Monday, January 21, 2008

I Believe in Miracles.

Screening log for:

(15/01/08 – 21/01/08)

Quite a slow week where I didn't see anywhere near the amount I hoped for due to homework, but what I did so pleased me hugely.

Intolerable Cruelty (Coen brothers, 2003)
A very underrated and enjoyable film, in my opinion. I know the general consensus is that this is a step down for the Coen brothers, but I consider it one of their funniest, most accessible films, with great turns from all involved. The supporting performances in particular from Geoffrey Rush and Cedric the Entertainer, are hilarious. Anyway, it’s a romcom that’s cleverer than it looks with a wicked twist and whilst it certainly tests the bounds of reality, I enjoyed it. B+.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)
If you can get past the opening scene which contains a really filthy act that made me think I’d stumbled into a porn film (they SO would not have allowed that in a 15-certificate movie 10 year ago!), you’ve got yourself a solid drama that is unbelievably depressing, yet makes you grateful for your slightly-crappy life. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers who decide to rob their parents’ jewellery store, only for the operation to go terribly. Performances are excellent all round – I’m yet to see Charlie Wilson’s War, but Phil’s going to have to give an amazing performance to outdo his work here; for as the villain Andy, he creates a complex and pitiful character. Ethan Hawke is brilliantly twitchy and loserish and Albert Finney is heartbreaking. The plot cuts from days up to and after the botched robbery so you see the action from all points of views. Overall, gritty and painful, but generally rewarding. B.

Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)
From the opening sequence with Juno walking in quasi-animated form and the song “All I Want is You” plays, I knew I was in for something special. This is one of the most heartfelt and delightful films of recent years and it really put a smile on my face. The scenario – teenager gets pregnant after first go at sex – is hardly new, but this is far removed from yer typical episode of Hollyoaks, with witty lines and genuine characters. Ellen Page is brilliant, she’s deadpan and sarcastic, yet gives Juno such heart and warmth. I think it’s a testament to her talent that she transformed such a subtle role into a potential Oscar nominee. Jennifer Garner is also lovely as the woman who desperately wants to be a mother and I’m surprised her performance hasn’t generated any award buzz. Alison Janney is good fun and Michel Cera is Crouchesque in his bumbling awkwardness and long skinny legs.

If I had any problems with the movie its that it was too slight, the dialogue sometimes felt overly American, and Juno’s best mate was somewhat of an annoying cliché of a character. But that didn’t detract from my viewing pleasure of a wonderfully sweet and, essentially optimistic movie that brought tears of happiness to my eyes. Come Oscar time, I would not be surprised to see this getting a deserved Best Film Nomination. A-/B+

Recommended Oscar clips for Ellen:
- Crying in her car.

- Letting Jennifer Garner feel the baby kicking.
- With Michael Cera on the bed after giving birth.

No Country for Old Men (Coen brothers, 2007)
Yeah, baby. After The Departed winning the Oscar last year, if NCFOM wins it this year, it really will mark the beginning of overrated hacks that are Academy voters picking a film that’s actually good, unlike didactic shite like, you know, Crash.


NCFOM is a cat-and-mouse tale, with Josh Brolin as the hunter whose found the remains of a drug-deal-gone-run, takes the money and runs, only to be pursued by psycho killer Javier Bardem. This is a thriller that really demands your attention, with some killings made out of the blue and like a dart to the audience’s heart. The cinematography from Shawshank Redemptioner Roger Deakins is the best of the year; with gorgeous shots of the beautiful but barren landscape. The sound design works a treat, really shooting any audience members who were dozing bolt upright with its sudden bursts. The direction is slow and assured, and the script, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel would have suffered so much in anyone other than the Coens’ hands, but is realistic and blackly funny here.

Oh, and the cast. Josh Brolin is very good, giving his character depth and in later scenes really illuminating his character’s fierce determination to survive so that despite the fact that he thieved, the audience had a clear idea of who to root for. Tommy Lee Jones gets to deliver most of the “Coenesque” lines and does so terrifically; he almost exudes a sort of sad longing for the days when evil didn’t pervade. Kelly Macdonald is amazing; as with Garner in Juno I’m surprised she hasn’t generated more attention, because in the typical “wife” role she not only nails the Texan accent, but shines in every scene that she’s in. And, of course, Sr. Bardem. If I saw any other man with that haircut I’d laugh, but no one would laugh in the face of his Anton Chigurh, one of the coldest killers in history. His face is expressionless as he kills and kills and he’s completely terrifying. Utterly insane, of course, but one of the most measured performances I’ve seen.

Brutal, raw, and bloody, No Country for No Men takes your attention from the start and keeps it. A lot has been said (and whined) about the closing 20 minutes, and I will admit that I was a little disappointed that the Coens would have the climax of the movie occur off-screen, but you’ve got to commend them for choosing the sad rather than the satisfying ending.

So all in all, one of the best things I’ve seen for a while. A-

Recommended Oscar clips for Javier:
- Scene with Kelly Macdonald
- "Flip a coin"
- Scene with Woody Harrelson


Kayleigh said...

Glad you enjoyed Juno. I am currently on Team Ellen for the Oscars, she was too good to be ignored (sadly my gut is going with Julie Christie to win at this moment in time)
Really want to see No Country. I've loved Kelly Macdonald since I first saw Trainspotting. Do you think Javier Bardem will win the Supporting Actor Oscar? I'm Team Casey but if he did win, I'd be very happy.

Anonymous said...

Javier was the BOMB!

anahita said...

I really wish I was one of the people like you who can really watch such great films like NCFOM. I mean, I'm sure it's a very good film, but it just doesn't INTEREST me, you know? which is really crap, 'cos I'm really into GOOD films, not just blockbusters, but I can't watch half of them, either they're too violent, too graphic, or just boring. I can't give my opinion on ANYTHING good. It's frankly embarassing. Plus, the films I do wanna see, i can't afford to, seeing as I don't have enough money to go even once a month to the cinema.

argh, sorry, crappy day, and am feeling utterly inadequate. sorry to use your comment box as my "rant space"

anywhoo, glad you liked your uber sophisticated films :P Juno i desperately want to see (but I don't wanna pirate hehe) but I found intolerable cruelty, well, intolerable. funny, seeing as how i love catherine zeta jones (when i was little, i though her elena in zorro was the most beautiful woman i had ever seen) but intolerable cruelty was so BORING!!

Just a girl said...

I agree. A film very well done - the actors and acting was brilliant - though the ending was disappointing, but leaves you thinking.

Again, a wonderful and spot on review.

Just a girl

Besty said...

Spot on with your review for NCfOM, but up the grade!