Obviously Losing

Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, September 30, 2007

No Country...

The Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men" is a great film. However, I'm not sure how great it is just yet... is it great as in a thoroughly assured and captivating genre pic, or is it great as in being something that deserves to be viewed ten years down the road?

A second viewing should help clear that up.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recent Movies

I've seen a plethora of movies lately, and the marathon doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon. I'm seeing "Juno" tonight, "No Country for Old Men" tomorrow night, and "American Gangster" next week. I'll post my opinions of them in due time.

For now, here's what I've seen recently, with uber-brief reviews:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Quite a perplexing film... I still don't know exactly where I stand on it. It's handsomely shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is locked for an Oscar nomination and may finally win (although I got a feeling "Atonement" will offer serious competition).

"Jesse James" is an intriguing character study on the nature of celebrity and hero-worship, and it contains a bizarre but captivating performance from Brad Pitt and a remarkable performance by Casey Affleck. It's a movie that moves leisurely, taking its time to examine people's faces, the odd details in a landscape, the tangential characters who complete the whole picture.

And yet, at 160 minutes, it's a movie that's dying to lose 20 minutes. Especially during the middle act, the film loses its way by almost completely ignoring its title characters. Only during the last hour does the film pick up momentum, and the film's coda is a fascinating look at how fame evolves in unpredictable ways.

It really could be such a better movie, and yet, here I am still captivated by its guts, its pretensions, its refusal to play it easy. A 140-minute "Jesse James" would have been a masterpiece; as it stands today, it's a very good, sometimes great, sometimes silly, freak of nature.

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

Lust, Caution

Strangely similar to "Jesse James," not in content but in its deliberate pace and 160-minute runtime. Yet, Ang Lee's Chinese espionage thriller is more gripping than the aforementioned western. The movie progresses effortlessly, as if Lee knows exactly when every transition should occur, exactly how every shot should be executed. And Wei Tang, making her screen debut, is a revelation. She deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, as does Alexandre Desplat's score.

As for that NC-17, it's questionable whether the film truly deserved the rating. Oh yes, there is sex, but I don't exactly think kids under 17 will be trying to get their nudity fix through a 2 1/2 hour Chinese Mandarin movie.

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

Across the Universe

A misfire, to be sure, but one that occasionally dazzles. The first half of this musical works very well - the songs fit the script, there are scenes of (gasp!) dialogue, and the characters are fairly likable. But as soon as Bono appears in a hallucinogenic cameo, the film plummets into a series of inconsequential music videos. The dialogue scenes disappear as we are treated to contrived situations that exist only so more Beatles songs can be crammed into the narrative (hey, there's a plate of strawberries, well, yeah, let's sing "Strawberry Fields Forever" now).

And it hurts me to say it, but the Eddie Izzard segment ("Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite") is an appalling mess. Not only does it amount to nothing, but it's filled with digital backgrounds of astonishing crudity, and Izzard, who I love as a comedian, talks his way through the song as if he knows it's something worth getting done with as quickly as possible.

The most basic problem with "Across the Universe" is that there is only so much one can do with the Beatles catalogue. Unlike "Moulin Rouge," which sorted through decades of pop music to find the most applicable songs, "Universe" is stuck with a limited song set. You don't feel the strain during the first hour, but it soon becomes apparent that Julie Taymor ran out of ideas of how to incorporate the rest of the music.

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Reservation Road

I'll have a review of this in the Daily Trojan, so until then, mum's the word.

3:10 to Yuma

An entertaining, gritty western with excellent turns by Bale, Crowe, and Ben Foster. That's really all that needs to be said.

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg is always an interesting director to watch, and there are individual scenes in "Eastern Promises" that are exciting for their audacity. Viggo Mortensen is, quite frankly, perfect.

The problem is the story, which expects us to believe that Naomi Watts' innocent character would actually get caught up in the Russian mafia world. She works as a hospital midwife, and when a young girl dies during childbirth, Watts steals the woman's diary so that she can track down the girl's relatives.

Are we to assume that there is not a standard protocol for how hospitals handle the possessions of someone who dies there? Clearly, the diary should have been turned over to the police. I just find it too hard to swallow that Watts would feel it was her personal responsibility, as midwife, to track down this girl's relatives, and as a result, get caught up in some very dirty business.

But the naked Viggo fight in the men's spa ... wow.

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

The Kingdom's opening credits

I still don't have much of an interest in seeing Peter Berg's "The Kingdom," but I have to admit that the film's opening title sequence is truly incredible.

Click here to watch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Mean Kitty Song

Saturday, September 15, 2007

In the Shadow of the Moon

I admit I'm a sucker for anything about outer space. It's probably why "2001: A Space Odyssey" is my favorite film. There's something about exploring the vastness of space that grabs me - the universe's ability to make us feel simultaneously unique and insignificant in the large scheme of things, and its ability to remind us of all the unknown mysteries still out there to be discovered. And, despite mankind's current (and troubling) disinterest in space exploration, it still is the next logical hurdle for our species to conquer on our journey of ultimate self-fulfillment.

So, I went into David Sington's documentary, "In the Shadow of the Moon," knowing that I'd most likely enjoy it. I also went in thinking I knew pretty much everything there was to know about the Apollo missions.

I was wrong. I may have known most of the details, but I had failed to consider how life-changing these missions were for their occupants. These astronauts are the only people to have ever stepped on a celestial body, and that is a triumph unlike any other. It's a triumph that makes all the bickering, all the wars, all the silly political skirmishes that occur today seem trivial. For a brief moment, humankind had a collective goal to reach into the unknown and achieve something that will forever be a hallmark of our species' history. When and if other civilizations talk about mankind's accomplishments, landing on the moon will be at the top of the list.

"In the Shadow of the Moon" captures this joyous moment in a way that's wholly satisfying, emotional, and awe-inspiring. To listen to the surviving astronauts' stories is a genuine pleasure, especially since they all are still such intelligent and witty gentlemen. I especially appreciated their philosophical asides - their realization that their accomplishments were greater than themselves.

It took impeccable technology and an unwavering spirit to reach the moon, and after seeing this film, you will leave with an appreciation for both.

Rating: **** (out of ****)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Elah articles

My feature article on "In the Valley of Elah" is here.
My review of the film is here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Baby's First ROFL

Saturday, September 08, 2007

There Will Be Blood, Trailer #2

The new trailer for my most anticipated film of the year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Radcliffe Speaking

I chatted with Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) this evening at the premiere of his new movie, "December Boys."

Daniel was being surrounded by fans, and yet, the PR people (God bless them) pulled the actor aside so that I could have five minutes to ask him a few things. As our conversation continued, I felt the jealous and angry stares of nearby Potter fans, who were probably wishing I'd drop dead so that Radcliffe would be freed from my possessive grasp.

I now more fully understand Radcliffe's first few words to me. I told him that I was sorry to pull him away from his fans, and that I'd only take up a few minutes. He quickly interrupted me and said, "Oh, no, thank you so much." He glanced back at the crowd of people who were eyeing him like he was a juicy piece of steak, and then he looked back at me and said, "Please take as long as you like."

Alas, the downside of being the most famous wizard in the world.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Doberman Slide

I could write a dissertation on how this video is a metaphor for life.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Flight of the Conchords - Bret's Dance

This made my night last night.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Movie Theme Songs

These are great...