Posted by blk1 on December 29, 2008
It’s hard enough to create a list like this, so I’m not going to make it harder by numbering them as well and I will try and keep my list manageable, okay? Remember, one thing, I see A LOT of movies during the year-at least one a week and often, more. We live part of the week in Paramus and frequent mall style multi-plexes, but on Sunday, as we finish up the weekend, we travel back to New York, and just over the Tappan Zee, we have more interesting options: the Jacob Burns Cinema and Cinema 100; havens for movie lovers.
So here goes:
1. Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood and Chris Carley. How often can you see a movie with a big star like Clint, working across from someone you’ve known and worked with from the time he was 14. That’s 16 YEARS! I’m teacher proud and it’s a very good movie on its own merits, but in this season of movie glut it becomes one more of the many good movies to see. It’s great marketing to feature Clint, looking very much like his Dirty Harry of old, but it’s much more than that, thank God. Lots of people will come for Clint and get a good dose of Chris as the priest.
I’m still thinking about the issues of race it raises. I hope Obama is really ready to take on race in America.
2. I’ve Loved You So Long & 3. Tell No One
Both of these movies are in French. Both feature Kristen Scott Thomas, who rose to stardom in The English Patient, (the first movie I saw with Tuvia) and then found movies that stretched her as an actor. She is the central character in I’ve Loved You… and we get to know her well as the piece unfolds slowly, authentically. She has been in prison for 16 years for murder of her 6-year-old son and her younger sister accepts responsibility for her. She opens her heart and home filled with her husband, young daughter and stroke-silenced father-in-law. It isn’t an easy adjustment for anyone, but oh so worth the time it takes to get to know each character and slowly Kristen’s story unfolds as she comes back to life. It’s getting award nominations and Oscar buzz for Kristen and hopefully it will move to more theaters. We saw it in one of our cinemas.
Tell No One is a French thriller that holds you captive for 2 hours and 5 minutes and you savor every moment. A young doctor is visiting his childhood summer place with his lovely, loving wife. They visit the lake they remember as children. They undress, swim and nap, wrapped together on a platform. It’s turning dark. She returns to shore. He lingers. She screams. He is knocked unconscious and falls into the lake. Eight years later a widower and lost without his wife, he receives an email from her: I am alive but Tell No One, they are watching.
In this piece Kristen has a great supporting role as the loyal, loving friend and she’s wonderful once again.
4.. The Visitor
Richard Jenkins, remembered for his recurring ghostly role in Six Feet Under, a popular HBO series, takes us on his unexpected journey that ends his widower’s life of sleepwalking.
Reluctantly he returns to his New York City apartment filled with lingering memories of his married past. Requested by his university department chair to present a paper he supposedly wrote with a colleague he agrees. As he opens the apartment door, he enters into the unexpected: fresh cut flowers on the dresser and a young, beautiful Nigerian woman in his bath tub. Zainab (Danai Gurira), and her boyfriend Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), immigrants from Senegal and Syria, are uninvited guests, unknowingly being exploited as illegals. Realizing that Walter is the rightful owner and dreading the law, they pack and leave with all their belongings. Quickly, Walter reconsiders and invites them back. Tarek, vibrant and alive, warms to Walter immediately and at the end of a conference day, he returns to his apartment and unexpectedly finds Tarek practicing on his drums. Walter, fascinated, hesitantly accepts Tarek’s invitation to drum along. Walter enters Tarek’s world and when Tarek is in danger, Walter steps up to this new friendship.
The Visitor concludes with questions raised about how we treat immigrants post 9/11. Walter is back in the world and we wonder what will happen next.
A small movie, it did get some serious play in many theaters and it’s too bad it isn’t remembered now by those voting for the annual movie awards. Oh well, I’m smiling and I remember it.
5.. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona
What an absolutely sexy, romantic romp of a movie in the golden Gaudi city of Barcelona. Wine for everyone and Javier Bardem for….me!
Woody scored with this one. From start to finish I was loving the experience, grabbing Tuvia’s hand every chance I could get. It took me back to a time when I salivated for another Woody Allen masterpiece: Annie Hall, Manahattan (my all-time favorite) Hannah and her Sisters…on and on and then lots of films that left me unsatisfied, remembering the past. And then I stopped going until Matchpoint and the one after that and still I walked out with Tuvia feeling cheated, not getting it.
But this one, I got! Two young American women accept a golden invitation to spend their summer in Barcelona. The dark-haired, serious, down-to-earth Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is engaged to a serious, safe and dependable guy back home. Christina (Scarlett Johansson) is still searching for adventure and passionate love. Juan Antonio,(Javier) a successful and colorful artist, likes both women and invites them to join him for a weekend of adventure and great sex. Christina accepts, Vicky comes along reluctantly. Both sparkle with Javier.
The movie moves along in its golds and earthy tones and when we least expect another surprise, surprise, Penelope Cruz arrives, as Juan’s ex-wife, Maria Elena and then Vicky’s preppy fiance joins the group to soak up the romance of the city and marry his Vicky there before their fancy formal event back home.
And the plot thickens as Woody keeps us guessing.
is another kudos for Penelope Cruz,where she is paired with Ben Kingsley. Based on a Philip Roth novel, maybe more auto-biographical, Ben Kingsley is a successful professor, author, interviewer, man-about-town, lover of the ladies. He is aging and is beginning to feel it. Penelope Cruz walks into his class and he is stricken and doesn’t realize just what this relationship has to offer him.
So far, you might be ho-humming this account, but remember, it’s Ben Kingsley working with Penelope Cruz and they transform a potentially cliched younger woman-older man affair into something that might leave you sobbing, tearing into the depths of your heart. Both Tuvia and I felt the authenticity of this piece and it still lingers. I hope others remember Penelope’s work in both pieces when Oscars are considered.
7.Rachel’s Getting Married
Rachel is Getting Married is a small movie. Most of it takes place in a big old farm house and Jonathan Deme probably had with a much smaller budget than some of his BIG flicks.
But this authentic movie took over every spot in my mind held weakly by Nicole and Hugh and big Australia. This “simple” story and its very layered characters held my attention. I want to remember Rachel in all it’s human sadness and self-preservation.
Great to see Debra Winger romp through her juicy moments as the modern mom and what a great piece of acting from the young Anne Hathaway. I’d like to see both actors on the Oscar scene for ’09.
8. Man On Wire
On August 7 (my birthday) 1975, wire walker, Philippe Petite strolled across the newly built Twin Towers.
I don’t remember where I was celebrating my own big day and I don’t remember anything about this daring and gorgeous act, but I will never forget reliving this moment as I watched this riveting documentary, directed by James Marsh, even with the shadow of 9/11 looming close once again.
A rag-tag group of young French and American 20 somethings planned and orchestrated, with their passion and the ’70′s spirit of adventure, Philippe’s walk across the Towers. A covert operation, under cover of night, draws a sharp contrast with the motivations of 9/11. How life has changed from the innocence of the 70′s.
Petite is the center of Man on Wire, as he shares his memories of his daring feat. He speaks with articulate animation that is as riveting as his walk. How smart he was to document his wire walker experiences. He has stills, video of his childhood, his early days on his home made wires and the romance that he brought to his passion that he shared with his circle of friends. His passion became theirs and that’s all documented.
What’s brilliant about the work of the film’s director, is his ability to put it all together weaving interviews from Petite’s group, merging the past and present reflections.
I was immersed in this piece, realizing that the documentary genre has become my own creative passion. I have great challenges ahead: an SI piece is in the making, a wedding this weekend.
This is a film to own and study.
9. Fugitive Pieces
Fugitive Pieces, The title felt familiar. As I read the blurb about a young Jewish boy who watches his parents murdered and his older sister taken by Nazi soldiers, he runs away and is found and saved by a Greek archaeologist who smuggles him out of Poland and on to a boat sailing for his home in Greece. It felt even more familiar.
As we sat, waiting for the movie, drinking coffee, it came back: a novel of prose and poetry, fugitive pieces of a guilt-ridden survivor. I read this book with my club I remembered how we all lingered with it.
The movie offered the fracturing of Jacob’s life and we had to follow it. It was authentic and painful and poetic in its narration. It made me ache with emotion. The novel made me ache. I remember.
Exquisite in its suffering and its salvation.
10. A Secret
Un Secret ( A Secret) took us back to WW II again. The focus was on Jews living in Paris during the war but it was less about the horrors of victims and more about the horrors of the living back home. The story, based on an autobiography written by Philippe Grimbert is told through the voice of a son, François, who in 1955, when the film opens, is 7-years-old a frail, which is hard on his father, who is passionate about his physical fitness and his mom who was once an Olympic swimmer.
As we moved deeper into this film’s world we move around in three time periods and sometimes that’s confusing. We begin in 1955, then up to 1985, when Francois is a grown man with a profession, a family and his aging parents. The director films this present in black and white. But he throws us a curve when he moves back in time to 1936 where a family secret is born in the midst of the Holocaust and Jewish persecution. It is the young Francois who learns about the secret when he becomes a teenager and the epilogue of film takes us full circle.
This is more a story about the lives of Jews who were able to survive the horrors of the camps by hiding across the border. And even though they are Jews, living in Paris in 1936, their lives are not just about the Nazis. They continue to live and deal with relationships. It is the young Francois who learns about the secret when he becomes a teenager and the epilogue of film takes us full circle.
This is an important film that moves us beyond the more typical issues of the Holocaust.
11. Then She Found Me
After watching a few interviews with Helen Hunt and listening to a few interesting reviews, Tuvia and I leapt for Then She Found Me and thumbs way up there from both of us.
Helen Hunt has been on hiatus, and I haven’t missed her but she has returned with a vengeance of passion to tell this story as a co-writer of Elinor Lipman’s novel, director and star of this unusual movie with lots of donated star power: Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler and even Salman Rushdie.
No one in this movie looks Hollywood-style glamorous. Helen( April Epner) is a 39-year-old-teacher, freshly married to her good friend Matt. She is desperate to be a mother. Teaching young children just isn’t enough. Adopting isn’t an option either, an adoptee herself. She wants her own child and it doesn’t help her campaign, when after a year, Matthew declares that he is not happy with his life and leaves her. Helen looks beaten down, thin, exhausted. Colin is sloppy and Matthew is a putz. Well,Bette is her bouncy self and Salman is a convincing gynecologist.
I don’t think that sharing more of the plot will move you any closer to seeing this one. Just take a leap of faith and you could be left as the credits roll, glad you did.
12. Iron Man
I watched a few Robert Downey Jr. interviews as he hyped the movie. He was he usual cool self, honest in an outrageous way. He was driven to play Tony Stark and convinced everyone that he was the only choice. As the revenues poured in, everyone was giddy with financial success: $100 million, $200, more.
It was nice to have him back along with Gwyneth Paltrow and a bit part for Terrance Howard. Jeff Bridges shaved his head to play the heavy, but everyone watched Robert D’s every brilliant, human move. Can’t wait for his next challenge.
And there’s more:
I never got to the play version of this new holiday movie, but finally, I got to see and love the power of great characters with a great ensemble cast to take it on. Meryl is in top form and just looking at the photo says everything about her total commitment to serving the play and the character. A master. And then there’s smiling Philip Seymour Hoffman and an innocent Amy Adams. I think the story could move into the issues this pieces raises but thumbs up for this trio!
14. Slumdog Millionaire
Tuvia didn’t get this one, but he did wait patiently for it to end respecting my love for its every minute. What a wonderful surprise hit-The Little Engine that Could. If Gran Torino doesn’t make its way into the Oscar mix, I will be rooting for this one for Best movie of the year! Creative in it’s plot as the story unfolds, it’s not a fantasy piece, but it is romantic in its core. We see the 98% side of the Indian population here and root for the “good” boy who puts everything on the line for his true love.
YES WE CAN!!!!
15. The Reader
Sorry Kate Winslet, you should never be listed at the bottom of any list of movies, even if this one is in no particular order. I will move you up closer to the top, when I get a chance, but now I’m racing to be done with this post. Seems like I’ve been writing it for weeks.
So The Reader. I read the book about two years ago with my book buddies and we all loved it, but time passes and I forgot the details and just how powerful the book really was. The movie is wonderful, with Kate as its center and she was probably my young Meryl Streep favorite. She disappears into this role and while movies come and go for us, we lingered with this one, talking about it at the diner, when the lights were turned off, on car rides. And Tuvia took the novel down from its home on the self and read it from cover to cover, searching for answers to questions the movie doesn’t resolve and it should have.
The acting is terrific and the story is powerful but there are gaps here and they should not have been left to our imagination.
Clint Eastwood directed Angelina Jolie in this piece just before he began working on Gran Torino. One powerful flim after the next. What a great force and to think, I used to hate his Dirty Harry phase.
Angelina and Brad are creating a unique family worthy of a model UN, they support the rebuilding of New Orleans and they make creative movies and Angelina is a powerful force in any flim project she takes on. I don’t remember the movie as vividly as I remember her, her eyes, her character’s stamina. I’m sitting here remembering as I write and wonder why it didn’t do better at the box office and with reviewers. Oh well, it worked for me.
Okay, I’m done for now. I still have to see:
Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button and more, so I’ll be back with more movies…
Enjoy the New Year with a movie. There’s lots to see.