Okay, it’s fair to say in G’s absence I’ve gone a little overboard seeing films at the theatre and here at the condo. But, the 5th Annual Oscar Dinner is fast approaching (see Oscar Dinner 2008 here) so I’ve tempered viewing some of this year’s contenders with a few zip.ca films I zipped but hadn’t had a chance to see as yet.
So, here’s the movie’s I’ve seen these past couple days:
John Patrick Shanley directs the movie version of his own play that centers on the place where faith, doubt and certainty intersect. The story takes place in a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964 and concerns the battle between an old school nun, Sister Aloysius (played by the always great Meryl Streep) and her Vatican II supporting boss, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When a junior nun, Sister James (Amy Adams) mentions a concern she has about Father Flynn and the school’s only black student, Donald, to Sister Aloysius, the witchhunt is on. Doubt is a fantastic movie with fine, fine performances – Viola Davis as Donald’s mother in particular. The sermon Father Flynn gives (us all) midway through the movie is worth the price of admission itself. In the end, Doubt delivers a storyline that is current with enough smarts to have you leave the theatre thinking about how certain your own beliefs may be. One of the best movies this year gives it my rating of rating 9 out of 10.
Post Watergate and President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, all everyone wanted was an apology; an admission that Tricky Dicky did cross the line. It took British television host, David Frost, four interviews but he did succeed in getting the former President close to saying sorry. This movie dramatises that journey. In the hands of director Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon rolls on quite banally for the first two-quarters of the film before finally getting down to business and delivering some great movie making in the last third. This movie is made watchable solely on the astounding performance of Frank Langella as Nixon. His work is, simply, breathtaking. Bravo Mr. Langella. My rating 7 out of 10.
In the Shadow of the Moon
This excellent documentary, directed by David Sington and released at Sundance Film Festival in 2007, recounts a story we all know: the Apollo moon landings between 1968 and 1972. What makes this documentary special is its simplicity. Twelve men have walked on the moon; only twelve. And while we know their story, and while those of us old enough know exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969, hearing their story in their own words provides a new context to the achievement. These test pilots cum-astronauts have been forever changed by the experience for they have seen our world from a perspective we never will. In recounting their flights, you’ll be mesmerised by their journey and perhaps, just perhaps, see the earth and our responsibility for and to it in a different light. My rating 9 out of 10.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Based on a small handful of pages written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the story of a boy born an old man who inexplicably grows younger as he ages. It is a fascinating premise for sure and the tragic love story woven in its 2 hours and 40 minutes is exceptionally well done. Benjamin Button is played by the ever sad puppy-eyed Brad Pitt, and his love interest of 70 some odd years is Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. This reviewer entered the theatre wary of both Pitt and, of all people, Zodiac and Fight Club director David Fincher tackling a fantasy love story. But both succeed – Fincher more than Pitt – thanks to screenwriter (Forest Gump) Eric Roth. The lessons we learn of love and life as Daisy’s daughter, Caroline (played by Julia Ormand), reads Benjamin’s diary to her dying mother as Hurricane Katrina roars down on New Orleans, resonate with a truth so real it is sure to overwhelm all who see it. Bring someone you love to see it; and bring tissues. My rating 9 out of 10.
DeathNote 2 gives us another four episodes of this fascinating Japanese anime series and continues to follow young high school student, Light Yagami, as he descends further and further into murder and mayhem after finding the Death Note, a book which when a name is written in it, results in that person’s death. This set of four episodes focuses on the continuing cat and mouse game played between Light and the mysterious L, the detective who is working to bring the child killer to justice. The story is infectious and I can hardly wait to see the next set. Continuing with the tradition of fabulous, luscious anime married to an an utterly intriguing story, my rating 9 out of 10.
A Zed and Two Naughts
This thoroughly modern film starts with a swan crashing headlong into a car and killing two pregnant women and severely injuring the woman driving the vehicle. The husbands of these two women, Oswald and Oliver, are twins and, in an obsession with death and symmetry, start a bizarre journey with the car accident survivor, now disabled by the amputation of her leg. Amid this journey as with all Greenaway films, you meet some pretentious and strange folks, including a mad doctor who’s advice to the amputee is to amputate the surviving leg so it doesn’t feel lonely. You’ll meet a women obsessed with zebras and a zoologist obsessed with time-lapse photographing larger and larger animals as they decay … including, eventually, himself and his brother. A Zed and Two Naughts is a feast for the eyes and senses and while you see how the film will end from miles away, the sheer audacity of it all warrants my rating of 7 out of 10.
Matt Reeves directs this monster|alien version of Blair Witch Project complete with aggravating shaky camera action. The film focuses on a group of New York friends – none memorable – who end up in the midst of a battle royal in Manhattan the night a creepy monster|alien thingee, that sheds wee monster|aliens thingees like itself, arrives in New York City. Despite all logic, one of the ragtag bunch opts to film everything with his shaky cam as they flee the destruction. Probable? Hardly. The acting is miserable but the monster is neat – especially since the special effects had to be translated across the hand-held camera (no small feat) – and it was fun watching just to see how each principal would meet their inevitable end. The promotional title for this flash in the pan film was ‘Monstrous’ … and that about sums things up. My rating of 5 out of 10.