Sunday, July 13, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Damn but this movie was difficult to watch. Well, there was just one long scene that was really difficult and I felt sad the rest of the movie because of it. But at the same time, it was perversely a pleasure to watch too because the lead actress, Anamaria Marinca, who played the character Otilia, was so fantastic. The story is set in 1980s Romania during totalitarian rule, and follows a pregnant girl (4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant to be exact) trying to have an illegal abortion with the help of her friend, Otilia. Otilia is a much stronger and cannier person than her pregnant friend, Gabita, and manages the details of the abortion on the day of the event, getting things done despite errors in judgement and planning, and misrepresentations on the part of Gabita. While the movie never directly refers to the totalitarian regime, there is evidence everywhere - the ominipresent ID cards and bureaucratic mindset of the older folk, the bustling blackmarket barter system in the student dorms, the drained look on everyone's faces. Even Otilia, who shows the most spark and life of all the characters shown, seems on the verge of breaking at times. It is Otilia who sees through to the heart of things, through her boyfriend and his family and the system itself. Despite weathering grueling events she puts herself back together and one has faith that she will come out ahead in the end.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

American Gangster

Now that I have run out of Netflix-sanctioned Blood+ episodes to watch, I am starting to watch movies again. This was the first of them. I wasn't sure what this movie was going to be like, and I was pleased to find that it was a perfectly entertaining execution of a well-traveled plot: the rise of the gangster, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the gangster as top dog, the fall of the gangster. The difference here was the insertion of another plot kind of like that of the Departed. We see the life of a cop, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) playing out in parallel and of course at some point the two characters intersect. I thought Denzel Washington played his role rather woodenly for the first half of the movie; he only started to get interesting at the end when he was more animated and his natural charm came through. I wish he had displayed a little more of that animation earlier on. As it was, I couldn't find myself sympathizing with this character at all. His fall affected me very little. Russell Crowe managed to sport the worst haircut of all time throughout the entire movie. Despite some attempts to create a fleshed out character in Richie Roberts, in the end you don't get a sense of anything more than boy-scout, albeit a boy-scout with a messy personal life. Strangely the only character that really elicited interest was the villainous bad cop, played by Josh Brolin. Rate ****

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

All right, so while I was on a high from Singin' in the Rain I found Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (another childhood related musical) and immediately started watching. Let me say, it is significantly less great than Singin' in the Rain. The story line is relatively weak, the dancing is way subpar (it's unfair, but you just can't beat Gene Kelly) and the songs were unsingable by me, and therefore less awesome. The whole feel of the movie was just different I guess. There was none of the wit and energy of Singin' in the Rain and I guess really, there isn't much more for me to talk about. I was very easily able to abandon it, mid-way through and wash some dishes. I guess this is one musical that did not really withstand my transition to adulthood. Rate **

Singing in the Rain

I've recently started watching things on my computer using Netflix's Instant Watch program and it's gotten kind of addicting. After watching some episodes of The Office (American version) and all of 30 Rock: Season 1, I started casting about for movies to watch. Let me say, the pickings are slim. But while doing so, I spotted Singin' in the Rain, one of my favorite musicals ever and just had to watch it. It's been forever since I've seen it, but when Bunny and I were little we used to watch it constantly. I was happy to find that I still recalled all the scenes and tunes and that the movie was as fresh and beloved to me as it has always been. For a solid week after watching, whenever I was vaguely alone and sometimes when I was not, I sung snippets of "Singin' in the Rain," "Good morning," and that love song from the Dancing Cavaliers fake movie. Now if only Netflix would provide The Unsinkable Molly Brown as an Instant Watch option. Ooooh, or Kiss Me Kate! Rate *****


I watched Juno a few weeks ago (after watching 25 episodes of Blood+, post related to that to come later after I finish watching all 50 episodes) and really enjoyed it. It's been on my to-watch list forever, and I had almost become afraid of watching it; because I was completely primed to like it, I felt that with such high expectations, I might be disappointed. Anyway, as the whole world knows by now, Juno is a movie about a teenage girl with an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. Rather than playing out as a cautionary tale however, Juno takes an intelligent approach to the dilemma and allows its lead character (Juno) to make a choice about her own body. Abortion is presented as an option, and while Juno does not ultimately choose this path, it was at least considered. She decides to have the baby, but recognizing that she is ill-equipped at the moment to be a mother, she chooses an attractive couple from a newspaper ad to adopt her child. The movie deals with its topic with a fairly light hand and there are a lot of laughs. However, the greatest feat of Juno (the movie) is being able to balance these laughs with the appropriate gravity surrounding such weighty themes as teenage pregnancy, adulthood, marriage and love. I generally stay away from movies described as such, but Juno may rank among those "feel-good movies of the year." Rate *****