Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Blind Side

I like a good sports movie. The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher and his rise from homeless Memphis teen to left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Actually, it is primarily the story of his high school life, where he is taken in by a rich family and he has to adapt to being a loved human. For some reason, for me the most moving part of the film is when Sandra Bullock stands in front of Michael and says "Don't you dare lie to me". How is it that something so simple can evoke such strong emotion. Otherwise, the film tugs on your heart and skates over a lot of reality in order to do so. But this is fair since we don't go see sports movies for reality... we see them to to be inspired. If you want to feel good about people, this is worth your 90 minutes.
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Being There

Hal Ashby (of Harold and Maude fame) gives us another quirky comedy/commentary on social dynamics. Peter Sellers plays Chance the Gardener. Chance is an uneducated man who has spent his entire life as a gardener behind the walls of the estate of a wealthy Washington D.C. man. When the man dies, Chance is thrust into the modern world of 1979 to fend for himself. And in order to be prepared for this big change, he takes with him his most valuable coping tool, the TV remote control. Chance ultimately connects with wealthy socialite Eve (Shirley MacLaine) where he can again be safe behind the walls of an estate. I am not sure if the intent was pure comedy or political satire, but Sellers Forrest Gump-like move into politics may be a more realistic picture of decision-making than we like to admit. Not hilarious, but clever and cute.
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I've loved you so long

This 2008 French film has won lots of awards (often for Kristin Scott Thomas as Juliette) and they are well deserved. We meander the paths of grief, relationship and reconciliation with family and with self as Juliette guides us back into life after an unmentionable past. Characters and viewers alike are walking on eggshells to begin the journey toward transformation as Juliette reunites with her sister. In the end, the story wraps up very nicely. Perhaps even too nicely which makes the subsequent reconciliation a bit too palatable and too easy. But the internal struggle that Juliette engages is very real, difficult and worthwhile.
4 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Single Man

You have heard me rave about the love story portrayed in Chris and Don (here and here) and now we have another Isherwood inspired story that left me surprised at the depth of emotion shown on screen. Based on a novel by Isherwood, here we have Colin Firth playing George, a university professor in the 60's who is grieving his partner. The entire film is from George's point of view with only an occasional flashback to remember Jim. George is not "allowed" to grieve the loss of his love since homosexuality is still a closeted. Firth gives a master performance, with every expression, action and word mourning the vacancy in his life. Director Tom Ford does an excellent job as well in varying the color, focus and tone of each image to complement and accentuate emotion, without feeling like we are just being manipulated with cinematic effects. This is a rich and textured love story well worth seeing.
5 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham (i.e. George Clooney) is a traveling firer. That is, when companies want to fire employees, but don't want to face the music, they hire Bingham.. He flies in, fires the employee, and then flies out. It is a very personal and emotional job that Bingham is good at. A balance of detached professionalism and deeply personal life counselor. This connection with people he fires is about as close to a relationship that he has, as Bingham is traveling the motivational talk circuit on the side. His schtick? You are on your own and any personal belongings and or personal relationships can only weigh you down and hinder you from being who you truly want to be. Of course, the film has to develop into a story that challenges the core of Bingham's beliefs, professionally and personally. After watching this, the guy in the row behind be leans over to his companion and states "That has got to be the most depressing movie I have ever seen". I have to disagree. Bingham is truly struggling with what many people struggle: Who can I count on ... where is the meaning in my life. While he may or may not end up in the same place that you do, you have to admire that he is developing a personal philosophy, testing it out and modifying it as he gets new data. Clooney does an excellent job of displaying the juxtaposition of cynicism and care in Bingham.
4-stars (out of 5)