Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let's talk about these contenders...

I did it! I did it! I did it! Something I learned today: movies before noon on the weekends are only six bucks. Add that plus the free movie pass (which I get periodically just for having an AMC Moviewatchers Card and going to the movies...), I saw three movies for 18 bucks today. In this city, where the price is usually $12.50 for one, that's called AWESOME.

Back to the business at hand - I saw all three movies today and I have opinions on all of them. I'll try to be as brief as possible, as not to spoil anything (though I make no guarantees) and write about them in the order I saw them.

Revolutionary Road

Many people told me their opinion of this movie; one particularly stuck with me. At a bar one night, one of my guy friends said he'd seen it and that, like what most other people had said, it was depressing and dreary about relationships. He also added that Kate Winslet's character was certifiably insane, mentally unstable, and that he wouldn't be able to deal with someone like her. I replayed the preview in my mind and thought that it seemed to fit, and perhaps it has something to do with her mental instability and the dissolution of their marriage. Cut to today, seeing the movie, and the woman (living in 1950s suburbia) that Kate Winslet portrays is in no way mentally incompetent... these are emotional reactions to emotional issues: if she's crazy, then he is, too. Anyways - had to get that out.

The film is definitely an emotional wallop; even the quiet moments are full of questions and intensity. I didn't feel drained, though, I liked it. It provoked a lot of thought and kept me interested in the characters throughout - hard to do early on a Saturday morning. These performances are terrific: Leonardo DiCaprio continues to amaze (yo, when is he getting an award??), Winslet was perfect, as well as standout supporting actors like Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon. I was surprised I liked it. I was surprised I liked Sam Mendes' directing...and how reminiscent it was in themes and visuals as his previous Oscar contender, American Beauty. It was shot beautifully. The only thing that took me out of the movie was the piano-driven score - it reminded me too much of the piano parts in American Beauty's score. But it still fit into this film. In summary, yes, the movie was depressing and intense and the characters are nearly unlikable - but they feel real and not entirely callous, well, at least not all of the time. I liked it.

The Reader

I have a problem with the glorification of the male coming-of-age story. It's not the main plotline in The Reader, but it's there in this movie in the form of the main character, who is played by Ralph Fiennes in his older years. I found his character, the protagonist of the film, completely and utterly unlikable. In fact, pathetic. Let me back up; I liked the movie when it started and the way his character found himself having an affair with an older woman (Kate, again) and learning from the sex and the eventual love. I thought the rest of it sucked. Winslet, as always, phenomenal. But she was better in Revolutionary Road. The movie (or perhaps it's the story? I'm not sure, I haven't read the book...), never settles. There was too much being thrown into the mix in an illogical manner, and I think it comes off heavy-handed a lot. And at the same, the movie is boring. I don't even know how to explain all of this. It was awful. I can't believe it's nominated for Best Picture. Though I'm pretty sure Harvey Weinstein, the power producer, made that happen. I would have nominated Wall-E, Dark Knight, and Revolutionary Road over this tripe.

Ugh, I can't even post a picture for this movie because any image will just make me angry, I'm sure.


Based on a play, the film is obviously made for the actor's actor. Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman deliver wonderfully; I think it's hard for either of them to be less-than-great. They just are. The script and characters were great - the directing was a little, beginner-esque? There were definitely some elements that brought me back to my film studies classes, though it didn't ruin the movie or anything. What shines (and what rightfully is supposed to) is the writing and these nuns and priests and schoolchildren and their interactions. There's some humor here, too - that didn't happen a lot in the earlier movies, ha - and I think Amy Adams helps here, and will eventually be able to play characters that aren't always so high-pitched and...smiley. I like her, I do, from Junebug to Enchanted, and I'm really looking forward to Sunshine Cleaning, but she needs to start showing some range. She's more solemn here, as a nun in the 1960s, and it works. The other supporting actress nominated here is Viola Davis, who only has one scene to her credit, but plays the character wonderfully. She's a surprising element here. In the end, deserved nominations for all and especially to the script.

There it is. What are your thoughts? Feel free to disagree! I'd actually really like to hear the opinion of someone who liked The Reader, hahaha. Maybe I missed something?

I'll be posting my Oscar thoughts as they near and I finish up my movie-viewing. Last night Erica and I watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and while being Woody Allen-y (per usual), it was one of his more enjoyable movies. Though Erica and I agreed that Scarlett Johansson is actually not a good actress. I have a new hands crush on Javier Bardem, and now I also want to go to Barcelona and lounge about drinking fine wine and listening to Spanish guitar. I love Penelope Cruz, and she's a noteworthy performance here. Having seen all the other actresses' performances in her category, I think she deserves the win - though Viola Davis might be able to best her when they are announced. But more on that later!



I'm off to enjoy some reading...


  1. I agree with you on pretty much everything, though I haven't seen the Reader yet... I thought Leo was AWESOME, and I agree he is very overlooked as an actor. And no, she's not mentally unstable -- entirely. Let's face it, she knew what she was doing at the end, and she knew what might happen, and personally, I believe anyone who does that is mentally unstable by design (I am trying not to spoil!! I hope it was clear what I meant -- not what she tried to do makes her unstable, but what I believe her real motivation, was.) Doubt -- yes, directing was terrible. But how about that powerhouse scene at the end between Streep and Hoffman. A-mazing. Still undecided how I felt about Amy Adams though.

    Holy long comment Batman!

  2. I have yet to see all 3 movies, but I agree, when will Leo get an Oscar??

  3. i saw revolutionary road yesterday and well i don't know what i thought about it. it was pretty damn unsettling to me frankly.

  4. I remember watching revolutionary road and thinking that I would have a hard time living in that time. Yes I thought she was a little crazy but I understood why she felt so trapped.

  5. Emily - Yes, I agree with you concerning Winslet's actions at the end; but she wasn't mentally incapable. She was just unhinged. I might be too if I was living in that era faced with the prospects...I don't know, the movie isn't about ALL marriage, it was actually kind of comforting for me, knowing that it won't be remotely like that for me - or you! :)

    Chele - Leo!!!

    Alexa - very, very unsettling. I was quite in a trance after the movie ended.

    Ginny - Yes, I think the reason she was so unhinged (not crazy) was because of the constraints and social mores of the era more than anything. I'd probably feel the same way.