Tuesday, January 05, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 28 December 2009 to 3 January 2010

I looked at the way the vacation days I had to use up by the end of the year and figured I would see a ton of movies, filling up this last page of the calendar with stubs. I didn't count on two things, though:

(1) Snow. Not enough to give one that eerie "empty city" feeling - where you have to walk down the middle of the street because the sidewalks are covered but it's okay, because nobody is driving except snowplows, and the gray sky seems to suppress any light that may be coming out of windows - but enough that I really saw no need to go out in it But that's okay, because...

(2) There really wasn't much to see at all. Sure, I wanted to see It's Complicated for the excellent cast, but wasn't really enthused. Still, that put it in line ahead of the award contenders that were straddling the boutique places and multiplexes; I just couldn't muster up much, if any, enthusiasm for Nine, The Road, or The Young Victoria. Likely decent movies all, but they felt like homework. And then, on New Year's Day, nothing new opened.

Seriously? Nothing? Just a little shuffling of screens at the Kendall and maybe switching one Bollywood film out for another at Fresh Pond? Wasn't there some action movie that otherwise would have gone straight to video but could have pounced on an open week (an Echelon Conspiracy situation, so to speak)?

I half-suspect that it's a tactic to soften us up for the dreck that trickles out during January and February. "You're not only going to watch The Spy Next Door, but you'll thank us for it!"

This Week In Tickets!

Stubless: The films of Makoto Shinkai

The weekly calendar has, I think, swelled to something like twice its size over the past year - the plastic back cover threatens to fall off and the scanner actually starts to distort the image because the coil wasn't designed to hold something that thick together. There's 191 ticket stubs in there, along with 14 baseball tickets, 2 concert tickets, 3 festival media passes, and a couple touristy things from Montreal... and that thing isn't designed to be used as a scrapbook.

It's Complicated

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 December 2009 at AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run)

So... Did anybody else watch this movie from Nancy Meyers about a divorced woman pulled back toward her husband, remember that she and husband Charles Sheyer were always credited as a team so the solo writing credit seems odd, then find out that they must have divorced at roughly the same time as the characters in the movie, and find that a little odd? Sure, she sticks Steve Martin's character in there so that we know from the beginning that Meryl Streep has an honest, decent alternative to Alec Baldwin, but at some point, does someone read the script or see the movie and wonder just what mom's getting at?

No? Just me? Never mind.

That aside, It's Complicated is a pretty inoffensively enjoyable movie, with plenty of funny moments, especially when Alec Baldwin is on screen as the since-remarried ex-husband who is shamelessly adept at rationalizing his actions. It's funny enough, and generally friendly, although more than a little whitebread. As much as Baldwin's character is a little ridiculous, I wish Steve Martin had something to do other than be the solid but not hugely exciting answer to him. At least let him be as funny as John Kracsinski, who walks away with just about every scene he's in.

A Single Man

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 29 December 2009 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run)

Purely hypothetical question: If the English Professor Colin Firth plays in this character were heterosexual, and it was a female student of less than half his age that was following him around and maybe eventually making her way into a more intimate situation and making him feel that life was actually worth living, would the audience be quite so cool with it? Maybe; quite possibly, even, although I have my doubts. I ask because I thought of that hypothetical situation and couldn't really decide whether first-time director Tom Ford was talented enough to make the equivalent situation work with a gay pairing or whether there was a weird double standard at work.

I'm still not sure. There's no doubt that Ford does some good work here, and Firth, too, although something about their combined work leaves me rather cold. A Single Man is, within its category, just as cliched and showy as something like Avatar. It's the sort of movie where the audience notices differences in film grain and color saturation from one scene to the next, because while the filmmaker is clever, he's either not nearly as skilled at applying that as he thinks he is or it's very important that the audience know he's clever ("see? The sad, broken-down guy is all bleached out but the young guy is a golden god!"). There's lots of things in this movie that could have been extremely effective if allowed to work just below the level at which the audience consciously notices them, but Ford (as respected as he apparently is as a fashion designer) doesn't seem to have learned to moderate his artistic impulses in this medium.

Plus, I kind of hated the ending. (SPOILERS!) It's the type that wants to have it both ways - the character makes the choice to live (yay!) but actually allowing him to do so and maybe start a relationship with this beautiful boy might undercut how perfect a love he and his dead partner had (boo!). Thus, the perfectly-timed natural death, so he can end loving life and his partner (yay and yay!), which, while tragic, is still kind of a cop-out (and the seeing said loved one reaching out a hand, just as he dies? Tacky!). (/SPOILERS!)

A Single Man is a fine, very nice-looking film. Still, it wound up striking me as the type that is kind of trite, despite such a thick veneer of class and seriousness.

Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 1 January 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (first-run)

Broken Embraces also has kind of a convenient ending, but the process that gets us there is much more assured. Pedro Almodovar, after all, is an old hand, and while he doesn't do much in his movie that is surprising or revolutionary, he handles his low-key melodrama like an old pro. The movie cuts back in forth between two time periods - the present, where a blind screenwriter takes offense at a young artist's commission, and fourteen years ago, when a secretary became her employer's mistress in order to secure health care for her father - with grace, and features fine performances front its entire cast. It noodles some, sure, but mostly at the start of the film, when it perhaps does not wish to tip its cap as to which stories will prove important.

It's quite enjoyable, and almost kind of refreshing to see a director as respected, even lionized, as Almodovar not feeling he has to prove himself or make each new film be a bold, new event. He finds ways to put bits of visual comedy into what is, by turns, a romantic and serious film. It's a solid, assured work, and you can't complain about that.
It's ComplicatedA Single ManBroken Embraces


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Vampire said...

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