Archive for September, 2008

11
Sep
08

Me and You and Everyone We Know: Review

Meandyou “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”  We hear this often – yet when we go through Borders, it’s the covers that are so prominently featured.  And when it comes to my selection of movies, sometimes this is just what I do.  Actually, to be more accurate, in the case of Me and You and Everyone We Know, I chose a ‘movie’ by it’s ‘title’.

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy.  Netflix makes suggestions based on movies I’ve seen.  When this title showed up in my list of suggestions – for some reason I just had to add it to the queue.  And only now after seeing it do I realize that it’s not exactly a romantic comedy in the “Serendipity” or “Notting Hill” sense of the phrase.  It is much more akin to Garden State or The Squid and the Whale – both of which I loved immensely. 

On Wednesday night, I found myself with some time and a stack of 5 Netflix films.  The only reason why I chose this film was because of it’s short runtime (about an hour and a half).  After having seen it, I’m certain that this will probably end up being the best in film in the stack of films that I have to watch – and it may quite possibly be the best film that I’ve seen all year.

It’s difficult to categorize Me and You.  It has elements of romance, but it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a true romantic comedy.  It’s got some dark comedy elements, but it’s not in any way approaching the edge that Todd Solondz goes over.  And while it has elements of drama, it’s not a traditional drama either.  So what exactly is it?

Me and You has the “Independent Films Channel” credit before the film plays, and this is completely appropriate.  The best way to describe the film is that it is an independent film.  And this is a good thing.  It’s independent in many ways, but mostly in the way that I like – this is a completely original cinematic experience.  It’s strange.  It’s unpredictable.  And if you finish the film, it’s rewarding.

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01
Sep
08

2 Days in Paris: Review

2DaysInParis

It isn't odd that he's looking at her peculiarly. Or that she isn't looking back at him.

Not quite sure why I was persuaded to click the “Add to Queue” button for 2 Days in Paris. Maybe it was the typical romantic comedy image on the box?  Perhaps at the time I saw Julie Delpy’s name and remembered how much I enjoyed the two other films I’ve seen her in – Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  Whatever the motive, it showed up on Wednesday in my mailbox.

Sunday is always a good day for a romantic comedy for me, and so I popped it in.  The first thing I saw was the ‘Red Envelope Productions’ logo – a sign that the film is probably lower budget than normal, as this is the Netflix film production company.  So far I’ve seen two or three of their films and each one has been a bit informative, but lackluster and often times a bit too politically slanted.  It took some motivation, but I stuck it out.  And in the end, I’m somewhat happy that I did.

2 Days in Paris stars Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg as a couple who, having just left from Italy, are going to spend a few days – you guessed it – in Paris.  Adam plays Jack, who is not only the typical American, but the typical new yorker” in Paris.  He’s a rather annoyed guy.  The type to tell the movie theater attendant that it’s a bit too chilly in the theater.  This doesn’t help his plight much, as Julie Delpy plays “Marion” – his girlfriend for two years in New York who, as he begins to discover watching her in her natural habitat of Paris, might not be as faithful as he first believed.

This movie annoyed me a bit at first.  For one, it plays into all of the stereotypes about “Americans in Paris”.  We’re always bothered by their carefree lifestyles.  Stuck up and too uptight.  As we watch the plot develop, at first Jack seems a bit insecure.  However, (being a bit insecure myself), watching the story play out and watching as Marion has random French conversations with acquaintances, you begin to get the sense that Jack may be on to something.

Even at only an hour and a half, the film seems to drag a bit.  It’s somewhat depressing to see that this couple doesn’t seem to have the chemistry that they think they do.  You keep watching through peered eyes for the train wreck to happen.

As a brief aside, Julie Delpy – the lead actor as well as the writer/director – bears mentioning.  Her IMDB.com profile shows that she has been in a number of films, but clearly the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies are what she’s most known for.  In fact, considering the plot, I wondered if this might have been a sequel to the first two films before I watched for a few minutes and clearly realized that it’s not.  She’s a beautiful woman.  The camera really does love her.  And what’s better is that she’s not an “empty beautiful” – pretty and not much else there.  She’s intelligent.  She’s passionate.  But here’s the rub.  Her characters are a bit too passionate, perhaps.  While her ability to intellectualize and carry a conversation past the superfluous is attractive, you get the sense that she’s a bit of a handful in a relationship.  Strangely my suspicion extends beyond the celluloid, as (and this is completely unfair, but…) looking at her IMDB profile, I see that she has had relationships, but isn’t married.  Completely her choice and nothing to judge her by, but you do get the feeling that you know why.  And since this film is under her direction, one can draw the conclusion that she isn’t really able to effectively direct her own performance, so perhaps this is Julie that we’re seeing?  But, I digress…

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01
Sep
08

Heath Ledger and Daniel Day-Lewis: Two of Our Greatest Examples

Daniel Day Lewis When I first saw There Will Be Blood, I didn’t like it.  Well, truthfully, I kinda hated it.  I was in a rush to see all of the Oscar-nominated films and in contrast to the different and suspenseful experience that No Country For Old Men provided, this seemed incredibly bland.  I’ve since watched it again and I like it a bit better.  (Not in love with it, but it’s better.)

However, one thing stood true throughout both viewings.  Regardless of how bored I felt by the material, it was easy to stay engaged because of Daniel Day-Lewis’s acting.  I often get into arguments with my friends about how loosely they throw around the term “great actor”.  I get incensed because in my mind, being a great actor extends far beyond playing the same guy or girl twenty-eight different times – only turning up or down the intensity depending on the role.  This is what keeps me from labeling Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington (prior to Training Day) as truly great actors.  Don’t mistake my words: They are incredibly engaging and entertaining actors.  They are incredible at the roles that they play.  But in my book, a truly great actor is like a slab of clay.  If you return in a week after the director has guided their art through his vision, you will see a sculpture and barely recognize the clay.  As much as I enjoy Julia Roberts on-screen persona or Matt Damon or Ben Affleck’s personality, it’s a difficult task for me to reflect upon a role where they had truly stepped outside of their personality and shown us a completely different character.

By my description, there aren’t many people who I can comfortably label as great.  For me, great isn’t about who sells the most DVDs or has the highest per-theater ticket sales.  After all, one look at the best attended films for the past few years should make it painfully clear that people no longer want to be challenged.  They simply want to watch a two hour version of the trailer.  (I always kinda shake my head when the theater laughs at a joke I’m sure they’ve heard fifty times before during the commercial spot.)  This is not to knock other actors.  We need action stars and character actors.  Alfred Hitchcock used Cary Grant for a reason – once you saw him onscreen, he didn’t need to waste screen time selling his style and charisma to you.  In much the same way, when you see Morgan Freeman, you’re going to get witty, strong willed and benevolent.  He’ll do the right thing.  When was the last time Morgan Freeman played a whimp or an unlikable guy – and actually do it to the same level that he does the good guy roles.

My review of The Dark Knight was pretty much the same as everyone elses: we loved the Joker.  However, I really resented some of the criticism that I heard (of all critics – not just myself) in the days subsequent to the release.  “Would we be going ga-ga over him if he were still alive?”  “Was the performance really all that great?” The correct answers are, “absolutely” and “positively”.  There are clearly times when you make more of a person’s career because they died early in their rise.  Purely subjective, but for me 2Pac fits this bill.  As saddened as the country was over the death of John Lennon, I remember seeing the Grammys he received posthumously and even at a young age, I realized that these were probably “make-up awards” for other great albums.  But it bears repeating that Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker truly was remarkable and unforgettable.  It was more than just ‘the pencil trick.’  It was the walk. The attitude.  The timing.  It truly rose the bar for super hero movies.  And using my own definition of great, this fits the bill because I remember watching and not being able to find Heath ledger under the makeup.  Where’s the Hollywood hunk who kept adorning the cover of magazines?  I didn’t even seen any resemblance to the Brokeback Mountain character.  He did something incredible.  He morphed.

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