Friday, August 29, 2008

Longtime Companion

Filmed in 1990, Longtime Companion is what I would call a "historical drama", telling the story of the discovery and development of AIDS in the gay community of New York throughout the 80's. For the first 15 minutes of the film, I wasn't sure if I was watching a satire, or a comedy, or a drama. The script hits all the right points to highlight the stereotypes of the 80's. But over the course of the film, the members of the ensemble begin to contract "the gay cancer", and each of the group deals with their friends and themselves in different ways. The mood portrayed is one of confusion, fear and disbelief all mixed in with care for each other, determination and love. We are not dragged into blame or the depraved world of drugs and sex, but stay in the lofty realm of humanity. Learning to mourn our friends, laugh over their lives, and continue to live ourselves are all themes that make this a good film. And the excellent conclusion (in the living our lives category) includes an absolutely fantastic cover of YMCA by a baroque trio that I only wish would have been shown in its entirety.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

X-Files: The Pilot

I had never seen an x-files episode until tonight. I got loaned the first disc of season one, with a charge to "Watch it and Like it". I was promised real science. Well, Sculley did get her undergraduate degree in physics, so there was some hope that she would be the rational one in pursuit of truth. I hoped that this would be an example of two people, one chasing the paranormal and one chasing rationality. And of course I hoped that rationality would win. Alas, at least in The Pilot, my hopes are not realized. It only took about 20 minutes for Sculley to go over to the dark side and become a believer because of a bright light and two mosquito bites. Of course, I will give it a few more episodes, but if I had only ever watched The Pilot, I would suggest that it jumped the shark at that 20 minute mark. I have a sense that the real story is the internal struggle of Sculley to hold on to her rationality in the face of ever present "unexplained phenomena". An excellent series, in my mind, would be if these episodes were all very clever and yet ended with a very clever rational explanation for the mystery. Like I said, of course I will give it a few more episodes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Man on Wire

As my last official film seen in the Summer 2008 series, Man on Wire was a great choice. This documentary tells the story of the must-be-half-crazy french tight rope walker Philippe and his passion to rig a wire between the two World Trade Center towers and walk across. This film is intense, dramatic, and comedic all at the same time. The footage of several high-wire crossings leading up to the finale, as well as all the preparation is fantastic. At times I was breathless and gripping my seat, incredulous at the nerve of this man. Because it is a film which is able to interview and interact with the actual players, it reminded me a lot of In the Shadow of the Moon in terms of documentary quality and effect. One of the best films in this summers viewing list.

And since this particular blog was started in the middle of "Summer 2008", here is a complete listing for the record books. Forty-one, for those who don't want to count. And in true summer style, only two 5-star efforts, both of which where documentaries pretty far out of the main stream (note: even though Mostly Martha rates 5-stars, its stars were originally earned in 2001).

Prince Caspian - 2
The Forbidden Kingdom - 3
Reprise - 4
Ironman - 4
Sweet Land - 3
Superbad - 2
Sex and the City - 3
Speed Racer - 4
National Treasure, The book of secrets - 3
Focus - 3
The Fall - 4
The Air I Breathe - 1
Kung Fu Panda - 3
Crank - 2
The Incredible Hulk - 3
American Gangster - 4
Promotion - 4
Hitman - 2
Get Smart - 3
Mongol - 4
Mostly Martha - 5
Elizabeth - 3
The Golden Compass - 3
Exiled - 4
Wanted - 3
Shoot Em Up - 3
Hancock - 4
Persepolis - 4
Chris and Don: A Love Story - 5
Innocent Voices - 4
Batman Begins - 4
Raising Victor Vargas - 3
The Dark Knight - 4
War - 2
Caramel - 4
The Wizard of Oz (with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon soundtrack) - 3
The Great Debaters - 3
Out to Sea - 3
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - 2
Bottle Shock - 4
Man on Wire - 5

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bottle Shock

I really like Alan Rickman and Freddy Rodriguez, so it is no surprise that I liked this movie. Rodriguez does an excellent portrayal of Gustavo, the overlooked genius of a hispanic viticulturist who suffers in anonymity in the mainly white world of vineyard ownership. Come to think of it, this is the same role he played in Six Feet Under except as a mortician. So overlooked is Gustavo that he must make a couple of speeches to get his point across. I guess I don't mind speeches if I agree with them, but a truly excellent film would have made the point without the speech. I also am enthralled with the many overviews of vineyards. I like the order, the rows, the dust, the dirt, the fruit. Perhaps it reminds me of the rows and rows of corn that I just left in Guatemala, and couldn't get enough of. These long shots were beautifully filmed and pretty much made the film. And Alan Rickman, of course. "You don't like me because you think I am an arse. I'm not, I just British". It doesn't get any better than this. Overall, to really like this film, you need to either really like wine, or have a piece of farmer in you. Since the latter is true for me...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Maybe I was distracted, but I don't think Guy Ritchie quite has it. The heist and double-double-cross play out of this London underworld drama was clever. But even though I was also watching the olympics and futzing around on facebook, it seemed a bit pedantic. This film is trying to do what Slevin did do. The gritty style and nifty ending just said "I am trying really hard to be clever". Overall, a good movie to watch in the background, but nothing more.