Yesterday, after a delightful lunch with my former work colleagues, I opted to cocoon at home all afternoon and went on a movie watching binge which ended with me seeing three of the five films up for this year’s Oscar “Best Picture” award. I also started The Painted Veil and one of the Academy Award nominated “Best Foreign Language” film, Mongol, as well. Why I started two movies not to finish either is a tad puzzling granted.
This film was written by a lass named Diablo Cody, which is an odd name granted but a perfect name for the writer of this quirky film built on the Little Miss Sunshine model. Directed by Jason Reitman and starting Ellen Page, it follows the pregnancy of 16-year-old Juno from conception to birth. While its all very well done, it is not certainly not Oscar-worthy. Juno is chock-a-block full of odd characters, living odd lives but remains real at its core – in a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sort of fashion. Page is hands-down the best thing in this movie (as she was in her debut film, Hard Candy, which is worth a watch if only to see a completely different side of her). The transition to the animated credits is also worth a shout-out. For taking the delicate subject of teen pregnancy and casting it in a refreshing, non-moralistic light, my rating of 7 out of 10.
As a story outlining the awful things that happen when we bear false witness, Atonement is brilliant. As a medium to giving Ian McEwan’s masterful novel a visual context, Atonement is also brilliant. What I found most interesting about the film, however, is its ‘craft’. Atonement is an over-directed film. Every scene is so competent and perfect; every ‘t’ crossed, every ‘i’ dotted. And while that makes for a velvety, rich, beautiful movie, it also hinders its ability to come across as real. And that’s where Atonement ultimately fails. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Celia and James McAvoy as her doomed lover, Robbie, Atonement plays like a good Masterpiece Theatre drama. Kudos to Christopher Hampton (Quiet American, Total Eclipse) for his excellent work taking a complex novel to a screenplay and to
Dario Marionelli for his perfect original score. For giving us an example of how to transition a novel from page to screen and for reinventing the Merchant-Ivory genre, my rating 7 out of 10.
The ever-pretentious George Clooney stars as Michael Clayton, a gambling addicted lawyer who stumbles into the truth behind a multimillion dollar settlement his firm is negotiating after the lead lawyer, a manic-depressive Arthur Edens (played with over-the-top gusto by Tom Wilkinson), suffers a nervous breakdown. Caught between his duty to the firm and the truth Edens has uncovered, Clayton is forced to chose which truth to follow; all the while being tapped and hunted (and eventually targeted for assassination) by the litigator (Tilda Swinton) of the very company, U/North, his firm is working for. Michael Clayton is a soft thriller built in the Silkwood/Pelican Brief vein. Tony Gilroy of the Bourne films directs with a steady hand bringing just enough life to Clooney to actually make you want to know how it all ends. Oscar-worthy yes; for bringing us a thriller that is both tight and intelligent. My rating 8 out of 10.