I've been out to see a shitload of stuff over the past week or more. Had a chance to catch up with:
Notes on a Scandal. I really wouldn't recommend seeing this alone if you occasionally feel vulnerable about ending up a crazy, embittered old maid. (**Cough, cough** I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying--I have several black spiral bound notebooks full of articulate yet deranged scribbling exactly like Judi Dench's character's.) The acting is stellar, and it needs to be in order to actually make the statements about loneliness and desperation and codependency and selfishness and vile behavior (of both the deeply motivated and animalistically unmotivated varieties) as it wants to make. There were a few points, especially toward the end as all the various intertwined subplots started coming to their inevitable climaxes, that I saw the bizarro-world version of what this movie could have been without Dench, Blanchett, Nighy, Marber's script, and Eyre's direction (though I could have done without Glass's score--OK, OK, I get it, the frenzied sense of entrapment, etc.): it could have been so strident, hysterical, and cliche that it would have made me scoff, legitimately offended, at the needlessness in perpetuating the evil old lady stereotype yet again. Yet, it's so perfectly pitched that it reveals a deep, core truth about people who kill any chance at happiness they might have because they can't stop themselves from bringing those they want so desperately to love down into their own misery, even if being miserable together is in itself a kind of love. Bonus points for a "Fit but You Know It" reference.
The Painted Veil. Unoffensive, slightly turgid, clearly Oscar bait. There's one howler of a scene plopped into the middle, though, that just begs to be read as a red state/blue state metaphor, and it made me want to shout at the screen. Gotta love any screen work Liev Schreiber is doing these days, though. We need more.
Dreamgirls. OMG, so bad. I dislike it more the more I think about it. I expect better acting out of community theater. I guess they got what they put into it, though: musicians trying to act instead of actors trying to sing. (Why didn't they just do a staged concert, release the soundtrack album, and be done with it?) The character development is appallingly thin, and even the talented actors look like they're drowning. J. Hudson, though--wow. It's like her voice was directly wired into my tear ducts. Unbelievably powerful. There were only about 20 people in the theater the day I saw it, and we all still ripped up in applause after "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." The camera does love Beyonce, though, and, in that, she was well cast. I think the best acting she did in the whole thing was that montage of her being photographed in all those exotic outfits.
Children of Men. A real stunner of a film. (And, another Danny Huston performance I can add to my films-of-'06 tally!) It's so scary and so powerful. If I look at it as a "film," I can see Rosenbaum's point about how the back end of the movie turns into "a rather banal suspense plot about whether she and her child and therefore humanity will survive," but, as LK and I discussed, that sequence is also one of the most powerful visual metaphors for parenting that we've seen in a good long while, a fact which I'm willing to cast aside my rampant filmie snobbery for.
Miss Potter. Well, at least I didn't pay to see it. (Free sneak preview passes; thanks, MJO.) I declared afterward that I felt I'd been whimsied to a pulp. The only true moment in the whole boring slog was at the end of the dinner party when Renee as Beatrix whispers her acceptance of Ewan as Norman's marriage proposal, and his face crumples into a deep frown that, in any other circumstance, would give way to a sob of thanksgiving, yet he must tuck the passion of that emotion back into a proper stiff upper lip, which, despite his best efforts, still blooms out into a giddy but cautious smile. Get that man a light saber, people! (Erm...) The Onion A.V. Club ably and concisely sums up pretty much anything else you might need to know in order to convince yourself to skeep eet.
Casino Royale. Wow, what a pleasant surprise! How thrilling was that opening foot chase through the construction site and on into the embassy? How nice was it to get even a little bit of Jeffrey Wright? I'd also just read the novel and was impressed by how closely they stuck to the basic plot outline while improving on some of the weak spots and making it utterly contemporary. And, not to be all I told you so, but Daniel Craig is perfection.
S/FJ writes the best review of Volver I've read yet. I doubt it will be topped.
Robot gives birth in South Korean hospital. Snip: "The newborn, also a robot, is equipped with lights on its hands and cheeks to indicate its health -- blue lights mean problems while pink lights signal all is ok." I love that "also a robot" parenthetical--as if there were some chance that the robot would be giving birth to an actual human. Or, perhaps, a puppy.
900 Hay Bales Dropped to Snowbound Cows. Someone please tell me there were gay cows out there! OMG, I so love the mental image. As Alex Ross wrote in the midst of all the Brokeback hysteria last year, "please rise for the singing of the gay national anthem: 'pling-pling-pling pling...pling...'" (moo moo-moo-moo).
Much like the album itself, an epic and stunning interview with Joanna Newsom about Ys (via). If this doesn't convince you, you will never be convinced.
Wait, wha--? Kele Okereke is gay? Or bi? Or whatever? (Link via.) I wonder how I never knew or figured that out before. Huh. Even though I've warmed up to the band considerably over time, it actually kind of makes me like them about 500 time more.
Happy birthday, David Bowie. I listened to "Queen Bitch" on the train this morning in observance of the day.