Thursday, June 30, 2011
James Coburn is a current (or former, not made clear) CIA agent who possibly played both sides of the fence. His current cover is a Harvard economics professor, and, surprise, he suddenly gets appointed to be the president's economic advisor. Only four associates know his true identity and shady dealings, so he sets out to eliminate them all in one night. Not by doing the job himself, but by having the four (unbeknownst to them) knock each other off in a series of elaborate plans concocted by Coburn. A great fucking idea, all carried off with sinister, 1970s panache. Just when the film starts to lag (There is a love story with Lee Grant that is annoying and totally unnecessary) it starts cooking again. One of those modest, under-the-radar movies that if you came across it on late-night television, would keep you up until the end credits. This is overdue for a re-make.
Robert Duvall is the town hermit who, with the help of of local undertakers Bill Murray and Lucas Black, wants his funeral held while he's still alive, and invites the entire town so he can come clean about his past. This is a little slow to start, director Aaron Schneider has a lot of scenes at the beginning with the crotchety and bearded Duvall putzing around his ramshackle property and bickering with an elderly stubborn mule, all accompanied by obtrusive guitar twangs on the soundtrack (Boing!). The acting saves it. Bill Murray doesn't seem believable at first, turns out this is a conscious acting choice, he's quite good. Black brings a nice simplicity to his role, and Sissy Spacek is her usual, great self. The real point of this is Robert Duvall's wonderful performance, and the reason this ended up being a moving experience.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Documentary from Charles Ferguson about the people responsible for the global financial crisis. I don't know a derivative from debenture, so this film actually made the whole process, and how it went wrong, totally clear. That's about it. The film has a nice energy to it, I suppose. But it's just another documentary that is contributing to my "outrage fatigue". This whole mess put fifty million people worldwide out of work and plunged practically every nation into debt. So what happened to these guys? They were appointed to powerful government jobs and professorships, and given huge bonuses. Barf.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
By now, anyone who reads this blog (all six of you) have either seen this, or have no intention of seeing it. George VI had a stammer, it was WWII, some Australian guy helped his stammer, Oscars all around! Colin Firth can produce real tears, a rarity for most male actors. They are probably tears of gratitude for landing this role, for he finally gets a chance to command the screen (he's usually the milquetoast off to the side or the loser in a love triangle). Helena Bonham-Carter comes up empty once again. Geoffrey Rush is likable as always. I was resistant going in, this is such obvious Oscar bait, and there's lots of showy and distracting camera work. But I gave in, I let myself be manipulated. Much like a visit to a chiropractor. I suspect the positive effects will wear off in a few days.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Jim Carrey plays real life con man Steven Jay Russell who falls in love with fellow prisoner Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor, can you blame him?) in the directorial debuts of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. The events are so unbelievable that if they didn't actually happen you'd cry "bullshit". Russell managed to break out of prison half a dozen times just to be with the man he loved. The absurdity level is played up of course, but there are moments that have a genuine tenderness. Both actors are committed to their characters wholeheartedly, though Carrey squanders some scenes by being a spaz. The problem is tone, really, and the gaping differences that occur when a natural actor (McGregor) meets a natural comic (Carrey). Many scenes work, some don't. Interesting, but a mixed bag.
Documentary on the state of America's public schools from director Davis Guggenheim. The public school system, as you may have guessed, is a monstrous bureaucracy where children are statistics, not people. The Teachers Union was an entity I'd always liked, because, at least in Chicago, they were always going on strike, and that meant an unexpected and welcomed vacation. In actuality, they are a Teamster-esque brick wall insisting on jobs for life and automatic raises in their contracts. How well would you do at your job if you couldn't be fired and kept getting raises? I'd probably sit there and read Entertainment Weekly while I forced students to darn my socks and balance my checkbook (in silence, of course). The sad thing is, if you are a smart kid, and also happen to be poor, you're really fucked. There are heartbreaking scenes of parents desperately trying to get their kids out of the system and entering lotteries to gain attendance to private or charter schools. All this affirms what many of you have no doubt noticed just by looking around: people are getting more and more ignorant.