Friday, March 02, 2007

Recent Viewings

I haven't written much about them, but I've been spending a lot of time watching movies the past couple of weeks. I think the Pajiba gig has gotten me in the habit. In the theater, I've caught Pan's Labyrinth, which I did post about, The Lives of Others (highly recommended) and Music and Lyrics. I wouldn't recommend the latter, but it did serve its purpose on a Saturday night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with nothing else to do but eat at Pizza Hut beforehand. (Plus, it was the late show and we were the only two people in the theater, which is fun and never happens in New York.) I like Hugh Grant (though I can tell you after seeing this movie that he looks incredibly strange shirtless) and I like Drew Barrymore after the first five minutes of everything she's in, during which time her adorableness doesn't trump her frequent awkwardness as an actor. So it had them going for it. Also, despite the fact that it wasn't particularly funny and the chemistry between the leads was pretty dim, it seemed to understand pop music in a way that I wasn't expecting. Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne wrote some of the original songs, and they're catchy -- only bad in the way that a lot of pop music actually is these days. It's the kind of movie you could fall asleep to at 3 a.m., which I understand is not high praise.

On DVD, I've seen All the Real Girls, Mutual Appreciation, and California Split. The first was written and directed by David Gordon Green, and I liked his debut, George Washington, several years ago. (It wasn't about the president. At all.) Girls is about two North Carolinians falling in love, one a virgin and the other the small town's Lothario. The leads are good, and Green has a great eye, but I did think it lost a lot of its power after the central relationship hits a bump in the road. Also, as much as I mostly enjoyed it, it's hard to disagree with a commenter on IMDb who argues that Green's work often comes off as "Hallmark cards for rural retards." Fair enough.

Mutual Appreciation is the second effort from Andrew Bujalski, the writer and director of Funny Ha Ha, which I briefly wrote about here. He's been compared to John Cassavetes, which should give you a good idea of whether you'd love or hate him. Both of his movies had a funny way of producing a mixed reaction in me up until the last 15 minutes or so, when I found myself responding to the unlikely emotional crescendos he orchestrates. Appreciation might have been a bit tougher for me to (forgive me) appreciate as cinema vérité because what it's being vérité about is a species of aimless, self-involved Brooklyn hipster all too common in my life. Hell, if you had handed me a camera, I could have gotten you this raw footage in a week or two. My complicated, self-loathing feelings about where I am and what I'm doing aside, I'd recommend the movie.

California Split, from 1974, was directed by Robert Altman, and stars George Segal and Elliott Gould as two gamblers who meet up and eventually turn their luck around. I liked it quite a bit, but since I a) popped it out of the computer about 15 minutes ago, and b) eventually want to write about it for another, longer project, I'll move on.

I'm a bit long-winded, but this will probably be the last post for a couple of days, so I suppose that's OK. (Ed. Note: It will be the penultimate post. I just thought of a brief, lame thought that I'll post next.) Last but not least, I got to a Broadway show, Translations, set in the 19th century in an Ireland village, about English efforts to properly map (and rename) the country's places. I found it moving despite a few flaws. But let's cut to the chase: Sitting a few rows in front of us were Rachel Weisz and her husband, director Darren Aronofsky. Weisz was stunning in a way that bordered on otherworldly. She was dressed down, but there was something about her face that was out of a fairy tale.

Aronofsky looked schlubby. Ain't that always the way.


Anonymous PF said...

OK, JW, movies aside, here's what strikes me in this post: you go to Hershey, PA, and you're not only forced eat at Pizza Hut, but somehow you believe that going to see "Music and Lyrics" will be less than torture. Let's compare that to your NYC experience: you go to a play and are practically rubbing elbows with Rachel Weisz and Darren Aronofsky. I think there's something very revealing here, JW.... I dunno. Maybe there's something appealing in the way small-town America allows you to suspend disbelief that the big city doesn't. (My point about being in the same room with an actress and director is not the simple star-f-ing (is this blog censored?) appeal, but that you're aware that they're in the same world you're in -- although maybe they're the same thing.) Maybe your enjoyment of something like "Music and Lyrics" depends on preserving that reality gap (or maybe on the stupor induced by chain restaurants). Maybe the city kills the simpler pleasures .... Anyway, see elsewhere, re: Wanderlust.

4:54 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

I think you're right, PF, as usual. Unless you're a celebrity, which I wouldn't wish on anyone, living in NY probably does kill the small pleasures. I do feel them less these days after more than six years here. Of course, moving to a place like Harrisburg or Hershey would require a serious and prolonged detox program; NY offers a lot of big pleasures to make up for the small ones. Thinking about leaving is the same catch-22 it's always been, which is why I think there's been so much written (and thought) about that subject. See ya tonight!

1:33 PM  
Blogger Fox said...

I feel shortchanged. The info on the movies was great and I have made a few mental notes based on it. However, I'm a little miffed that Rachel Weisz was such an attention suck that one of my favorite 20th century plays got short shrift. The late great Barnard Hughes played HUGH in the original Broadway production by the way. Next time, a few more words for the play and a few less for the ladies.

8:40 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

What can I say, Fox, I was flagging at the end of the post. And I figured readers would be, too. The play was really good -- I enjoyed it a great deal, and wasn't as distracted from its quality by Weisz's beauty as the post would suggest.

10:24 PM  

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