Monday, December 29, 2008


So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us,
In a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) begins to have doubts about one of the priests, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who seems to have become overly involved in the life of a young African American pupil. But Flynn isn't the only one she has doubts about. Is she overreacting to the situation or is there a truth that needs to be discovered? John Patrick Shanley's drama was nominated for five Golden Globes.
I think they do a better job of describing this movie than even the movie described itself in the previews!

And how much did I pay to watch?
Even though my mom and I had to truck it into DC to see this bad boy at the good ol' E Street Cinema, she paid. But, I do seem to remember that I was surprised by the fact that the movie was cheaper than I thought. I think it only cost like $7. WOAH! But, like I said, I didn't pay.

And what did I think?
Heavens. Well, first things first, I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman. (Lets just call him PSH)I think he is just faaaaaantastic! But, I Doubt that even Phillip Seymour Hoffman could keep me awake during this one. I also doubt he will win an Oscar...god, more talk of flipping awards? But, that doesn't mean I love him anyless.

I didn't really love Doubt, really at all. In fact, I fell asleep. I'm pretty sure I didn't miss much, and you've got to give me a break...I wake up at 3:30am! I suppose the other actors were good. I mean, he was good, don't get me wrong. I do find Amy Adams endearing even though she seems to play the same role a lot! She was 'the hot girl' in the Office though, so she holds a special place in my heart. Meryl Streep was great as the evil nun. Man, her accent just made her evvvvvvvvvil.

But, I thought the movie was too much like a play. I mean, you can make a play into a movie and it works, but to me, it just seemed like this one didn't. It had that typical "ambiguously moral" ending like plays have that force the audience to think about how they *feel* about the show. And, while I do appreciate the audience critically thinking about what they have seen, I felt that the end of Doubt was not ambigious enough at all to merit any sort of actual thought. It seemed very obvious how the audience was supposed to feel.

They were supposed to hate Meryl Streep because she ruined PSH (ooops, sorry, I just gave it away, except it wasn't much of a spoiler at all...) and she wasn't even sure. What I hated about it was that her "punishment" was feeling bad and doubting herself when she thought she wouldn't. So what does this tell us about society? What are we supposed to take from the film? (and by "we" I mean "I") It tells me that bad people don't always/ever get what they deserve and if you ruin someone's life there is no consequence except maybe you feel "bad", and to me, that was a very depressing realization.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
wasn't horrible, the acting was really good, but other than that I didn't like it that much. I give Doubt a 6.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Reader

You cannot imagine how impossible it is to find a movie poster for this film...
thanks wikipedia, you have the only one on the whole internet!

So what is this one about?
Netflix describes this film as
Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) reflects on the formative sexual relationship he had with older woman Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) as a young teenager in this poignant drama (nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe) set in post-World War II Germany. The passionate affair ended when Hanna disappeared. But years later, Michael learns she's on trial for horrific Nazi war crimes. David Kross plays the teenage Michael in this film based on Bernhard Schlink's best-seller.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Nothing. Because I am a baller who has friends who work at movie theatres and let me and my mom (who is so pumped for these events) in fo free!

And what did I think?
You know, I am always torn. I see a preview for a movie that looks excellent: The Reader, Revolutionary Road (*angels sing*), The Constant Gardener, etc. Then I don't know if I should read the book before I see the movie, or see the movie before I read the book. You pretty much always know that the book will be better. Books are better forms that films. A film maker can put so much less in a film than is in the book...I mean, just look at the Harry Potter films for proof! But, if you see the movie first, it is all new, and can therefore have the punch you in the stomach goodness that you rarely get when you read the book (except, of course, when Dumbledore died in HP6...sorry if you haven't read it!)

Well, I read The Reader before I saw the movie, and I think this one is a good example of the book ruining the movie. Now, don't get me wrong, the movie was good and the book was great... but, when I saw my mom reacting to the plot with absolute shock, I couldn't, because I already knew what was going to happen. Not only that, but I kept thinking in my head that Steve Daldry didn't take advantage of the amazing narration that Bernhard Schlink wrote. It was beautiful.

And there are things in the book that cannot translate to film without seeming contrived. Michael Berg, as the narrator in the book, communicated things to the readers that would have been impossible to show--his memories of Hanna, his confusion about his role in the guilt of the Holocaust (as a German). However, there were things that the film showed that the book couldn't, like how Berg felt once he heard what Hanna had done in the camps. In the book one can only imagine his reaction, but on film he reacted in a way I hadn't imagined. And seeing it in person I realized that his acting of the situation really couldn't have been any other way. It was spot on.

But, film is a different medium than the written word. And, I love film (big surprise), and I love these actors. Man oh man.

I thought it was really funny that the young actors were all Germans but when they were adults they were all British. And David Kross was amazing--as he is in everything--as was Kate Winslet. But, Kate Winslet is amazing in everything too. She is a goddess. She is perfect in everything she is in. But, this isn't supposed to be an entry that is a love letter to Kate Winslet...when I finally see Revolutionary Road, I am sure that entry will be. (God, I cannot wait to see that one!) And, the funny thing is, Kate Winslet was originally asked to play Hanna, but she had to decline because of RR. Then Nicole Kidman was cast, but she had to drop out because she got preggers. Then Kate Winslet could be in The Reader because she was done with RR. God, can you imagine if Nicole Kidman had played the role of Hanna Schmitz? It would have been a fucking disaster! Comparing Nicole Kidman to Kate Winslet is acting like Britney Spears will win an Oscar. (god, more talk of Oscars....ugh) I mean, she isn't that bad, she's been downright delightful in things, but Kate Winslet is amazing.

Anyway, like I said, I think the problem with this movie was that I read the book first. The emotional impact of this film comes from it being a total, knock you off your feet suprise. Don't read the book first. Go see the movie first. Then read the book.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Even though it didn't have a big impact on me, I can tell this movie was good. I am going to give it an 8. I was gonna say a 7, but I will give it an 8, because my sadness of already knowing what was going to happen doesn't say the film wasn't good.

It was. It is going to be a big deal this awards season. Kate Winslet is going to win an Oscar, it will be exciting!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Black Christmas (1974)

So what is this one about?
I didn't even know this movie existed until I read about it on the Toronto livejournal group, here. (Yes friends, there are still people who who use livejournal, hahahaha) Then after learning it took place in Toronto I added it to my netflix queue. The description is,
Terror reigns inside a sorority house a few days before Christmas break as a series of menacing phone calls -- and the discovery of a dead girl's body -- transform yuletide cheer into fear. Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Andrea Martin ("SCTV") co-star as just a few of the petrified sisters at the mercy of an unseen stalker in this 1970s horror gem from director Robert Clark, who told a much happier holiday tale with his 1983 classic, A Christmas Story.
tah freaking dah.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, I got it on netflix, and this month I am averaging $2.83/movie. Yikes.

And what did I think?
Oh, Canaduh. I couldn't understand a damn word the killer was saying. I mean, come on! I guess that made it a little scarier when he called on the phone, because I was straining to hear, but all I heard were gurgles, screams, a scary voice, and completely unintelligible words. The film makers did a great job at those phonecalls. For sure.

But, despite not really understanding what was being said on the phone (AND the terribly annoying accent of the main character...apparently she is Argentinian) I am going to tell you, the end of the movie was pretty suspenseful, it made me real uncomfortable...a little scared even. Can you imagine?! A scary horror movie. It also demonstrated the ridiculousity of the Canadian police force in the 1970s. har.

What I don't understand about Canadian movies is this: why do they never admit they were made in Canada? Anyone who knows Toronto can tell that Land of the Dead was filmed in Toronto! Same goes for Hairspray! And Black Christmas, jesus, can you possibly have more actors with Canadian accents and timbers? (I say timber because good lord, in Toronto I heard people who had the exact same voice as others, I am convinced Canadians talk in the same way) So, if it is filmed in Canada, and maybe even at the University of Toronto (holler, alumni!), AND it doesn't mean anything to the story where the movie takes place, with the exception of it taking place in a town with a University, then WHY, WHY, WHY were there American flags in the police station? Why couldn't there have been Canadian flags?! OR, why did there have to be flags in the first place?! They never said what city it took place in, so why couldn't the filmmakers make it as ambiguous as possible? Do Canadian film makers really think that Americans can't relate to a film if it doens't take place in America? I mean, we all liked The Pianist, and Schlindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan, and Dr. Zhivago, and Lost in Translation, and Life is Beautiful (AND THAT ONE WASN'T EVEN IN ENGLISH!!!!!) I don't beleive that Americans are so stupid that they can't relate to a movie that takes place in Canada.

Overall it was pretty good. The new point of view that never showed the killer but allowed the audience to see through his (I assume it was a he) eyes. Apparently, from the extra features, that was very revolutionary at the time. And I suppose it did make me interested to see the remake, since it didn't take place in good ol' T-dot.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It was sufficient. A little scary, a little stupid, and a little Toronto as a backdrop makes a sufficient movie watching experience for me.

Black Christmas (1974) gets a 6.

Before Sunset

So what is this one about?
What is this one about? This one is about me. It is not really about me, but it strikes a chord so deeply within me that it may as well be.

What it is actually about is this, and because I love this movie so much I will take the long description from wikipedia...

Nine years have passed since the events of Before Sunrise, when Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) had met in Vienna. Since then, Jesse has written a novel, This Time, inspired by his time in Vienna with Celine, and the book has become a minor success, with Jesse doing a book tour. The last stop of the tour across Europe is Paris, and Jesse is doing a reading at the bookstore Shakespeare and Company. As Jesse talks with his audience, flashbacks are seen of him and Celine in Vienna; the memories of their night together have clearly remained with him despite it being nine years later. Celine appears in the audience and sees him and he, in turn, recognizes her. Jesse has a short time before his plane departs, and invites Celine to share it with him.

As they talk, each reveals what has happened since their first meeting. Both are now in their mid thirties. Jesse, now a writer, is married and has a son. Celine has become an advocate for the environment, lived in America for a time, and has a boyfriend, a photojournalist. It becomes clear in the course of their talk, both are dissatisfied to varying degrees with their lives. Jesse reveals that he only stays with his wife out of love for his son. Celine says that she does not see her boyfriend very much because he is so often on assignment.

As they recall their prior meeting in Vienna, they slowly approach the subject of why they did not meet as promised, six months after their first encounter. It turns out that Jesse had returned to Vienna, as promised, but Celine did not, because her grandmother had suddenly died before the scheduled date of the meeting. Because Jesse and Celine had never exchanged addresses, there was no way for them to communicate with each other and to learn what the other was doing, or what had happened.

Their conversation as they traverse Paris places them in various venues, including a café, a garden, a bateau mouche, and Jesse's hired car for his stay in Paris. Their old feelings for each other are slowly rekindled, even with tension and regret over the missed meeting earlier, as they realize that nothing else in their lives has matched their one prior night together in Vienna. Jesse even admits that he wrote the book in the distant hope of meeting Celine again one day.
(then there is more, but the description becomes too romantical and spoilery, so, thats what you get!)

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, I own this. So, technically I didn't pay anything. Except that when I went to go watch this the dvd was broken and unplayable. So I had to go buy a new copy at good ol' Best Buy, and I think that cost like $14.99 or something. Whatevs.

And what did I think?
God, it is so hard to me to explain what I think about this movie while still keeping what is mine to myself. Lets just say, I can relate to this film...but it isn't why you think. It really isn't. I don't know if anyone would be able to correctly idenitify who, and why I associate so much with this movie.

But beyond my personal idenifitication with the story, I identify with it because this movie epitomizes everything I think is romantic. Sick, but romantic. I've always been very touched, and broken, by love stories that aren't rom com happy endings. Endings like Dark Blue World, that shows that love sometimes can't defeat war, endings like The End of the Affair (or even Forrest Gump) that says love cannot defeat sickness, and endings like Attonement (the book, not the movie) that tell us that sometimes love doesn't promise a happy ending. Sometimes love is just love. It can be fleeting, and intangible, and sometimes it isn't given the time and attention it deserves. Maybe it is because I always thought there was something romantic about loneliness. Or maybe I thought there was something romantic about suffering. I realize as I get older, of course, that suffering and loneliness aren't really romantic, unless it is on a movie that people can watch. In real life people suffer alone, and it is miserable. BUT, that isn't the point.

The point is that the actors in this movie are able to actually communicate what I just said on film. And the pain, and longing, and miserableness they feel actually jumps off the screen. These two actors have such amazing, incredible, unbeatable chemisty that the audience actually feels like they are watching Celine and Jesse pull themselves apart for eachother. Throughout the film there are lumps that well up in my throat because they are so real in their portrayals. It just rips you apart.

Or, it rips me apart. And that is why I love this film.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Like you even needed to ask, this one gets a 10. It is the most cathartic, personal film experience I know. And I have no idea if it translates as such to other people, but I would be very curious to hear from you if you have seen this.

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've loved you for so long)

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us,
After more than a decade apart, estranged sisters Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) try to rebuild their fractured relationship. But the task is hardly easy, considering Juliette's past. She's been in jail for 15 years -- for killing her own son. As she settles into small-town life with Lea's family, the locals can't help but talk. Philippe Claudel's feature film debut garnered him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
oh ho, it is Oscar season folks, and lets understand that a lot of the movies I will be seeing soon are the big Oscar films of the year. (You know how the filmmakers are, releasing all their big guns at the same time)

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, my mom paid, because she was dying to see it. So I paid zippo.

And what did I think?
Well, at first I thought I would fall asleep during the show, because I am notorious for falling asleep during films that are subtitled. But, I didn't. I watched the whole thing with rapt attention. Now, you have to believe me because I know it took a sickeningly long time to finally get this review up. But, it was good. Worth all that hype you're going to hear.

I watched the film for almost the entire time trying to dissect what the message of the film was. (In fact, with a lot of films I have been watching lately I have been trying to figure out their messages. I wonder what that means?) It was towards the very end that I figured it out. (Now, I am of course having a hard time remembering, since I waited nearly a month to write this...I'll have to write about other stuff while I try and think about it)

The acting was fantastic. French women are so beautiful. They aren't like American movie stars, but they are so effortlessly beautiful. Especially the actress who played the sister. But, lets face it, Kristen Scott Thomas will get some sort of award nomination for this. First, it is really great that she is a bilingual actress...BILINGUAL! She is great in French. Her portrayal of the just released prisoner was so layered and painful. She was just fabulous. She was self possessed and guarded, and you truly believed that she was the character she was playing. She was so wounded.

I think maybe the point of the film is that it says to not judge people because you can never possibly know what their reasons are for anything. I don't know that this was what I came to when I was watching the movie, but I am old, so I forget. There was this scene where KST told a new employer why she was in jail, and he didn't even listen. He immediately dismissed her, and then at the end we learn why she was actually in jail. And maybe it wasn't less reprehensible, but maybe it was. I guess the point it, what is supposed to help people? Acceptance, and forgiveness. And allowing people to just be who they are.

Or maybe that is just Christmas talking.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I will give I've Loved You For So Long a 7. It was good, but not especially good. But I bet it will do well this awards season.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

PBS's "Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple"

So what is this one about?
After watching the MSNBC documentary about Jim Jones and Jonestown I decided I needed to move this movie that was already in my queue to the top. The description of the PBS American Experience documentary (according to them) is,
In Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, award-winning filmmakers Stanley Nelson, Marcia Smith, and Noland Walker reveal the true, tragic story behind enigmatic preacher Jim Jones and his promise of a world of economic and racial equality that ultimately led to the largest mass murder-suicide in history. This new documentary tells the story of the people who joined Peoples Temple, following Jones from Indiana to California and ultimately to their deaths in Guyana in November 1978. Jonestown was an official selection of numerous 2006 film festivals, including Tribeca, Silverdocs, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Again, I am very lazy. Some fraction of $16.99 ;)

And what did I think?
Well, I didn't like this one as much as the MSNBC one. I thought the PBS one seemed like it was trying very hard to make things seem very nefarious. Now, granted, there was a mass suicide, so it seems unnecessary to make it seem worse, ya know? This documentary focused on the "gritty" and "dirty" details of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, things like forced sex and stuff like that. I just didn't find that to be as engaging.

Now, one thing that was utterly fascinating about watching this PBS documentary and the MSNBC one was how Lord of the Flies it all was. There were all these instances where members of the temple would simply turn on other members. Was there even a reason? Did Jim Jones tell them to? Sometimes. But sometimes he didn't. And it was an amazing demonstration of how humans revert to their natural and cruel state when it is in their interest. As someone who studies the former Soviet Union, oh, I understand this. It is truly incredible to see it happen over and over again in different circumstances.

I think it is probably worth watching a Jonestown documentary just to see that.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Like I already said, this one wasn't as good as the MSNBC one. The same people were used--the survivors, I mean. And since I had already heard their stories they weren't as emotionally affecting. They were still very interesting, but they weren't as affecting. Now, however, the end of this documentary was great. Very poignant and sad.

However, I still give this a 6.

The Tattooist

So what is this one about?
Netflix is tricky. I mean, it is awesome...but tricky.
Because when I read this After swiping an ancient Samoan tattoo tool from a Singapore trade show, American tattoo artist Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr) flies to New Zealand, where he meets up with the lovely Sina (Mia Blake) and discovers the local Samoan culture. But when his stolen tool ends up unleashing an evil avenging spirit, Sina is imperiled, and it's up to Jake to save the day. This New Zealand horror extravaganza features gorgeous scenery of exotic locales.
I thought to myself, yeah, that sounds good.

Well, good job Netflix, for tricking me once again!

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, I am much too lazy to figure out how much this one cost, but I would imagine it was a lot, since I've watched like 5 discs in a month. Yikes!

And what did I think?
Well, like I already said, Netflix tricked me. I thought, NEW ZEALAND!! Heck yes!! Alas, the accents were unintelligible (beyond what the normal NZ accent is) and the locales were not exotic or beautiful. Grumblies.

I suppose it is my own fault. Reading the description makes the movie sound just so awful! And it was. The story was so daft, and elementary and just plain old dumb. Wanna know the secret? The ink of the tattoos that the main character gave attacked the people and they died. And it was awesome when they died because they bled both blood and ink.

Now, when I watched Tony Bourdain's No Reservations: Malaysia I learned that some of the stuff that was addressed in The Tattooist is accurate because there is some sort of pride and meaning behind tattoos. They aren't all just names of your current boyfriend. I guess maybe if I had been more into tattoos and the art and history behind it maybe this movie would have been better.

But probably not.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
The Tattooist
was awful. I mean, yes, the two main characters weren't hideous to look at, but the story was so incredibly lame.

This one gets a 3.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

John Adams

So what is this one about?
Man, remember the first President? He was so amazing, what, with winning the Revolutionary War, giving up the office after two terms so as to avoid becoming a tyrant, and him never telling a lie. Ah yes, he was the best President ever.

Oh man, and what about the third President? He only wrote the Declaration of Independence and doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. No biggie.

But wait, I've skipped some President who was sandwiched in between those two fine Virginians. Who the heck was it. I hear he was obnoxious and disliked. And short. And grumpy. And from, GASP, Massachusetts. What was his name?!

Oh yeah, John Adams.
Paul Giamatti stars in this sweeping Emmy winner for Best Miniseries that chronicles the astonishing life of founding father John Adams: revolutionary leader, America's first ambassador to England, the first vice president and the second president. The iconic cast of characters includes Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), George Washington (David Morse), Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane), Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson) and many more.
Right, that was his name. John Adams.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, technically I paid nothing, because I got my mom to rent me these dvds at the biggest damn blockbuster I have seen since high school. And she spent nearly $20. But she did it because she felt sorry for me because I couldn't eat or drink because I was having a colonoscopy done the next next day. (I do not recommend that)

And what did I think?
Jeebus, what did I think!?! I thought it was flipping amazing. A.MAZ.ING!!

For everyone who knew me in high school, you will know, and well, still know, that I am incredibly nerdy. My Virginia pride, and love for Colonial Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson are unending. And this miniseries brought to life one of my absolute favorite times in American history.

The portrayal of the times was so realistic, it was really like watching the founding of America unfurl before my very eyes. It was incredible. If I were a US history teacher I would absolutely use this as a teaching resource. (which is easy, thanks to HBO and their available 'teacher's guide' at their website. Ah, HBO, not only is everything you make completely amazing, but you are looking out for the youth of America in their academic pursuits.)

The settings were realistic, and the accents were fabulous. But the single greatest thing about this miniseries--no, it wasn't the masectomy of Sarah Polley, it wasn't the tarring and feathering of a British official, it wasn't the fruity Frenchies when Ben Franklin and J. Adams hopped off to Paris, it wasn't Sam Adams the brewer patriot, and it wasn't Jefferson at Monticello--it was the casting. Yes, the CASTING. It was the single most extraordinary casting job ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. In the history of tv miniseries. I can say this with no hesitation.

Now, how can I know this, you ask? Seeing as how all we have are drawings of the founding fathers. Well, the answer is, I just know. Also, I have seen 1776 like a million times. But seriously, the casting was amazing. Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin was amazing. The guy who played George Washington, amazing. The casting of John Adams, man, I am going to tell you, Adams was a real troll of a man compared to the other F.F.s, but Giamatti hit it spot on. Now, I will take breif issue with the guy who played Alexander Hamilton because, let's be serious, we've all seen the $10 bill and we therefore know that A. Hamilton was a stone cold fox, and that man who played him was full on ugly. (He didn't even have an alibi). And the entire casting of the Philadelphia convention where the DoI was being drafted, well, I could pick those guys out without even hearing their names...that is how good the casting was/how nerdy I am (aka, how many times I have seen 1776). No, the greatest casting was of Thomas Jefferson. Stephen Dillane was the greatest casting ever. He didn't just play Thomas Jefferson, he WAS Thomas Jefferson.

Here is where I will include a youtube video of all the TJ clips that some loooooser put together. You will see that Dillane's portrayal of TJ was amazing. Unless you don't know as much about him as I do, and then you'll just think, um, alright. neat? Well, I will tell you, it IS neat. He completely embodied what TJ was supposed to have been like. And good god. The resemblance is just uncanny. It was really like he was brought back to life. You know, in that non-zombie way.

So anyway, as much as I love to hate on Tom Hanks, and his stupid way of being, "oooooh, look at meeeeee, I'm Tom Hanks! Everything I do it greeeeeeeeeat. Give me and Oscar! Oh wait, I have a million already. My son looks just like me!" I have to admit. John Adams was incredible. In fact, if you have seen me in the past few weeks you know that it is all I want to talk about anymore. So really, just avoid me, because it is incredibly nerdy.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
As if you even needed to ask. John Adams gets a 10.