Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thoughts on "Million Dollar Baby"

Well, I think the Academy got this one right. As good as Sideways and The Aviator were, this one was better. Eastwood and Freeman bicker like an old married couple and it's hilarious. If someone tells you this is just a movie about boxing, don't buy it. The father/daughter relationship which develops between Eastwood and Swank takes it to the next level. The ending is rather melodramatic, but it serves to develop the characters more, so I didn't mind it as much as others. A high recommendation.

More Summer Reading and Films

Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan

  • This was just a tease to whet our appetite for the other volumes. He has four chapters, none of which are in chronological order (would we expect any less from Bob). He begins with his arrival in NYC, then moves to the late '80's work with Daniel Lanois, then goes back to his years in Minnesota and then to his breakthrough at Columbia Records. His style is fairly easy to read, but it was like eating Chinese food -- soon after finishing I was hungry for more. I hope the second volume will be a bit more substantial.

Coach Carter

  • Lots of basketball and inner city cliches, but an enjoyable film. Samuel L. Jackson holds up his end as usual as the tough love coach who turns the boys around.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Thoughts on Summer Reading

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Much better than the previous book. Rowling has a good take on teenage behavior regarding friends, sex, etc. It will be curious to see if the tragic ending remains tragic, or if certain characters return (like Gandalf) or make an appearance (like Obi-Wan) in volume seven. The plot was better in this one, avoiding the extraneous sub plots which bogged down the fourth and fifth books (Hermoine's elf crusade was particularly irritating). I'm eagerly waiting the last installment.
White Noise by Dom Delillo
  • I've struggled with Delillo novels before, but I managed to slog through this one. A late 80's rant on the influence of television and the fear of death. Considering the boring lives the characters lead, I'm shocked they don't long for death as a simple change in routine. Tough characters to care about, and since there isn't much of a plot, there's not much to recommend this book.
Secrets by Daniel Ellsburg
  • I put off reading this book for a couple of years, and I now regret waiting. Great look at the 60's from someone who lived it (Ellsburg went to 'Nam, worked for the government and leaked the "Pentagon Papers" which revealed that the U.S. knew they were in a no win situation from the start, but no one wanted to admit it). He takes you from the Gulf of Tonkin incident (a complete fraud) to his acquittal on charges of treason in 1972. We see his character develop from hawk to dove along with the country. I show the film version of this story (The Pentagon Papers) to my journalism students.
An American Requiem by James Carroll
  • Picked this up for a buck at a library book sale, and it was worth much more. The writer tells his story of the priesthood, Vietnam and his father (a high ranking Air Force officer). It reminded me of A Field of Dreams with the father-son conflict except the root of Carroll's conflict was Vietnam. The son realizes the conflicts his father faced, but too late to reconcile with him. His departure from the priesthood is a shame...The church needs more men of his conscience and intelligence.
How to be Good by Nick Hornby
  • I was disappointed by this book. I'd heard great things about Hornby, but this book left me flat. A British housewife can't handle it when her previously loutish husband suddenly gets religion (in some bizarre form) and wants to change the world by giving away many of their possessions and taking in homeless people. She couldn't stand him when he wrote a column for the local newspaper as the "angry man", and now she can't stand him as a do-gooder. She whines about finding some middle ground and feels guilty about her selfishness. I cared more about their two children than I did about the husband and wife who were the main characters.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thoughts on "The Aviator"

I haven't seen Million Dollar Baby yet, but it must have been good to beat out this film for Best Picture. Scorcese knows biopics (see Raging Bull). Leo channels Howard Hughes as part Rain Man, part Cast Away. Blanchette deserved her honor with her portrayal as Hepburn. It was long (2 hr. 50 mins.), but kept the interest as we followed Hughes into his own personal hell.

I loved the colors used in the film. Lots of pastels fit well with the time period.

Thoughts on "Closer"

Just hearing Julia Roberts talk dirty was enough to recommend this film.

After viewing, I'm left wondering which character is the most reprehensible. Clive Owen's (he should be the next James Bond) character was a manipulative brute, but at least he was honest. Jude Law as the hopeless romantic seeking total honesty from everyone but himself was the most devastated by the whole mess. Natalie Portman's stripper with the heart of gold finally stood up for herself at the end. Excellent choice of roles for her. After seeing her in this film, it's hard to say she will be typecast as the "Senator Amidala" character for the rest of her career.

Despite all this, the Julia Roberts character was the most reprehensible. She could not decide what she wanted and thus ended up stuck in a marriage she never wanted. The final scene of her rolling over in bed with the look of resignation on her face was the perfect ending for this cynical film. Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" was a great choice to bookend the film.

Some strange stylistic choices by Nichols. At several points in the film, time jumps dramatically and the view is left to infer this from the dialogue. I guess this was left over from the original stage production. You also rarely see a film with no minor characters. With a couple of brief exceptions, the four main characters are the only ones who speak. Again, I guess this is left over from the stage production (probably just a four person show).

The film was a great alternative to sappy summer romance films. It could have been titled When Harry Screwed Around too Much and Sally became a Stripper.