Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Single Man (2009)

An adaptation by first time director Tom Ford of Christopher Isherwood's 1964 book. A semi-autobiographical story of a gay middle aged man who loses his long-time partner in an automobile accident. The film takes place on the day he decides to kill himself. He looks at things knowing it's the last time he'll ever see them, and Ford accentuates and lingers on mundane yet miraculous details (yet we all know those little things are miraculous). It reminds me of my favorite line from Isherwood, his most famous: "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." It's a bit showy, something that is to be expected from a first time director. The clothing and decor is sumptuous, also to be expected from the former head of the house of Gucci. Colin Firth is perfect, his perpetual air of disappointment finally gets a proper showcase. So is Julianne Moore, capturing every fag hag who couldn't seal the deal with the queer she loved, she is magnificent with bitterness. Fetching details and an occasionally penetrating scene make this good, yet it comes nowhere near capturing the greatness of Isherwood.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Maid (2009)

A very good Chilean film about, well, a maid. I've always wondered how live-in domestics do it: no privacy, taking care of some one else's kids, cleaning the entire house top to bottom, and no life of your own. She spends her day off wandering around, wondering what to do with herself, as if she's been kicked out of her own house for the day. The family she's spent twenty years working for treats her as well as can be expected, they consider her part of the family, but she's really not, and she knows it. The isolation is starting to make her crazy, and she occupies her time with petty vendettas and tormenting any hired help that may threaten her position. We see her in the shower, like, ten times. I know it was intended to illustrate her lack of privacy or something, but if I had to look at her floppy tits one more time I was gonna mail the director a photo of my scrotum. This went places I didn't expect and was highly satisfying, it gets my highest mark: four areolas!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Messenger (2009)

Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster must notify the next of kin of soldiers killed in the Iraq war. Good performances and good intentions can't make up for a meandering emptiness. Families being told their loved ones are dead has built-in drama, and the rest of the scenes range from the obvious to the clumsy. A missed opportunity. You do see Harrelson's naked ass, albeit briefly...a ray of sunshine in an otherwise overcast day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sugar (2008)

Two complaints: First, even though a good portion of this sports movie takes place in a locker room, NOT ONE glimpse of male nudity. Second, the dvd was wonky and I was unable to view the last ten minutes of this pretty good movie. It's about a Dominican who is picked up by a minor league baseball team and heads to America. Lots of culture shock and lots of flirtation with his sponsor's teenage granddaughter. He starts making a name for himself as a pitcher with a killer slice, but after he's sidelined with an inj

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Reifenstahl (1993)

The horrible footageful documentary from...some German guy, I'm not looking up his name. Riefenstahl, for those of you not familiar, was the director responsible for "Triumph of the Will," the most famous and effective propaganda film ever made. A Nazi film so beautiful and sinister that it makes you mistrust beauty itself. She was arguably the most talented female to ever direct a film, until Nancy Meyers. She is a fascinating subject: The dancer who became a silent film actress, then became a brilliant director, then directing films for the Third Reich. After the war, she was imprisoned for a while, then exonerated (she never was technically a member of the Nazi party). She spent the last sixty years of her life trying to clear her name and get work. Either she's in complete denial, or her head was up her ass (It was just an assignment! We didn't know that Hitler was bad!) Either way, she's a bitch. I doubt she was ever that meek or naive, she knew Hitler and Goebbels intimately, and the filmmaker catches her in many lies. She blows her stack every time this happens, and the "kindly little old lady" mask (she was ninety when this was made) drops with a thud. The film feels like a dry "60 Minutes" piece that overstays it's welcome. It was engrossing for the first forty minutes, little did I know I had another TWO AND A HALF HOURS to go. She lived even longer than the running time of this movie, to age 101, still trying to get work. The personification of Aryan health.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

North Face (2009)

In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a whole genre of German movies called "mountain films." Mystical films that strove for some vague spirit of the mountains (I've only seen one of these: Leni Riefenstahl's bizarre "The Blue Light"). Director Phillip Stolzl tries to bring back the genre with this big budget German production. Based on the true story of a pair of ex-Nazis who try to ascend the last unconquered climb in the Alps: the north face of the Eiger. What starts off as a historical drama quickly becomes an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. That's a lot of hyphens. You really feel like you're there on the mountain. I don't recommend this if you're afraid of heights. During much of the movie my heart was in my throat, even a climber accidentally dropping his glove has the impact of a car chase. A limp (and fictional) love story is shoehorned in and most of the scenes off the mountain are not as effective. The whole argument of "Why climb a mountain? Because it's there" makes a little more sense after seeing this. Since a movie was made of these events, and the protagonists are Nazis, you can probably guess it didn't go well. Nazis are stupid.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Cove (2009)

Oscar winning documentary about Japan's whaling industry. I find I've been suffering from "outrage fatigue" lately, so the thought of watching dolphins being murdered for two hours was a little dispiriting. The filmmakers did a good job of not depressing the viewer more than was necessary. They instead presented this as almost an action movie, complete with special op missions, hidden cameras, espionage, and corrupt villains who poison small children. It's clear this was meant to be a call to arms, and on that level it was very successful. There was no postscript and no update in the special features, so who knows if this film changed anything. Let's hope all the effort put into this wasn't in vain. I know I'll never buy whale meat ever again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bay of Angels (1963)

Frothy French film from filmmaker Fracques Femy, err, I mean Jacques Demy. Stars Jeanne Moreau and Claude Mann as gambling addicts in love. It starts with one of the best opening shots I've ever seen: Moreau appears on a beach promenade wearing a Pierre Cardin gown, sand and debris blowing around her, then the camera tracks away at a hundred miles an hour while Michel Legrand's striking theme song hammers away on the soundtrack. From then on it's stolen glances, roulette wheels, broken promises, Nice and Monte Carlo. Demy is responsible for two of my absolute favorite films: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort. Perhaps my expectations were a little high; it was lovely, but no more.