Sunday, December 13, 2009

Movies? Me?

Until the last couple of weeks, I had probably watched five movies all year long. I'm not a big movie guy and not having a television, I don't have the opportunity (fortunately) of getting sucked into a 74th viewing of the Shawshank Redemption. But we all need a little escape every now and then and so I grabbed some movies from my local libraries.

My initial plan was to unwind a bit during the Thanksgiving holiday. School was closed the week of Thanksgiving so I had no assignments due and then the week following would be the final week of the semester. I thought the Thanskgiving weekend would be a nice warmup and then this past week, the beginning of my first extended break since September, would get rid of the last vestiges of school angst. Good plan.

So good, I couldn't wait for it to start. I watched my first movie the weekend before Thanksgiving. Thank You For Smoking is about a tobacco lobbyist and his quest to increase smoking in the face of governmental regulations/health concerns. He is divorced with a young son and he takes the kid with him, trying to be a role model while making decisions that aren't necessarily moral. I really enjoyed this. Aaron Eckhart nails the part of the lobbyist. The movie is a riot. Rob Lowe is a quirky Hollywood exec who adds satire to the satire. Just a wonderfully entertaining film. One of my favorites in a long time. I told people after I watched this, if more movies were like this, I'd watch more of them.

Thanksgiving weekend brought another movie. Dead Again was mentioned somewhere at some point by Keith Law. I'm not sure how I missed this movie before because Campbell Scott has a bit part in it and I thought I saw all his movies from the 1990's (Big Night, Impostors, Spanish Prisoner, Singles, Dying Young, Roger Dodger, Love Letter. I probably did miss more than one but I really enjoyed Campbell Scott in the nineties). This was a fun movie. Emma Thompson and Ken Branagh play dual rules. A composer supposedly murders his musician wife in the 1940's. The husband is put to death for the murder. Decades later, the spirits of both infest an artist and a private detective who look just like the dead couple. A hypnotist is brought in to uncover the truth and a neat twist in the end makes it very interesting. I enjoyed this movie a lot. But it had Campbell Scott so of course it was good.

School ended and I went a with a pair of movies I've seen before. I re-watch movies. Can't help it. Unlike books, where I think there are zillions of gems out there I'll never get to, I feel like I'm more likely to hit a clunker than a winner with new movies. So I went with State and Main and The Saint. Again, favorites at play. I really enjoy David Mamet films, especially the dialogue. It may have been The Spanish Prisoner that launched my liking for Campbell Scott. I don't think it was but it could have been. Love that film but it is not a good film for multiple viewings.

Returning to State and Main, the movie is about a group of movie-making Hollywooders that invade a small town to make their movie and all the difficulties of the two cultures colliding. Again, fun movie, bit of a satire, great dialogue. Bunch of name actors - Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Stiles, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I definitely recommend it. One of the more approachable Mamet films.

I've always loved The Saint. Part of me looks upon it as a sequel to Real Genius which naturally gives it appeal. Val Kilmer goes from collegiate whiz kid to international super thief. Why not? Have to use your brilliance somehow. The female lead is Elisabeth Shue, who, if you're being warped in the mind like me and associating yourself with the movie Real Genius, then making the leap to associating yourself with The Saint, is definitely a fine choice of a woman with whom to have a relationship in your make-believe fantasyland.

In reality, though, the movie is a bit more cheesy than I remembered. I've mentioned before that I have the soundtrack and associated music to this movie so it's always great to watch for the tunes. Even if most of the songs from the associated music disc get played for four seconds as background music. So I enjoyed it but I think in terms of overall quality, I would have to rank this movie fourth of the four I mentioned.

Speaking of music and hot women, I watched a fifth movie without really intending to do so. Someone returned a movie to our library from one of the other branches. A French movie entitled The Page Turner. Music related movie? Sign me up.

The movie starts with this young girl, Melanie, who is an excellent pianist. She goes to a very important audition where one of the judges is a famous pianist. While the girl is auditioning, a woman barges in and asks for an autograph of the judge. The judge obliges, adoring the adulation and ignoring the performance in front of her. This rattles the little girl who flubs the rest of her audition. She goes home and never plays piano again.

Fast forward ten years. The little girl is now in her twenties and, to me, is incredibly attractive (the actress is Deborah Francois). Then again, I have unconventional tastes in women (other celebrity crushes: Felicia Day, Claire Forlani) so take it with a grain of salt and yes, she is in her twenties and is an actress so yeah, it's not too hard for her to be looking good, but still. Ignoring the aesthetics for a moment....the woman is applying for a position as an administrative worker for a law firm. She gets the job, does well even though she seems rather anti-social and a bit odd. But you're wondering, "What the heck is she doing at a law firm"? One of the lawyers finds himself in need of someone to watch his son while he travels. He asks one of the other admins if her daughter would do it. She cannot. The "heroine" of the movie says she will do it. It will require her living at his house. No prob.

She gets out to the house and we find that his wife is a professional pianist who is a bit emotionally unstable because of a car accident she was in a couple years before. She's around the home all day but because of her fragility someone else really needs to be there to care for the son and make meals, etc. and since Melanie has been such a good worker, surely she will do a fine job as well. Any guesses who the pianist is? That's right, the judge from ten years before who ruined Melanie's potential playing career.

Melanie bides her time and ingratiates herself with the pianist. The pianist discovers that Melanie can read music and has Melanie become her page turner. The pianist plays in a trio that is to be performing for a radio program that is very important. Would Melanie help? But of course. The concert comes, the pianist trusts Melanie, and.....

The concert is a success. Melanie becomes more and more important to the pianist and there is another performance. But nothing is as expected. The ending is quite surprising and is so out in leftfield that you're left thinking "Really? That's the plan she worked on for the last decade?". Definitely a cool film with an ending you don't expect. And at 83 minutes, good length. Also, great soundtrack with a Shostakovich trio among other nice pieces. Don't hear those too often.

Five good movies out of five. ALMOST makes me want to watch some more. Frankly, though, I'm at my limit. I think it would be hard for me to try and watch any more right now. would be fun to watch Impostors again. Hmmmmm.

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