been done better, but it just didn't quite reach its mark. Instead of Mango Kiss, check out Treading Water, Out of Season, or Go Fish. Low budget indies that did it right.

For review with a more favorable view, check the article on AfterEllen.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/27/2004 11:54:00 AM

The Aviator 

The Girl and I stopped at the movie theater in Woburn on our way home Christmas night, and saw The Aviator. We were not alone in our Christmas night movie-going, as the theater was packed for the 8:00 pm showing of this three hour film.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars and excels in this Martin Scorcese project about Howard Hughes, from the filming of his ground breaking, Oscar nominated 1930 film Hell's Angels through the lone flight of the Hercules (aka Hughes Flying Boat), better known to history as the Spruce Goose, and to a glimpse of his vision for the future of jets. I saw the Hercules in its former museum hangar in Long Beach, right near the Queen Mary. It's an astoundingly massive piece of engineering. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see it flying over the harbor. You'll have to travel to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon, where the craft has been since 1992, if you want to see it now.

In The Aviator we see Hughes go from an eager young man ready to conquer the world to a man in his 40s who engineered many revolutions, most notably in this film in aviation and film making, and who while he still retains his eagerness for the next big thing, has had to deal with a lifetime of internal battles as well as crushing physical injury, and who had the psychic and bodily scars to prove it. He battled the laws of physics, the Board of Censors, the price of fame, business competitors, OCD and more than a touch of paranoia, the FBI, IRS and United States Senate.

DiCaprio deserves whatever rewards come his way for this performance.

Cate Blanchett also nailed her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn, whose relationship with Hughes ended with the commencement of her decades long relationship with Spencer Tracy. Katharine Hepburn is one of my personal heroes, and Blanchett does her honor.

Kate Beckinsale is noteworthy as Ava Gardner, as is John C. Reilly as Hughes' long-suffering right hand business manager. For you Trek fans, keep an eye out for Brent Spiner.

I had mixed feelings about the manner in which they wrapped it up, but after pondering it for a couple of days, I think it's a work of genius. The Aviator has already received a good number of awards and nominations, and you should definitely look for it to be among the Academy Award nominees in more than one category, to be announced on January 25th.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, but felt it was too long. She agrees that Leonardo DiCaprio is a very talented young actor, and urges everyone to see What's Eating Gilbert Grape (I rather shame-facedly admit to not having yet seen it...).

For more on Howard Hughes:
Wikipedia entry
IMDB entry
The Howard Hughes Corporation
Howard Hughes Medical Institute



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/27/2004 10:51:00 AM
Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ray 

The Girl and I caught a late showing of Ray this past weekend. It was good, but a little long. A friend of mine saw it before we did and warned that "If he had been on heroin for ten more years, we'd still be in the theater."

Ray follows the most tumultuous years of Ray Charles' career, from when he first set out to make a living on the road as a musician, through his growth and success as a commercial artist, as well as his years of addiction and eventually road to recovery from heroin. Through flashbacks, we also see him as a child, dealing with the loss of both his younger brother and his eyesight, and how he deals with both of those events throughout his life.

Jamie Foxx does a great job as Ray, who you probably won't particularly like through much of the movie, but you'll end up admiring him and rooting for him to grow beyond his own flaws. He's already been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor: Musical or Comedy, and won the National Board of Review award for Best Actor. While we're on the subject of awards, the film itself was chosen as one of the NBR's Top 10 Films of the Year, and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture: Musical or Comedy.

I think it deserves the nominations, but I don't think the film should get the top award. It was definitely long, and not in the fashion of, "Wow, was it really 2-1/2 hours? It just flew!" More like, "Okay, I get it, move on." But what really bothered me was the frequency with which the microphone, and occasionally the boom from which it was suspended, drifted into the top of the frame! The first time I noticed it was during the hummingbird scene, but it made several appearances throughout the rest of the film. I felt like I was watching Dark Shadows or Star Trek (the original series). There's just no excuse for a mainstream, well-funded movie to have visual errors like that in the final cut. Would it have been that hard to fix it? It just made me feel like I was watching out takes instead of the feature presentation.

On an up note: C.J. Sanders, in his film debut, was amazing as Ray as a child. But the performance of note for me was Regina King, as Margie Hendricks - one of the Raylettes, and one of Ray's long-term on-the-road lovers. You may remember her first as the wife of Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s character (which earned Gooding a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in Jerry Maguire. She burned up the screen (especially in the "Hit the Road, Jack" sequence), and even when her character wasn't actually on screen but was the subject of dialogue, I could still picture the character. Great performance.

Check it out, but don't go when you're hungry or tired.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, loved the music, but didn't think it was anything spectacular. She didn't notice the microphone issue at all, so maybe I'm just obsessive about that kind of thing...

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/23/2004 02:44:00 PM
Tuesday, December 14, 2004

B5 in 2005? 

Sci-Fi Weekly cites a Production Weekly article which announced that a Babylon 5 feature film will start shooting in Great Britain this coming April. J. Michael Straczynski wrote the script for The Memory of Shadows, which will be directed by Steve Beck.

Not much was revealed about the characters or storyline, and the only named character from the previous B5 projects is Galen, the technomage, whose main character development occurred on Crusade (which costarred Daniel Dae Kim, now Controlling Korean Guy Jin on Lost).

It's likely that other characters from the original series will be present, however. I wasn't aware that Richard Biggs (Dr. Franklin) had died earlier this year, but sadly that was the case. In the IMDB notes on Biggs' bio, the bio writer notes that Straczynski announced since then that he would not be recasting the role. That seems to me to indicate that the script included Dr. Franklin and other B5 characters and the original actors.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/14/2004 02:15:00 PM

Finding Neverland 

A truly wonderful movie. Full of wonder, awe, joy, grief, failure, triumph, regret, hope, and above all, imagination.

Johnny Depp is full of quiet understated joy and energy as J.M. Barrie, the Scottish playwright who created Peter Pan. Kate Winslett is Sylvia, the widowed mother of four sons, who through a chance meeting in the park one afternoon finds herself and her children experiencing life as they hadn't been able since the death of her husband. Radha Mitchell (photo editor Syd from the fabulous High Art) is perfect as Mary the socially ambitious wife of Barrie. She seems as determined to quash any glimmer of whimsy as her husband is of encouraging that glimmer to grow wings. Julie Christie is perfectly proper as Sylvia's mother and the social pillar that Mary would love nothing better than to emulate. Dustin Hoffman returns to the world of Neverland (remember him as the titular Hook, opposite Robin Williams?) as the patient but not endlessly patient producer of Barrie's plays.

The characters could have been overplayed or one-sided, but instead they are all subtle and multifaceted, and all demonstrate the capacity to grow in many directions. The blend of reality and imagined scenes draws you in and make you wish to be a part of the game. The soundtrack is sublime, and lifts the film even higher than it would have been otherwise.

Go see this movie, and see it on the big screen. Then pick up the DVD when it comes out next year, so you can enjoy it whenever you need to reinvigorate your love of life.

Reality Check: The Girl's unprompted comment upon leaving the theater: "That was the best movie I've ever seen."
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UPDATE (10:40 am): It's official. The Girl has now proclaimed that Finding Neverland has replaced Jerry Maguire as her all-time favorite movie.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/14/2004 08:21:00 AM
Monday, December 13, 2004

2004 New York Film Critics Circle Awards 

The New York Film Critics Circle today at about 2 pm announced the winners of their 2004 awards:
Starting to see some trends...

The Girl and I are going to see Ray tonight.
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UPDATE (12/14, 9:15 am): Schedules worked out such that we saw Finding Neverland instead. A welcome turn of events, as it turned out!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/13/2004 03:30:00 PM

2005 Golden Globe Noms - Motion Pictures 

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced their nominees for the 2005 Golden Globe Awards. The awards will be presented on Sunday, January 16 at 8 pm on NBC. The motion picture nominees are as follows:

Best Motion Picture: Drama

Best Actress: Drama

Best Actor: Drama

Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy

Best Actress: Musical or Comedy

Best Actor: Musical or Comedy

Best Foreign Language Film
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Director
Best Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
I've got a busy movie-going season ahead of me! So far, I've only seen Kill Bill Vol 2., The Incredibles, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, The Manchurian Candidate, Collateral and Shrek 2.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/13/2004 10:31:00 AM
Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Wrong Turn 

The Girl and I watched Eliza Dushku (aka Faith, the Rogue Slayer) in Wrong Turn on DVD Sunday evening. Didn't really expect much but a thriller so bad that it might be entertaining. I was surprised by much of it. Aside from adherence to the standard scary movie rules making it entirely obvious who would die and in what order, the really over the top bad guys, and the entire implausibility of these particular bad guys having been able to continue their fiendish ways for so many years, it wasn't that bad.

Okay, let's take this from another angle. What was good? Eliza Dushku (who is from Watertown, where The Guyfriend and I walk for lattes at Starbuck's most days at lunchtime) and Desmond Harrington (you might remember him from Sci-Fi's modern masterpiece Taken - also starring Julie Benz of both Buffy and Angel) are very good actors, and the two of them made the movie watchable. Jeremy Sisto is also always enjoyable. The filming was of a much better quality than you'd expect from a silly thriller, and even the stunts for the most part were well done.

The big question was actually asked in the movie - "How could this happen?" None of the other characters answered the question, mostly because the situation really, really couldn't have happened. The story is that three brothers who came from a very long line of inbreeding and are therefore burdened with multiple severe physical and psychological problems. This is established during the opening credits by showing us various reports and newspaper articles documenting their violent tendencies, psychotic episodes, increased strength and incredibly high pain tolerance. Also during the opening credits we see numerous clippings telling stories of the many, many people who have disappeared in this particular region of West Virginia over the years.

How are these related? Why, the bad boys have been hunting people, either by stalking them personally or by laying booby traps in the roadways and forest. They then take the bodies and all the vehicles and their contents back to their ramshackle compound not too far from the main highway, where they have been stockpiling this stuff for years. Yes, all the cars, all the possessions, and all the bodies (conveniently chopped up for easier storage in the antique refrigerator and jars of I guess formaldehyde). At least some of the locals know that the brothers are a threat, as evidenced by some passing comments and actions of the guy at the rundown gas station.

There are cops and search and rescue officials in the area (the three we see don't make it out alive), and you'd think that the authorities would have been investigating ALL THESE DISAPPEARANCES which have occurred IN THIS SAME REGION over the years. You'd think at least once someone would have paid a visit to the compound to ask if they had seen anything, or maybe to collect their property taxes, and would have seen ALL THE STUFF LYING ABOUT, not to mention THE BLOOD AND THE BODIES!!!!!

But apparently no one has, and apparently either these are the first cops to be killed or no one INVESTIGATES POLICE DISAPPEARANCES, and apparently the brothers have been free to wreak their havoc unchecked.

Morals of the movie: don't have sex, don't do drugs, don't whine, don't take part in in-breeding, and don't leave the main road. Yeah, the usual horror movie pearls of wisdom.

But Eliza's fabulous.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/07/2004 09:12:00 AM

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear 

I had a chance yesterday to watch this, which Tivo kindly recorded for me Sunday evening while I was watching Wrong Turn (hey - a girl can't study 24 hours a day, you know). Goofy but very fun, and lots of giggles for geeks like me.

Noah Wyle is Flynn Carsen, a perennial student with 22 - count em, 22 - degrees to his name, and working on number 23. His advisor decides that the educational system is doing Flynn a disservice by allowing him to avoid getting out into the real world, so with the Dean's permission he signs off early on Flynn's latest degree, timing it such that Flynn can't possibly enroll in another program for at least six months. The advisor breaks the news to him immediately after we've witnessed the installation of the capstone on the university's 1/20th size model of The Great Pyramid. This scene opened with Flynn leading students through the mysteries of the pyramid and the ancient Egyptians and he seems really cool and full of wisdom, but then the camera pulls back to reveal that they're in a model in a museum rotunda, and it appears that the other students think he's a dork (one of my classmates and fellow ACS-ers called me a dork on Saturday after I related to her in an IM that I was blogging from the floor by my locker). One calls him a freak.

Anyway, after Flynn gets the boot, the camera angles up and we see Bob Newhart looking down from an upper level.

The rest of a movie, in a nutshell: he's in his 30's, has never been out of school, and lives with his mother, Olympia Dukakis. Olympia is of course continually setting him up on blind dates. He gets a mysterious invitation to apply for a "prestigious" job at the Metropolitan Library. Upon arrival, he waits in line for hours and then faces grilling from Jane Curtin. After demonstrating his unerring eye for noticing details and a skill with wide-ranging pieces of information, plus a little homespun wisdom courtesy of Olympia, he lands the job, in which he will be supervised by Jane and Bob.

Turns out "The Library" is a repository of priceless legendary artifacts such as Excalibur, Pandora's Box, and The Spear of Destiny. Kyle MacLachlan promptly steals one of the pieces of The Spear, and hijinks ensue.

On his first full day on the job, Flynn is assigned the task of deciphering a previously undecipherable lost language in order to locate the other two pieces of The Spear, one of which is hidden somewhere in the Amazon. Along the way he must deal with Kyle, his enforcer (an Asian woman - why is it tha twhen the evil enforcer is a woman, she's evil?), and his evil group, the Brotherhood of the Serpent. He also must deal with Nicole, the Library's enforcer. It's kind of a Slayer-Watcher thing, with the attractive woman as muscle and the geeky guy as the brain.

I was briefly reminded of an episode of Fantasy Island, in which Ken Berry played a sheltered librarian whose fantasy was to have an adventure in the "real" world. He of course was able to win battles and solve the mystery due to the many skills he had acquired by reading about them over the years. The Librarian at least had most of Flynn's contributions be intellectual rather than physical, in contrast to Ken Berry's being able to defeat a fencing master because, although he had never before touched a foil, he had read about fencing.

Anyway, aside from a couple of minor issues (the height related CGI was incredibly bad, such as during the skydiving scene and the bridge over the chasm scene; also, we're apparently supposed to believe that the ancient book is made of some antiquarian secret waterproof material, because it survives numerous dunkings into the Amazon), Librarian: Quest for the Spear was entertaining, well-done, with a lot of stuff for geeks of all flavors (history, archeology, anthropology, biology, techie gadgets, you get the idea), and some fun dialogue. Among my favorite lines:

Jane Curtin, in response to Flynn's suggestion that they report the Spear theft to the police: "I hear thorazine comes in vanilla now."

Flynn, on receiving his assignment: "I really think that you should have a parking place before you get assigned to fight an evil conspiracy."

"What do you think is below the surface arrogance?"
"More arrogance, and then perhaps a few delicious layers of flaky disdain, all around a creamy sweet center of homicidal rage."

"The spear opens a portal that must be kept closed." Of course, there's always a portal. This particular one (surprise - it gets opened) reminds me of the Starfire in Babylon 5. I wonder if Mira Furlan (formerly Delenn on B5, more recently known as Danielle the crazy French woman on Lost) could use it on the Island? And by the way - does Kyle MacLachlan remind any other B5 fans of Neroon?

"Why are you smiling?"
"Because there are time-traveling ninjas out to kill us."
"Psychopath."
"Nerd."

And my favorite:

"Get your own geek."

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/07/2004 09:07:00 AM
Friday, December 03, 2004

Greek Lawyers Won't Sue to Censor Alexander 

For weeks now a group of 25 Greek attorneys have been threatening to seek an injunction against the showing of Oliver Stone's new film Alexander, a biopic about Alexander the Great. While they hadn't actually seen the film, they were concerned about all the rumors that the film portrays Alexander as bisexual, something which has been considered for years to have been likely. Don't get them wrong - there's nothing WRONG with being gay, it's just that it's not true. In one article they likened the situation to if a filmmaker attempted to portray George W. Bush as a professional basketball player.

Well, now they've actually gone to a screening of Alexander, and have decided to drop any litigation plans. But their comments say a lot about their motives:
"There is a kiss that can be interpreted in many ways, but we have avoided the worst" said Giannis Varnakas, one of the lawyers, after the screening. Fortunately it was not what we had feared. The people can go and see the movie."

Well, gee. I'm sure Greek citizens everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief now that they've gotten the okay from a bunch of homophobes disguised as historians to go see a movie. Angelina Jolie fans everywhere can now see the film with no trepidation that there might be some homoeroticism. No, wait. For that demographic (myself included), this might actually be a deterrence. Hmm.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/03/2004 09:49:00 AM
Thursday, December 02, 2004

National Board of Review Film Awards 2004 

The National Board of Review (composed of "film professionals, educators, students and historians") yesterday announced its 2004 Award Winners.

Best Film: Finding Neverland
Best Actress: Annette Benning, Being Julia
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Best Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey
Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Best Director: Collateral

Best Documentary: Born Into Brothels
Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles
Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Sideways

Top Ten Films: Finding Neverland, The Aviator, Closer, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Kinsey, Vera Drake, Ray, Collateral, Hotel Rwanda.

A complete listing can be found on the NBR 2004 Award Page.

I plan on using this list to establish my list of movies to see during my three week break between classes. One of the Top Ten of which I had not heard, but which I now REALLY WANT TO SEE, is Million Dollar Baby. The NBR awarded Clint Eastwood their Special Filmmaking Achievement Award for this film, which he produced, directed, acted in and scored. Morgan Freeman costars, which is always a good thing.

But more important than that, it costars Hilary Swank as a boxer who is working with the ex-boxer and current trainer played by Eastwood. Hilary Swank as a boxer. I'm picturing training scenes. Mm, Hilary Swank with muscles. This could be a future home theatre double header, combined with The Next Karate Kid. Sort of a Hilary Swank, Then and Now. You could always throw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the original movie) for a glimpse of Hilary Before Then (along with Ben Affleck Before Then - look for him on the basketball court. He even has a line). Of course then you'd have to throw in Once More With Feeling for the homage to cheesey 80's training sequences. Face it - contrary to Punk Ass Biker's motto, it always comes back to Buffy.

Also look for Christina Cox, the van dwelling artist from Better Than Chocolate. I'm not sure how prominent a role she has. Yahoo has her listed in the top cast members, but IMDB lists her in the Stunt Cast. Unfortunately, Million Dollar Baby isn't opening nationally until January 21, 2005. If you're in NY, LA, Chicago or Toronto, you can see it as of December 17, 2004.

I'm also interested in seeing another Hilary Swank upcoming project, Red Dust, in which she plays a South-African born attorney who returns to South Africa to represent a member of parliament who had been tortured while under arrest for his political activism. Her client has been called before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the amnesty case filed by his former torturer. Problem is, his torture was so brutal that he cannot remember it. Red Dust screened at the Toronto Film Festival and is scheduled for a February 2005 release in the Netherlands, but I'm unable to find any release dates for the U.S.

Patience, Grasshopper.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/02/2004 09:27:00 AM