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Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Libertine

I apologize for taking three or so weeks off. The flurry of activity around Oscar time necessitated a short break.

I cannot recommend The Libertine unconditionally. Written first as a play by Stephen Jeffreys and played on the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, the film version of the tale stars Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. It is a period piece with an R rating for strong sexuality including dialogue, violence and language. Wilmot is a poet with three significant interests in his life: the theatre, drinking and sex. He is a friend to King Charles II, played by John Malkovich. Samantha Morton plays Mrs. Barry, a woman with promise as an actor in the theatre, and to whom Wilmot offers his coaching services and affections.

The film is not pleasant to watch. The 1600’s in England are depicted as gray and wet, and filled with citizens engaged in nothing particularly noble. Wilmot’s obsessive focus on sexuality leads to his writing and producing a ridiculous play with sexual themes, and he delights in insulting King Charles and other royal guests with the performance. He is a self-indulgent man who succumbs to alcoholism, and unfortunately, the viewer has to watch him slowly die of the results of venereal disease and drinking. This process is unkind to the normally attractive Johnny Depp.

Depp is such an extraordinary actor, and delivers a strong performance as Wilmot, but there are far better films than this one to watch if you’re a fan of his, or are wanting to see his acting for the first time (Pirates of the Caribbean, Ed Wood, Chocolat, Finding Neverland). Samantha Morton is also a gifted actor, and I’d recommend two of her other films over The Libertine, which are In America and Sweet and Lowdown. Both Depp’s and Morton’s acting abilities stand out in this bizarre period piece, but not enough to redeem the depressing tale.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Oscars

It’s the day after the Academy Awards, and some of my predictions came true!

Philip Seymour Hoffman won in the best actor category for his role in Capote, and Reese Witherspoon won best actress for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. Both acceptance speeches were sweet (Philip thanked his mother, and Reese said she just wants to do something that matters).

Best picture to my delight was Crash, and it also took in best original screenplay. Brokeback Mountain received some adulation, as Ang Lee won for best director, and it also won for best adapted screenplay, and best original score.

Rachel Weisz won for best supporting actress in The Constant Gardener, and George Clooney for best supporting actor in Syriana.

March of the Penguins won for best documentary feature, probably well-deserved. The filmmaker accepting the award commented that the legislation protecting Antarctica will need to be renewed in 2041, and so he hoped many children would see the film and protect the penguins for years to come.

Other wins of note were three for Memoirs of a Geisha in the areas of art direction, costume design and cinematography. I wish I’d seen it on the big screen.

Speaking of the big screen, there were some references made to nothing coming close to the experience of seeing a film in the theater compared to a DVD rental for at home. I had heard that revenues were down for films this year, and the industry seems to be wondering why.

Personally, I agree that nothing takes the place of sitting in a darkened theater with a bunch of people watching a story unfold before our collective eyes. People I’ve talked to lately about why they don’t go to movies much say it is too expensive, then they launch into a diatribe about how much the popcorn, soda and candy costs. Hint: Don’t buy the concessions! Movies typically only last about two hours; I think you wouldn’t starve if you didn’t eat or drink anything for that long, right? Then the movies, at least in Albuquerque, are $6.25 or $9.00 at night, well within my meager entertainment budget.

Something else I wondered about was the choice of Jon Stewart. Was he chosen because it was a more serious year for the movies? All in all, I was entertained. I like the montages, and my motto for awards shows is not to expect too much, and then you won’t be disappointed.

Let me know your thoughts on the awards and the night. And onward to another year of good movies!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My article for Life in the USA magazine

I am a guest contributor to the
  • Life in the USA
  • magazine. My article there is about movies and Hollywood. Once on the site, go to the entry for USA Magazine, and there I'll be.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Academy Awards

    Tomorrow is the Academy Awards, and predictions abound as the night draws near. Who will win the big honors?

    I haven’t seen all of the nominated films. After all, I work full-time, and movies are an average of two hours long, sometimes longer, and there is only so much time. But I have seen all of the Best Picture/Best Director nominees (they are one and the same). Looking back at what I saw, I realized that the five nominated films have in common that each illuminate people struggling with moral dilemmas.

    It’s tough to pick just one film to win the top honors as Best Picture, but my award would go to Crash. To me, it is the most ambitious of any of the films, showing Los Angeles as the community of diversity it is, and what the challenges are to individuals caught in their divergent as well as interconnecting lives.

    Best Director I’d give to George Clooney for Good Night, and Good Luck. It amazed me how the actors’ scenes could be mingled with live news footage from the era depicted. I think it took a strong vision to make that work, and the director is best given credit for it.

    I think Philip Seymour Hoffman should win for Best Actor in Capote. The nuances of his performance as Truman Capote gave substance to a film that could have been just another biopic. We see Capote change as he researches and writes his book, and as he grows to know his subjects and mourn for them.

    Best Actress is something I don’t know much about as I only saw one of the actresses in a nominated film, Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. But let’s give it to her. She won the Golden Globe for her performance, and it was well deserved. Speaking of Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix was amazing as Johnny Cash, and it is one of my favorite films of the year.

    All that said, Brokeback Mountain is likely to win top honors. It was a groundbreaking film because of its subject matter, but in retrospect, I wanted more from it. It never told me why these two men fell in love, only that they did. Still, it showed the ramifications of their relationship in a society that does not value or accept diversity, and is an important film.

    Lastly, don’t miss The Constant Gardener. I was surprised it did not snag a nomination as Best Picture. Whereas Munich left me feeling rather hopeless about the state of the world, surprisingly The Constant Gardener did not. If you only rent one of these movies, make it that one.