Sunday, February 22, 2009

Summer Movies

Today seems to be a good day to discuss the movies I have seen over the summer.

Before I retired, I would be lucky to see more than 3 or 4 movies a year, usually in the school holidays. I rarely watch a movie on TV, I usually fall asleep. With a few notable exceptions I can never remember actor's names.

However on retirement I became a club member for a small yearly charge at a theatre in the city which gives me cheap movies and every 5th one free so am now attending much more. This theatre does tend to show more foreign movies, but that does not worry me.

My opinions are likely to be very different from most people. I have shown the rating I put on my IMDB site as soon as I came home.
I have seen a lot of the ones being nominated for the Oscars in a few hours time. 'The Reader' only commenced here last week but is on my to see list despite some controversy in the papers. Seeing the shorts of 'The Wrestler' did not encourage me to see it and 'Dark Knight' is not my type of movie although I do hope Heath Ledger wins for sentimental reasons. However although I thought he was marvellous in Brokeback Mountain I did not enjoy the other two movies I saw with him acting. This, however, was due to the movie, not his acting.


Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis) 7
This was very funny although would have been funnier if I had understood enough French as many of the jokes were based on the accent of the region and did not translate very well.

The Duchess 8
I am a sucker for English costume dramas. The story kept me involved and both Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes acted well.

Brideshead Revisited 8
I loved this on TV years ago. I did not feel the movie was as good but the years may have coloured my memories.

Lemon Tree (Etz Limon) 8
This is in Hebrew and Arabic. I saw Hiam Abbass in The Visitor and I enjoyed both that movie and her acting. Her role in Lemon Tree did not disappoint. In both films she is involved in a potential love affair that cannot continue and she portrays the emotions very well. A very thought provoking movie about the situation in Israel and its effects on ordinary people.

Australia the Movie 8
This was knocked by the critics yet everyone I have asked enjoyed it. It was probably overhyped. It was by no means the greatest movie ever made and perhaps should have had a different title. Parts were cliched and the history was iffy. (The Japanese bombed Darwin but no Japanese troops landed on Australian soil even offshore islands). However I can watch Hugh Jackman for ever :-) and although Nicole Kidman has her off movies, I thought she played the part very well. Brandon Walters is a great find and I hope he goes well. It was disappointing that it did not do well in the States. I came out feeling very proud of my country.

I have loved you for a long time (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) 9
This movie hit me right between the eyes. To say much would give it all away but it is one of the most powerful and emotional films I have ever seen. I can only remember 'Brokeback Mountain ' affecting me the same way and that was because it personally impacted on me. This story had no relevance to my life but still had me sobbing my heart out. Kristin Scott Thomas does an excellent job. Although in French, I highly recommend it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 8
Also affected me emotionally although I do not know why as the storyline is ridiculous. The acting by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson were all excellent and I was blown away by the makeup and special effects to age Brad Pitt.
Enjoyed seeing some views of New Orleans.

Frost/Nixon 7
More great acting by Frank Langella although Michael Sheen annoyed me but perhaps that was the idea. I do not know how true it was to history as that period of history passed me by because I was travelling by Kombi in Europe and had little access to TV and English news. I found it interesting if not gripping.

Doubt 9
What can you say about Meryl Streep. Having recently seen her in Mamma Mia which I only mildly enjoyed (only gave it 3 but probably on reflection that was harsh) but no fault of hers, her acting range is tremendous. Phillip Hoffman was also very good and Amy Adams also excellent. The story left me a bit up in the air which I found unsatisfactory but apparently that was the intention.

Milk 9
Another excellent film and taught me much more about Harvey Milk. I am old enough to remember the assassination although being pre-internet, news was not so immediate and it was before my first visit to the States. Sean Penn was excellent. Apparently there are some problems with the historical reality but I am not in a position to comment.

Valkyrie 6
The only movie this summer which was not at my club membership theatre and not my choice. A friend whom I had not seen for several years asked me to go with him as his wife was not interested. He had read the book and knew my interest in all things German. It was just okay, hardly gripping and I never think much of Tom Cruise. I enjoyed lunch and chatting with my friend, I could have given the movie a miss.

Slumdog Millionaire 4
I realise this will be controversial. I had no intention of seeing it but other people told me how good it was. However I nearly walked out in one of the earliest scenes. My one viewing of the TV program (Australian version) turned me off it for life. I have been to India (1974) and experienced the poverty and have no wish to go there again although the Taj Mahal was beautiful. I actually laughed at the scene where he was misleading the tourists. The soundtrack was excruciatingly loud and I avoid any violent film. I guess the acting was good although I read the child stars were exploited. However the storyline was difficult to follow, the ending was obvious and I felt it a waste of my time. My sister wisely did not want to see it and her husband, who was keen to see it, went alone and apparently also did not like it. I know we are in the minority.

I have now seen:
The Reader 7
I think Kate Winslett definitely deserved her award. Ralph Fiennes gives me the creeps. The movie was very slow to begin, I am not turned on by long heterosexual sex scenes :-), but improved. While I can understand some criticism that it made audiences sympathetic to a Nazi war criminal (the talent of Kate), I think that mature thinking audiences should be able to consider many aspects.
I have been to Dachau and spent a traumatic day at Auschwitz. I have no sympathy whatever for the perpetrators of such terrible crimes but we need to consider their motives. Portraying them as inhuman beasts makes it too easy for us to believe that we would never go there. I have friends who migrated from Germany as children at the end of the war. Their parents were certainly not working in the SS but they were involved in the war on the side of Germany. How much did they know? How much did they pretend not to know? It is not something for me to discuss with my friends whose parents have now died.
I have a great love and admiration for German culture but it must be tempered by the knowledge of how National Socialism was allowed to flourish. Can we say that, given similar circumstances, the British, American or Australian people would have reacted differently?
Certainly a thought provoking movie.

No comments: