Saturday, June 25, 2011

Animals are Beautiful People

Animals Are Beautiful People Although largely less than scientific, this documentary explores the human, human-like and anthropomorphized behaviors of various forms of life in the Namib desert, Africa's largest natural reserve. Check out this picture of The Moon Valley, part of the desert in Western Africa

If the narrator, Paddy O'Byrne, sounds familiar, you might recognize him from The Gods Must Be Crazy, a film from the same creator: Jamie Uys. This DVD has been re-titled as Beautiful People, according to IMDB.com, but is listed everywhere under the original title.

And now to my opinion: I loved it. I laughed, I cared about the animals, and I wished it had been a little longer. Although many of the scenes were enhanced with animation, edited, or altered to make the documentary more interesting, all of them were fascinating.

My Name is Nobody

My Name Is Nobody You must see this movie if you have not already at least ten times. It's brilliant. It's funny. It's full of classic lines. It's dubbed over Italian. Love Sergio Leone, man. I totally dig the Ennio Morricone music, too.

This film also stands out as Henry Fonda's last western. He performs beautifully, and makes a respectable contrast to Terence Hill's good-natured comedy and pretty-boy blue eyes and dimpled smile.

Let me tell you a story. One of my best friends is seventy-six years old. She watches Australian soap operas and unfunny Brit-coms (nothing crass, just slow), and tells me how much she enjoys them. She fell asleep less than ten minutes into the movie, woke up just as the end credits were rolling, and said, "that film did nothing for me."

I cracked up just re-telling the story. Like most good things, this movie may require some effort: trying to stay awake, for instance, after a long, sleepless night. Some of the moments are a little more subtle than others, but the humor is well worth the effort.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle In Time Like most people, I read this book as a child and really liked it. I finished the series at some point, and spent a few years fighting with my little sister over ownership of one of the books. Happy childhood memories I have!

I attempted to reread the book once, but Madeleine L'Engle disappointed me by not standing up to scientific scrutiny. How pathetic! It's a children's novel! Am I really so demanding? Apparently.

I enjoyed the movie, although it was a little bit long. The child actors seemed to have fun, and fit their roles well enough to help with the suspension of disbelief. The adult actors disappointed me a little, but I think they did simply what was expected, and that was play to a very young audience. They raised the pitch of their voices, and spoke softly, and got all "mommy," which drove me crazy even in kindergarten.

Audiences on rottentomatoes.com gave it a 47%. I think it deserved better, but not a lot. Maybe in the sixties would describe it well.

Washington Square

Washington Square I hate Henry James almost as much as I hate Thomas Hardy. Fortunately for my impartiality, I didn't know this film was based on a Henry James novel until I started doing my research afterwards.

The film still left me miserable. The jokes weren't funny (typically of Henry James), and like most American literature, the ending completely lacks energy or optimism. Should I blame the actors? Jennifer Jason Leigh, playing Catherine Sloper, captured perfectly all her character's clumsiness and ignorance. Albert Finney struck just the right chord of contempt and affection. Maggie Smith, the comic relief, actually frightened me. I would never blame her, but I most certainly might criticize the director. I think she veered too much toward Andrew Davies, which is a mistake* for any filmmaker.

Sidenote: Although I like Davies's work very much, it lacks innovation. He has never seemed to struggle or reinvent himself. We like him because he stays pretty true to the texts with which he works, but eventually that becomes a little too "safe" for any real creativity. I prefer Love's Labour's Lost, simply because it is brave.

Love's Labours Lost

Love's Labour's Lost Every bit as silly as the cover promises, this Kenneth Branagh's 2000 attempt puts Shakespeare's somewhat unimpressive text to all kinds of Fred and Ginger songs (written by Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Irving Berlin, mostly).

I think the effort was admirable, at least. The acting worked (I recognized and liked many of the cast - except Alicia Silverstone, who disappointed me), and the story seemed as plausible as any of Shakespeare's comedies, but so many other, little facets felt half-assed. The sets felt stagey (which isn't necessarily bad, except that so many other aspects of the film were meant to be rooted in film tradition), and the dancing. . . well, you can't have Fred and Ginger without, well, Fred and/or Ginger. Perhaps if it had been filmed in black and white it might have worked better.

Film critics on rottentomatoes.com didn't like it either, giving it a predictable 48%. Most of them found that it simply didn't work. The project seemed vague and unsuccessful, but one critic did point out that the whole idea was very imaginative. That's absolutely true. With an off-the-wall project like this, it's as likely to fail as succeed. Unfortunately, this one failed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grand Hotel

Grand HotelGreta Garbo is a terrible ham. I kept laughing whenever she overacted (which was kind of a lot). Plus I got to see that cliched line, "I want to be alone."

Joan Crawford, however, is actually pretty funny, and very pretty.

Although this film probably began as the intertwining as several smaller plot lines (much like I imagine Love Actually did), in reality it felt chaotic and badly paced. This film is not a favorite.