Monday, March 06, 2006

Movie Mon. - Best. Oscar Host. Ever.

As usual, I was disappointed with the majority of the winners of the Academy Awards last night, but while I was let down by both of the Actress awards, I was happy that Crash took home best picture, although that has more to do with it being the only one of the nominated films I've seen so far than anything else. The highlights of the evening had to be the fake Oscar smear campaign ads ("Dame Judi Dench put out my eye in a bar fight"; "Charlize Theron nominate two years in a row for that old trick: hagging it up"), Will Ferrell and Stephen Carell's make-up jobs, Jennifer Garner's trip-up and smooth recovery ("I do my own stunts"), and every single time Jon Stewart opened his mouth.

Only one of this week's reviewed films was nominated for an Oscar, although the first one up would be a shoe-in if there was a "most snooze-inducing" category. Click here to see what film is a great cure for insomnia

Separate Lies: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Stodgy, plodding, coma-inducing film about a man who has to figure out how to handle the news that not only is his wife cheating on him, but that she was involved in a hit-and-run while doing so. Like Emily Watson, like Tom Wilkinson, like Rupert Everett, but even with the combined acting prowess to bolster it, this film drained my will to live.

Janice Beard: 45 W.P.M.: Quirky British comedy about a quirky temp with a tendency to spin tall tales whose attempts to find a full-time job to help pay for treatment for her agoraphobic mother are jeopardized by industrial espionage. Often amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny, it was the likeable characters that kept me involved in this one. Was it just me, or do the speech patterns of the masterminds behind the espionage remind anyone else of villains from a Neil Gaiman book? And yes, that's a rhetorical question, since the odds of anyone reading this blog having read Neil Gaiman and also seen this movie are slim to none.

North Country: A film inspired by the story of the first class action lawsuit for sexual harassment in the U.S., starring Charlize Theron as the mine worker who becomes fed up with her treatment by her male co-workers, only to be ostracized when the other women, fearful for their jobs, don't back up her claims. I enjoyed this movie a lot more when I thought it was following a true story, rather than cobbling together bits and pieces of truth with over-the-top button-pushing plot points: as a true story, Theron's character's history gives her weight; as a total fabrication, it smacks of Lifetime Movie of the Week; similarly, the final court room sequences are so contrived and melodramatic (especially the "I am Spartacus!" moment) that they took me completely out of the film. Which is too bad, because the performances of Theron, Frances McDormand, and Woody Harrelson are all top notch, almost enough to redeem the film for its manipulative aspects. I'd say I enjoyed about 9/10 of the movie while watching it, which is more than I can say about a lot of films I've watched recently.

Domino: A movie very, very, very loosely based on the life of model-turned-bounty hunger Domino Harvey, whose death right before the film's release helped amp up the hype surrounding it. This movie wound up on a ton of "Worst Movie of the Year" lists, which I don't quite get; far from a great film, and I doubt I'd ever recommend it to anyone, but I'm sure there are plenty of films worthy of much greater scorn than this one. For me, the film's biggest flaw (aside from the annoying echoing voice-overs) was its muddled plot, which was hampered by one too many scenes that did little to nothing to advance the narrative; while I actually enjoyed the scene where Mo'Nique's character popped up on Jerry Springer to demonstrate her mixed-race labels ("You're half Chinese, half black: you're a chinegro"), it felt out of place in this film, and ground the movie's momentum to a halt. There were enough enjoyable ideas and scenes to make me glad I watched it (such as the presence of Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering as "celebrity hostages"), but fair warning that the jerky cinematography could give those with motion sickness problems.

Solitude: Indie drama about a dysfunctional brother-sister relationship. Don't waste your time; can't think of a single scene, shot, or snippet of dialogue that stood out as above average.

Edge of America: True story of a black English teacher hired for a school on a reservation who is then pushed into coaching the horrible girls' basketball team; as can be expected of such films, his influence changes their lives. While pretty much a paint-by-the-numbers rags-to-riches sports movie, the setting of the Indians reservation school and the resultant culture clash with the coach helps set it apart from the usual fare.

Memory of a Killer: Belgian thriller about an assassin with Alzheimer's who turns on his former employers when he finds out they're targeted a 12 year old girl, and the detectives who are hot on his trail. A well-done movie, overall. I did feel a trifle lost at times, due to my unfamiliarity with the specifics of the Belgian law enforcement set-up: was the enmity between the detectives and the gendarmie supposed to be typical, sort of like the usual "local law hates the FBI and vice versa" of American film? Or was it a product of the warring personalities of Vincke and his counterpart? If the former, I'd be more willing to accept it, I think; I tend to get annoyed with the whole "cops holding out on other cops for personal reasons" plotline, but if it's supposed to indicative of a long-standing feud, then it goes down easier. A minor gripe with an otherwise enjoyable film.

Rent: While watching this adaptation of the award-winning musical loosely inspired by the opera La Boheme, I kept getting annoyed the director's choices, such as spreading the first act over three days instead of one, or turning dialogue that was sung in the play into regular speech in the film, or cutting some pivotal plot points while stretching less consequential scenes out; for example, did we really need the Sarah Silverman scene? I mean, Sarah's funny and all, but was it really more necessary to show that than to expand on Benny and Mimi's past? Hoping to get some answers, I listened to the commentary, during which director Chris Columbus succeeded in making me more frustrated with his rationalizations for all of the above changes and more; I'm sorry, but having April die of AIDS rather than suicide because she had AIDS does have an impact on Roger's motivations, not to mention the fact that her decision to give up on life is in exact opposition to the film's central tenet of forgetting regrets and focusing on the joy of each moment in life. As a victim of the disease, she's just a sad plot point; as a suicide, she's an example of the dark road despair can lead you down. Honestly, I wasn't even that bugged about that alteration until after I heard the commentary; I'm sure you can imagine how annoyed I was by his "explanations" about the things that did bother me from the beginning. But, all of that is coming from the perspective of someone who is very familiar with the original work; those less familiar (or less picky) will probably enjoy it more. Which is not to say I hated the film; there are some great performances, and the music is as catchy as ever, although Maureen's "Over the Moon" performance art piece is nowhere near as funny as it was when I saw it on stage; again, I blame the director, who wanted to tone down Maureen's goofball nature to make her seem more "credible" to the audience, so that they might see her as a "realistic" threat to Benny's project. After all, I know that what I look for foremost in my films about entire neighborhoods bursting into song at the drop of a hat is realism. *sigh*


G said...

Don't hate on Sarah Silverman.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Well, G, if you'll notice, my comments weren't directed as much at Ms. Silverman as they were at the screenwriter and director.

/not hating the player, hating the game

Flunky lover said...

I really enjoyed this Oscar as well. I'm a huge fan of Jon Stewart so I actually watched the whole thing. I don't think I've ever done that before. Flunky really enjoyed the gay cowboy clips.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Flunky really enjoyed the gay cowboy clips.

. . .

Yeah, just going to let that one slide this time