Friday, February 27, 2009
(do we have an editorial department?)
Friday, February 20, 2009
I saw this last night. It's going to be a couple of days before I can find the words to post on it, but in the meantime, I highly urge you to watch this. Whereas Slumdog Millionaire is the triumph of love over death, The Wrestler is the staring of death in the eye, and not batting an eye.
But in the meantime, go watch the trailer.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
There is a scene in "The Lord of the Rings," at the very end, after the Shire has been scoured, where St. JRR writes this:
The Northfarthing barley was so fine that the beer of 1420 malt was long remembered and became a byword. Indeed a generation later one might hear an old gaffer in an inn, after a good pint of well-earned ale, put down his mug with a sigh: ‘Ah! that was proper fourteen-twenty, that was!’
This is how I feel about movies in 2008. A hundred years from now, people may think "Wow, what a great year for movies! It's a regular 2008!" And amid all of the SLUMDOGs, DARK KNIGHTS, and WALL-Es, there's a quiet little film that didn't get too much buzz. But it's good. Oh, boy, it's good.
THE VISITOR has no pretention. It's a movie about a sixty-something college professor named Walter Vale who lives alone since the death of his wife. He lives in Connecticut, but still keeps an apartment in NYC, although he hasn't visited it since his wife passed away. When he's called to New York for a conference, he's surprised to find that a young couple is living in his apartment. Tarek, a Syrian musician, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, are scared to death that Walter will call the police for two reasons. First, they don't want to go to jail. Secondly, they are in the US illegally. Walter's response to the two of them is the beginning of his story.
Strangely, this is a coming of age movie. And while coming of age movies are hardly rare, it is quite unusual to find one about a sixty year old. Tarek and Walter begin a friendship based solely on necessity (on Tarek's part) and loneliness (on the part of Walter). Tarek plays the Djembe and Walter, who desperately wants to express himself in some way, latches onto it. It becomes not only an outlet for Walter, but also a symbol. It's a symbol of injustice and inequality, and it's a symbol of humanness.
As their unlikely friendship deepens, a tragic circumstance befalls Tarek and Zainab (which I won't reveal here), and Walter is given a choice. It's a choice to return to safe, quiet, Connecticut where he can finish his book in peace, or he can stay in New York and fight - even if fighting is the last thing he's capable of. Walter is presented with the question that we all find ourselves struggling with sooner or later: "This is injustice. What do I do? Shrink or fight?"
There are some politics in THE VISITOR, but it's not a political movie. It's a movie about a guy who is a visitor in his own home.
Richard Jenkins (nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this performance) is a face you'll know. He's a "That Guy." He's got 84 credits on IMDB, and I guarantee you've seen a bunch of them. But in this, he shines. There is no makeup to cover the pock marks on his face and no histrionics to demand Oscar voters' attention. He's just a guy, playing another guy. He won't win that Oscar - "That Guy" never does. But maybe he should. This is one of the most touching and real performances that I've seen in a long time.
THE VISITOR gets 4 and a half African Princesses out of 5.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
i had to tell myself walking into THE UNINVITED that i would not compare it to A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. i had to say it over and over. maybe 15 times. and now i will tell myself, 15 times again, not to write this review as a comparison to A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. i will only say this: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS made my top 5 of ’08 list. i watched it three times in a single day. of course, any asian original will triumph over the american remake - that’s just a scientific fact. so, with that said, let’s focus on THE UNINVITED.
frankly, i loved this film. plum loved it. and i can't wait to see it again in the theatre. in fact, i think this might be the best "i-see-dead-people" flick since THE SIXTH SENSE. whoa! that's right, people: i just said that. that just happened. she-bang.
what we have in THE UNINVITED is a story about two sisters who recently lost their mother in a freak boathouse explosion accident. the younger sister has been away in a mental ward dealing with the trauma of the experience. the film starts with her coming home to reunite with the family. still, months after the accident, the grief is outstanding, even though they live on a lake and can go dipping off the dock any ol' time they see fit. and they do. they swim a lot. but to make matters worse, dad has already shacked up with the hottie hospice nurse: the same hottie hospice nurse that was supposed to be watching mom when mom got blown up in the freak boathouse explosion. now the sisters fear their new mom is out to hypodermically sedate them and dice them up into ham chunks. the younger girl even sees little ghost kids who reveal to her that they got chopped up by the hottie hospice nurse back when she was a naughty nanny trying to hook up with their dad. the girls, utterly convinced by the ghost kids, stumble upon concrete evidence that stepmommy dearest is out for them: a pearl necklace belonging to the dead kids' mother. the goal then becomes to steal the necklace, expose the stepmom as the murderous nanny, or kill her trying. however, as all the narrative pearls fall in place, we find out that appearances are certainly deceiving and even boathouses can reimplode on a young girl's memory.
i ask you: what is not to love about this film? i jumped. i squealed. i grabbed nathan's arm. i bemoaned seeing a PG-13 film before bryan, texas curfew. all in all, i was pleasantly surprised that america pulled off the un-american: they reinterpreted an ancient asian folktale beautifully. and they made me glad to have actually spent my capital to gain it.
also, this emily browning - the loopy younger sister receiving the lipstick above - is no joke. seriously.
i easily give THE UNINVITED, void of all comparisons to the original, 4 shivering garbage bags out of 5. this one is well worth the ride.
(i'm working up the courage to write about character development in this film, but i know if i do it'll cause a genderific gussy of a fuss. so i'll refrain for now. just stay tuned. i might wheel around with some cinematically brilliant literary jewels.)