Sometimes a movie comes and changes your world. I would like to say that this movie made me a better person, but I think that would be a fantasy. It did, though, move me. It reaffirmed my faith in movies and moviemaking and acting. No action here. No sex. No blockbuster styling or CGI. Just a touching story that is perfectly acted, simply directed, and one of the best movies I have seen all year…if not even longer than that. The main character here is Walter, a stuck-in-a-rut Connecticut college professor and widower who craves some “music” (meant both figuratively and literally) in his life. We see him in the beginning taking piano lessons. He’s not that good…but we can tell he wants to keep trying. He is a complacent person who we can tell is looking for something. But, what? He is so complacent he even balks at going to NYC to deliver a paper he co-authored (though he had little to do with it, apparently). In NYC, he finds a couple living in his apartment. This couple is Walter’s salvation. They are the “music” he has been looking for. I’m making it sound like Walter’s change is overnight. It is not. He’s a middle-aged man who is set in his ways and it takes time and energy to get him out of his rut. Though Walter’s transformation is a positive change, this movie does not paint everything in a rose-colored light. This is a tough world…dirty and stark. Walter’s awakening is just one ray of sunshine. But, what a ray it is! If there is a movie to change your world, this one just might be it.
Music, Movies & More
I didn’t like Leatherheads much the first time I saw it. It’s a sweet film, but it’s uneven. Is it a sports film? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a screwball comedy? Is it a period piece? Well, it is all three…plus more. Seeing it the first time, I didn’t like that about it. Seeing it a second time, I began to realize that no matter what type of movie it is, it’s a good film in all of its many genres. Clooney plays “Dodge,” an aging pro football player before pro football became what we know it today. Back in the 1920s, it was college football that was the King and pro was college’s illegitimate big brother. Pro games would be successful if they got a hundred or so people to show. College games would pack the stadiums. Unlike today, if you are a college football star, a future in professional football was not a good career move. Dodge took that path. And slowly watches as the other pro teams around him fall to bankruptcy. He sees a college football star, who also happens to be a war hero, as professional football’s last resort…a player who will come in and bring crowds with him. It works, but then it backfires, but then it works. Enter a reporter who is trying to take down said war hero and you have an interesting mix of characters and genres. It’s not the best movie of the year but it’s fun.
The ladies are all back…with their beaus…and they’ve all hit NYC by storm once again. I was never THAT into the show – I had seen an episode here, a clip there – so I was worried if that would effect how I liked the movie. Well, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) does a nice recap in the beginning of the film that pretty much makes sure fans and novices alike are relatively on the same page. And after that, WATCH OUT! It’s a wild ride of emotions, fashion, music, posing, clubbing, love and hate. The major critical complaint about this one has been that it’s too long. But, I would disagree with that, saying that the time passes quickly and there really are never any lulls. Another criticism I’ve heard is that it’s shallow. HELLO! The TV series was shallow! So, did we really expect the movie to become this deep, philosophical study? We would not go see something like that, but we would see this…something fun and light. This is not a heavy movie. It’s a good movie for girlfriends to see together and compare notes about after. It’s not going to come up on Oscar night (except maybe for costumes!). It’s fun. Just like the show was. We really wouldn’t have wanted them to change anything, did we?
This is a warm, touching film that will warm the hearts of anyone. A VERY small Egyptian band heads to Israel for a concert and, on arrival, they discover no one is there to meet them. While looking for a bus to take, they meet a charming shopkeeper who offers to take them in for the night…since the bus won’t run until the next morning. Perfectly acted in just the right tone, this film shows how friendships and platonic love can be therapeutic for ailing loss. A sweet type of film not made often enough these days, sadly.
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.
A great movie that actually makes its audience think. I know — THE HORROR, THE HORROR. We have to THINK! A tough, hard film, Doubt is superbly acted and scripted. Why is it hard? Well, it deal with one of our most taboo subjects — priests and young boys and doing more than sipping the alter wine together. Meryl Streep places a nun running a school in the early 1960s. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the attached church’s priest. There is some suspicion about him with the alter boys, but Streep doesn’t have any proof. She just has her doubts. I walked out of the theater thinking I had just seen a good movie and that would be the end of it…but it stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did he or didn’t he? Did Streep’s nun do the right thing? What would have been a better solution? Etc… Sadly, most movies today don’t even make your brain click on. So, when one comes around where it keeps your thought processes going for days…it’s a keeper!
A fabulous, sweet romantic comedy that deal with father-daughter issues, aging issues, and later-in-life love issues. Emma Thompson shines as a woman in the middle of her life…dealing with a possessive mother and friends who continually try and set her up with Mr. Right. She meets Dustin Hoffman, a man in the midst of life crisis, and they befriend each other. When the idea of the friendship becoming something more surfaces, both characters insecurities get in the way, at first. A sentimental and pure story of love and relationships and how even though something might not be perfect, it still might work.
Billy Wilder’s comic masterpiece stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians who find themselves in the middle of the mob after they witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and manage to escape. To hide themselves, they pose as females in a traveling band, where they meet Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Cane, the all-girl band’s singer. Arguably the funniest movie in motion picture history, Lemmon and Curtis create comedy in this film just by wearing women’s clothes. But, Monroe, with her steamy, sultry performance, adds more than just cross-dressing humor to make this a well-rounded movie with more than a fair share of laughs.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson’s first teaming together…for this zany comedy which puts Day as a single interior designer who shares a party-line with a womanizing songwriter (Hudson). Through a mutual friend, Hudson finds out Day is attractive but she has already made her dislike for him known. When he meets her, he disguises his voice and makes up a name and identity to help lead her on. This film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it is truly deserved—a little dated by today’s romantic comedy standards but still a great funny movie with snappy, classy dialogue.
Director Otto Preminger really proved he was a filmmaker with clout by being able to make a film like this. Even in 1959, when Hollywood was actually THINKING first and making money second, this film was a risk. First, its dialogue gets pretty graphic (for the day). Secondly, much of the second half of the film is set ONLY in the courtroom, leaving the audience nothing to do than watch lawyers bickering and objecting. Preminger must have known what he was doing when he made this black and white, two-and-a-half-hour courtroom drama…because I dare you to take your eyes off this one for even a second. Yes, I said two-and-a-half-hours…much of it set in court with more dialogue than action. But, somehow, it works. It is a truly captivating film. James Stewart plays a quirky small-town lawyer who takes the case of an Army lieutenant who gets arrested for killing a man who allegedly raped his wife. We find this out right in the beginning and then the rest of the film is how Stewart goes about setting up his case and what steps he takes before and during trial. Sounds dull, right? Well, as I said, Preminger must have had magic up his sleeve for this one because this film is never is dull. It clips along through witness testimony and presented evidence, and all that legal fun stuff. And trust me, there is plenty of tension…I mean all along we’re wondering if Stewart is going to be able to achieve what he set out to achieve…getting Lt. Manion off for the murder…a murder Lt. Manion has NEVER denied he committed. But, it’s more than just a movie about suspense…it’s a movie about the process of the law…about how our justice system works and about how lawyers plug along and make their case. A fascinating film about a subject that could have been un-fascinating, if put in the wrong hands. Thankfully, Preminger’s hands were the right ones.