Monday, February 02, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 26 January 2009 to 1 February 2009

An unusually sparse week, especially for me:

This Week In Tickets!

I really just found myself running at half-speed all week. Thursday was a particular killer; I wasn't nodding off at work, but I never felt alert. I got home at six and then just collapsed on the bed for almost two hours before remembering I'd said I would drop something off in Harvard Square. Got back, went to bed at around nine-thirty after downing some TheraFlu, which knocked me out for four hours and left me unable to sleep all night. That cost me the chance to see The Passionate Friends from the Brattle's David Lean series.

On the weekend, I fully intended to see Frozen River before heading to the Chlotrudis Nominating Meeting (as of now, the liveblogged nominations should still be near the top of the Mewsings Blog), but thought it was at 11:40 rather than 11:30. Then the meeting took the entire rest of the day.

Today... Today I just feel lazy; there's no way I should have arrived at Fenway too late for the 4pm show of Taken when The Uninvited got out at 2:45. Sure, I spent time buying some boots with a gift card my brother Travis and his wife Jen got me for Christmas and trying to find some 3-D glasses for tomorrow night's Chuck (they just don't exist in the Boston area, it seems!), but still...

Wendy and Lucy

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 January 2009 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run)

Everyone discussing Wendy and Lucy is going to bring up Michelle Williams and Kelly Reichardt, as well they should, but let's take a moment to talk about Larry Fessenden. He's produced two of Reichardt's features and had a cameo in each; the one in this movie is memorable. He's sort of taken the position Roger Corman used to have, producing and directing low-budget horror films and using some of the money they make on art-house projects like Wendy and Lucy. Fessenden makes, from what I gather, pretty good horror - I liked The Last Winter, I've heard very good things about Wendigo - so perhaps it's not surprising that he does this sort of thing.

It's a very nice little movie, with a very fine performance at the center by Michelle Williams. She's very matter-of-fact as she goes about looking for her dog and getting her car fixed, powerless but trying to make things happen anyway. The scenes she shares with Wally Dalton (playing a security guard) are little delights; they're people who don't have much but can't ask for anything from each other. What matters is that they are connected by the respect they show to each other, which is not exactly something either is used to receiving.

Brief Encounter

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 28 January 2009 at The Brattle Theatre (Encounter David Lean)

Likely controversial for its time, as it shows an extra-marital affair without much in the way of judgment or justification - indeed, the home life of Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) is depicted as fairly idyllic - it seems quaint now, if not a bit stiff from the narration it all but drowns in. A shame, really, as Johnson's performance is good enough that there hardly seems to be anything more that words can add, even if they are Noel Coward's words.

It is, otherwise, a fine enough movie, with Johnson and Trevor Howard quite enjoyable as the couple who has the bad luck to meet and fall in love after they are already married to other people. Pretty tame by today's standards, but not laughably so; Lean and his cast do a fine job of showing how tempting (and later wrenching) this situation is.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 28 January 2009 at The Brattle Theatre (Encounter David Lean)

So how, exactly, is Sally Hawkins not up for an Academy Award for her performance here? There won't be many performances more memorable or more complete this year. It's just yet another example of how despair and misery seem more valued in art than optimism, which is a shame. Hawkins's Poppy is a wonderful character and just because she's frequently smiling doesn't mean she's a fool or easy to play - indeed, while the four performances I've seen frequently seem to have the actress locking her face and voice into a certain cast and then dramatically breaking out of it, Hawkins is reacting visibly to everything. Sometimes it may seem inappropriate, but it's always perfectly in keeping with her character, and by the end we can see that she's clearly not a one-note fool.

We also may wonder, why don't we see more Poppys, both on-screen and in real life? Although I imagine it must be exhausting to be as relentlessly positive as she is, what's to be gained by not trying in our own lives? And maybe it's evidence for just how great Hawkins's performance is that we do believe in Poppy, even though this sort of character appears seldom enough for us to be skeptical about her being for real.

The Uninvited

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 February 2009 at AMC Boston Commone #1 (first-run)

It had been some time since I'd seen A Tale of Two Sisters, so watching The Uninvited was like watching an episode of Law & Order that I recorded because I wasn't sure from the description whether or not it was a rerun I had seen or one I hadn't, though I realize it fits in the "had" category soon enough. When that happens, I find myself paying more attention to the audience around me than usual. Most of them, after all, haven't seen the Korean original, so while I'm not going to be surprised, I can at least enjoy theirs vicariously.

Not the case here. While I could feel the theater react around me during The Departed or The Grudge, this one just seemed to bore the rest of the people there. I can't say I blame them; as much as the Guard Brothers may turn out to be decent filmmakers given time (or in their comedic shorts), neither they nor the three people who worked on the screenplay are close to being in Two Sisters director Kim Ji-woon's league. This version streamlines and simplifies the story of the original, and completely does away with all the atmosphere. Kim's movie was based upon a Korean fairy tale (the original Korean name, "Changhwa, Hongryon" references it directly), and found a way to straddle the line between a contemporary setting and the semi-mythic world of folklore; this is just the blandest teen story imaginable. The scare moments are also just not nearly as good - legitimately disturbing sequences aren't even good jump moments here.

Disappointing in the extreme. Not that I expected much, but with such great source material, you'd think they could manage better than this!
Wendy And LucyBrief EncounterHappy-Go-LuckyThe Uninvited

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