BlueJasmine

I have made no secret that one of a handful of my favorite movies of the 21st Century is Woody Allen’s Match Point. I liked Midnight in Paris (2011) a lot. I enjoyed Cassandra’s Dream (2007), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and To Rome with Love (2012). But, for me, 2005’s Match Point is Allen’s 21st century masterpiece.  Why?  Well, it’s not Allen’s usual depressed, anxious and, at times, tedious schtick.  That worked fine in his early films, ala Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) but over time, it just got overdone and overused.  Also, Match Point is far from Allen’s usual comfort zone…it’s NOT set in New York and it’s not a comedy —in any way.  Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) also can be seen as an Allen drama, as could Interiors (1978) and September (1987), but those still have some of Allen’s trademark nervousness (Crimes and Misdemeanors even features Allen in a role where he acts in his usual Allenesque way).  Match Point does not feature any characters with serious neuroses. Yes, they are troubled but they are troubled in a calm, passionate way…not in a psychological, overly-emotional manner.

So, what do we have in Blue Jasmine, Allen’s latest film?

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The Aviator is a good film. It is the kind of film that has epic qualities…large scope, vast landscapes, array of characters, historical, romance, action, drama…things that Lawrence of Arabia and more recently, Braveheart have. But, an epic by Martin Scorsese is guaranteed to have at least one other thing…quality. Basically a biopic of billionaire Howard Hughes in his early movie-making and piloting days, Scorsese choose Leonardo DiCaprio to play his Hughes…and even though my feelings are highly mixed on DiCaprio (basically, I don’t like him as an actor), I admire how Scorsese uses DiCaprio in this film and the chances the actor takes with the role. Though DiCaprio is good, what makes this film a grand epic is the way Scorsese shot it. When Hughes is working on his Hell’s Angels film, Scorsese is able to capture both of determination of Hughes and the danger of the stunts on the screen. Yet, when Hughes’s character retreats into himself and shows the first stages of the recluse he will become in later years, Scorsese also captures that using his camera…the inner pain and turmoil of Howard jumps out at the audience, even though often there is no dialogue to indicate that. In recent years, Scorsese has steered away from making personal films about New York and/or Italian-Americans, such as his earlier works like Raging Bull, Mean Streets, and Goodfellas. Even 2002’s The Gangs of New York, though about his hometown, felt less personal and more epic in scope. The Aviator might not be Scorsese at his best, but I would take his “epic” films any day of the week over some other films out there.

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All I had heard about this movie is that it’s about a man who gets younger, rather than older. And that is an important part of the film…but it is far from the crux of the film. The film, at its true heart, is a love story, which is well-done, not contrived and very well plotted. This surprised me for several reasons. David Fincher is not exactly the “go to” guy for your Hollywood love story. He’s a action/thriller/gritty/dark director who’s films always have an edge. Here, I feel Fincher’s edge is the fantasy of the aging backwards gimmick, since the love story he creates is simple and gentle…a touching masterpiece of on-screen romance. This is the type of love story you would see with Tracy and Hepburn…magical and real. It reminded me a little of William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, which, like this film is known more for another aspect of the film (in Wyler’s case, his movie is known more for being a comedy) than for the more touching, more vivid true sentiment of the film. Fincher’s fantasy aspect adds emphasis to the love story, just like Wyler’s comic aspects of Roman Holiday accentuate the doomed relationship between Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. In addition to this multi-layered story, the performances by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have never been better…especially Pitt, who convinces us every step of the way that he really is a man who was born old and will die young.

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