Monthly Archives: December 2009

62: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

As so often happens, I went into this movie with no expectations at all and ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

To be fair, it’s not necessarily cinematic genius either.  The plot is convoluted and a bit silly, and Miranda Richardson’s performance as the Lady Van Tassel is almost laughably flat.  But it’s fun, scary, and gorgeous to look at, just as you might expect from Tim Burton.  Johnny Depp is wonderful as always, and Christina Ricci looks so perfect in her role (Burton apparently said she looks like the fictional daughter of Peter Lorre and Bette Davis) that I give her a pass for her overly deadpan Wednesday-Addams-style acting.  Christopher Walken is absolutely terrifying as the pointy-fanged Headless Horseman (eep! he’s real!).  And I loved the detail on Johnny Depp’s little handmade steampunk-y medical instruments.  It is quite violent, so consider yourselves warned.  But I thought it was great fun.

61: Promises (2001)

I wish I’d blogged about this movie when it was fresher in my mind, because it deserves a thorough response.  With that disclaimer out of the way, I have to say it does exactly what a documentary is supposed to do, which is to challenge any preconceptions its viewers might be bringing to the subject matter, in this case the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The film’s approach is simple: director B.Z. Goldberg interviews seven different children and their families living in or around Jerusalem — some Israeli, some Palestinian, some orthodox, some secular.  In addition to broader questions about their beliefs and families, he asks the Israeli kids what they think about Palestinians and vice versa.  As with any good documentary, there are no easy answers: some of the kids with the most hard-line responses are also the ones who have suffered the most; and sometimes not.  After getting to know them, he asks all seven children what they’d think about meeting a kid their age on the other side of the conflict.  One Palestinian boy and a pair of Israeli twin brothers agree, and the movie culminates in their eventual meeting.

What I appreciated about this movie was the director’s light touch with such a controversial topic.  He doesn’t compartmentalize the kids’ religious backgrounds as separate from the rest of their lives but instead preserves all their complexities and contradictions intact.  This is especially impressive since Goldberg himself is Israeli-American and therefore not exactly a dispassionate outsider.  It raises more questions than it answers, but with a divisive issue like this one, I can’t help but think of that as a good thing.

57-60: Lost: Season 1 (2004)

It’s tough to blog about Lost in the usual fashion, since I’m guessing two-thirds of y’all are farther along in it than I am (I’m now in the middle of Season 3), and the other third haven’t seen it at all.  So instead of boring those of y’all in the first camp and ruining the surprise for those of y’all in the second, I’ll just offer some general likes and dislikes.

  • Sawyer and Hurley = love them.  Neither one of them ever has a throwaway line, and they’re the only characters who ever really seem to see what’s going on.   My dad also pointed out, and rightly so, that Sawyer’s fun to watch just to see what he’s going to nickname everyone else on the show.
  • Kate = annoying, especially in this season.  I wanted to like her since her backstory involves so much bad-ass-itude, but her main function in the present of the story seems to involve being the lust object of every male character on the show.  Shockingly, this makes her difficult to like.
  • Sayid = almost too perfect.
  • Jin & Sun = best backstories by far.  I love that everything you think you know about them in the first few episodes turns out to be wrong.
  • Jack = SO ANNOYING.  Too wholesome, too self-righteous, too snotty to everyone else on the show except Kate.
  • Boone = unbearably hot.
  • Charlie = great story arc.  Of all the characters on the show, he’s the one you’ll want to have a beer with the most.

That’s all for now — gotta conserve some opinions for the next five seasons.  Also, on an unrelated note, I have to put in a plug for this awesome podcast I just discovered, Film Sack.  They watch awesomely bad movies and then dissect them, MST3K-style.  If you’re into that sort of thing at all, I highly recommend it — they’re really entertaining, and the movies aren’t so dreadful that you’ll be ashamed to have seen them.

Day 56: Dreamgirls (2006)

Couldn’t get through it, y’all.  Apologies for my lack of discipline.

I was actually bummed at how much I didn’t like this movie, because I love musicals and Jennifer Hudson.  But I’ve come to realize I really dislike the way lots of contemporary movie musicals are staged.  In the olden days it was totally acceptable for a character to be walking down the street eating a sandwich and suddenly burst into song, possibly inspiring passers-by to harmonize with him/her and coordinate their dance moves.  I always thought this convention worked just fine.  Of course it’s unrealistic, but most of us go into a musical knowing we’re going to have to suspend reality a bit.  Unfortunately, the movie musicals I’ve seen that came out in the last ten years seem to shy away from this approach, for whatever reason.  The musical numbers only happen in dream sequences or flashbacks or in the context of a character’s musical career (i.e. everyone in the scene is experiencing it AS a musical number).  To me, this hybrid approach feels forced and uncomfortable, since it paradoxically draws attention to itself way more than a standard musical, where the songs flow seamlessly in and out of the rest of the movie.  I also felt like it made the plot drag (hence my inability to get through it), since every song requires some sort of departure from the action of the movie.

I hasten to add that all the directing strategies I’m complaining about probably work great on a stage, and that the songs are all fantastic.  Go see it on Broadway if you’re so inclined, but the movie is miss-able.