Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Test 4

by Michael Bergeron

The end of December is a dead zone for your humble scribe as far as movies are concerned. I’ve already seen everything that cinema audiences are flocking to currently. More than a couple of high profile movies won’t even open in Houston until early to mid-January – titles like Letters From Iwo Jima, Pan’s Labyrinth, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Miss Potter, Notes On A Scandal, The Good German and Children of Men. Houston does present itself as a bit of a backwater town now and then.

Meanwhile local auds are just adjusting to The Good Shepherd and The History Boys, or if Santa left you a hunk of coal in your stocking Black Christmas.
With end of the year kudos being extended for many current films you’d think it was the best month of the year to see films. For me, that would be last March when I saw V For Vendetta and Thank You For Smoking. Those two films along with the fall release Little Children get my vote for best trio of films of the year. Other exceptional films would include the dense Brick; the tense Hard Candy; the documentary The Bridge; Happy Feet; natch Scorsese’s The Departed; Emilio Estevez’s emotional Bobby; and the dystopian tinged road movie Children of Men. Those were my best, here’s the rest.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the length and skullduggery of Good Shepherd or the infectious rhythms of Dreamgirls (none of the film’s songs are anywhere as good as a Motown hit), nor the minimalism of a Clint Eastwood war romp, or the animated rumbles of Cars, the grief of The Queen or the sheer intensity of United 93. And I definitely sat on the edge of my seat for most of Apocalypto, and thought The Fountain was way over the heads of the studio and moviegoers alike. Likewise I laughed like a hyena at Borat and disavowed fast food after Fast Food Nation. Perhaps the coolest single shot from any film was the swooping crane discovery sequence from The Black Dahlia, otherwise a misfire from Brian De Palma.

When you see as many films as I do it’s not so much about what you like, but about what you can’t wait to end.

Two films epitomize all that is wrong with filmmaking: Stranger Than Fiction and The Holiday. The former was a Huckabees wannabe metaphysical comedy that painted itself into its own lame corner. It has to be good because it’s absurd seems to be director Marc Forester’s mantra. Oddly his badly reviewed Stay was more interesting than anything in Stranger Than Fiction. Will Farrell seems destined to be the George Gobel (a popular comic actor from the 1950s) of this generation.

The Holiday just sets the right mood with the most impossibly beautiful people making love to each other. What’s wrong with that you may ask? After two reels of foreplay Cameron Diaz and Jude Law hop in the sack and after consummating their relationship she still wearing her bra. Welcome to PG-13 filmmaking. The Holiday has brilliant thesps like Kate Winslet overacting, and natural hams like Jack Black downshifting his usual kinetic method. Nancy Meyer’s direction oversimplifies the romance a film like The Holiday needs to sustain interest, but then again she turns out holiday pap like this on a regular basis (anyone own a DVD of What Women Want?).

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