Thursday, June 25, 2009

What doesn't kill you

I am not philosophically opposed to movies without a story arc. I have been known to actually like and recommend them. For example, Kitchen Stories or The Grocer's Son. These films don't have a climax and resolution. Instead, they meander along, asking you to share a moment with them. And after the fact, you might realize that at some point a decision was made about your life. What Doesn't Kill You is another entry in this category. Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo are South Boston buddies. They grew up in the neighborhood working for the local gangster and never quite figured out how to make an honest living. There is no earth shaking event or epiphany of life here. Instead, we see a series of minor decisions and struggles. We see desire for change, frustration, love and self hate, aquiesence and just plain settling. In the end, this is an average presentation of these struggles which doesn't really inspire or illuminate in a new way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123

Denzel Washington v John Travolta. Seems like a good idea. But these two actors are getting too big. They both only seem to make movies in which they are the hero. Denzel is playing the same basic role as he did in Inside Man and Travolta plays his role as the hero, even though he is a train hijacking, hostage killing domestic terrorist. So the film was a little bit too smooth and too cookie cutter to be really interesting. On the other hand, I always like movies in which the location is essential to the plot and becomes a character. Here New York and its subway system is a minor character that probably performed as well as any of the others. Unfortunately, an inanimate minor character does not a great movie make.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Splendor in the Grass

Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood star in this 1961 coming of age story. Set in the late 1920's, the protagonists are high school sweet hearts struggling with "how far to go" and how physicality affects relationship. The social norms include two sets of rules: one for men and another for women, both contradictory. Probably the strangest part of watching this was how a gang rape scene was essentially condoned. At least in modern film making, the rapists would be seen as morally deficient. We also get to see some stereotypical parent-child relationships, where parents are completely out of touch or are completely controlling, or both. Funny how some stereotypes never change. I wonder what a modern telling of this story would look like, with hooking up and friends with benefits more the norm among teens? I wonder if current social norms now have one set of rules for both men and women?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A docudrama tracing the story of the Chilean rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes in 1972. Their story of survival and escape is amazing. Who knows what a person will do in a particular situation, and these characters filled the range. From just giving up, to developing an indomitable spirit, each character had to develop their own coping mechanism for this crazy situation. The fact that a couple of them decided to walk out (yes, that is right, they decided to walk out of the Andes) is ridiculous. But they did it. The film did a great job of capturing the emotion of climbing over a peak, hoping beyond all hope that they would see the end, only to see three more massive ranges before them. It also did a pretty good job of making the cannibalism decision a necessary evil, without dwelling on or sensationalizing it. And perhaps the best part for me was the humor. Mostly because that would probably have been my role, every so often someone would through out a one-liner that was completely inappropriate for the context that just broke the tension for a few seconds. I love that.