Monday Movies Is Our Best Self Today

Is the The Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell, a romantic comedy? You might start to think so — clearly the story exists to unite Bradley Cooper’s broken motormouth Pat with Jennifer Lawrence’s angry widow Tiffany. Is the movie a romantic tragedy, about two people whose best hopes are ultimately misplaced in each other, or whose families’ inadequacies and suspicions trash their chances at happiness? It almost seems possible, as both crash over and over on the shoals of mania and heartbreak, that they’ll founder on them forever.
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You Never Confide Anything in Monday Movies, So We Have to Extrapolate

Barcelona — Mrs. K-sky and I blew off our families, got on a plane, and spent Thanksgiving and the following week drowning our jet lag in small plates of small fish in the Catalonian capital. She’d never seen anything by Whit Stillman, so we queued up his 1994 sophomore effort for the flight back.

In high school and college, I’d loved Metropolitan and Barcelona (Last Days of Disco less so; recently, Damsels in Distress was a pleasant but underwhelming return) and I was a little nervous about going back to them. Without question, the movie holds up. Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Movies is Gonna Have Fun and You’re Gonna Have Fun

Monday Movies is traveling this week. A few things we liked:

Via Gerry Canavan, a Zizekian reading of Wreck-It Ralph.

At Back to the World, Margaux Williamson reviews Moonrise Kingdom.

I really enjoy this blog, and especially Margaux’s voice for film reviews. She watches with an open mind and notices something about the film and expresses it clearly and simply. Doesn’t sound like the height of ambition but it always works. She’s a painter, I think, and there’s something about her simple but trenchant observations that I like to think comes from cross-training.

How about you? Do you still like movies? Did you see any? Did you make any?

Monday Movies Believes in a God With a Sense of Humor

The Sessions is a beautiful story, tenderly told. Based on a widely linked 1990 magazine article, it is the (mostly) true story of Mark O’Brien, a thirty-something man with polio who lives confined to a wheeled bed or an iron lung and who, wishing to experience sexual connection, seeks out a sex surrogate. It is not a story of “triumphing over disability,” although there are various triumphs and more than one disabled character.

O’Brien, played by John Hawkes, is an observant Catholic who “can’t tolerate the idea of not having someone to blame for all this.” The movie cuts back and forth between the life he leads with attendants, friends, and the subjects of his writing, and his conversations with and confessions to Father Brendan, a liberal Berkeley priest (William H. Macy). The movie’s unshowy portrayal of O’Brien’s Catholicism is remarkable. O’Brien takes his religion seriously, and it provides a structure for both his succor and his shame, but it’s not a totalizing experience, just a part of his life. It’s one of many details — the Berkeley setting is another — that give the movie a subtle, lived-in specificity. When we first meet O’Brien, he’s crinkling his nose to fend off a sneeze; in two other scenes, characters lift their hands to scratch their noses, a throwaway gesture that illuminates the extent of O’Brien’s prison.

Helen Hunt plays Cheryl, the sex surrogate who O’Brien finds through a therapist. Hunt is matter-of-factly naked and sexual, and the movie’s comic heart lies in their awkward and tender sessions, limited to six. There is a drama of transference and counter-transference — more commonly known as a love story — that feels invented (the various articles bear that out), but the characters feel real throughout. One theme that returns is how O’Brien’s helpers’ partners get jealous of him — it’s well played with the boyfriend of one of his nurses, but a little strained with Cheryl’s husband.

Hawkes is a good bet for an Oscar nomination, but I’d bet against a win–the movie is moving, but not bombastically or unbearably so. There may be a little too much joy.

See any good movies?

Movies. Monday Movies.

Skyfall is the twenty-third Bond movie and the third featuring Daniel Craig as the priapic spy. It argues the superiority of field agents over computer nerds, HUMINT over SIGINT, the old school vs. the new kids on the motherboard. And for all the thumbs that it puts on the scales — the Aston-Martin ungaraged to save the day after the hackers are out-hacked, the shaking-not-stirring — it winds up making its case against the spy game in toto more than for either the jocks or the nerds. It’s ambivalent to the point of nihilistic. Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Movies Doesn’t Wear The Dress. Make Paul Wear The Dress

Haywire is Steven Soderbergh at his leanest and most improvisational best. It bears a strong resemblance to The Limey, although it’s not as ambitious — as before, the director is working from a script by Lem Dobbs, although this time I get the sense that they are working more in concert than with knives drawn.

The story is a functional espionage thriller: Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Movies: Worst Ever

I’m filling in for Josh K-sky today, as my negativity is better suited to the topic at hand: the worst movies ever. This weekend, The Girlfriend and I developed a three-fold taxonomy of bad movies:

  1. Irredeemable: movies that are so bad that a “better” version cannot be imagined; one would simply have to start over entirely.
  2. Disappointments: promising movies done in by poor execution.
  3. Baffling classics: movies that are widely revered, but you can’t understand why.

In the first category, The Girlfriend and I believe that Shadowboxing, the first feature film by the director of Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, is something of the Platonic form. Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Helen Mirren as an assassin duo who face a serious moral dilemma when their target goes into labor just as they’re carrying out the hit, this movie does literally everything wrong. I hesitate to even single any particular thing out! Another major candidate for us is the animated feature Wizards, which features an alternately wise and lascivious wizard fighting against the forces of evil in a post-apocalyptic landscape. As it turns out, the sole surviving cultural artifact from the “Age of Technology” is footage of the Nazis. You can do the math. And then of course there’s Godfather, Part III.

I don’t have as many obvious examples of the second category — The Girlfriend suggested Hugo, which could have been a decent children’s movie if the lead actors weren’t so appallingly bad. It’s probably hard to get worked up about these films. Similarly with category three, where one might feel insecure admitting to one’s bafflement. For me, though, Chinatown is definitely up there on the “why is it a big deal” list, along with Easy Rider.

But what do you think, my dear readers?

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If Monday Movies Is Going To Make a Fake Movie, It’s Going To Be a Fake Hit

If the first five minutes of Argo were shown in American high schools, we would not be talking about going to war with Iran. A quick scene-setting voice-over plainly lays out how the nationalization of oil resources by reformer Mohammed Mossadegh upset the United States, who backed a coup to install the brutal Reza Pahlavi as Shah. The Iranians rose up against the Shah, the U.S. allowed him in for medical treatment, and when student rioters took over the embassy in 1979, they demanded he be returned to them for justice.

The movie, based on a must-read Wired article by Joshuah Bearman, depicts the storming of the embassy, but leaves its hostages to tell the story of six lesser-known Americans, who escaped that day, hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador, and were eventually spirited out of Iran by CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directed). Mendez disguised them as the director, screenwriter and scouting crew of the Star Wars rip-off Argo. Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Movies Sets Fires to Feel Joy

Pitch Perfect spans the intolerable and the sublime. It’s the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a college radio DJ who prefers to keep to her headphones but reluctantly joins an a capella singing group when her professor father says she can only quit college and go to L.A. if she spends her freshman year just trying something. She hooks up with the Bellas, an all-female group whose ranks have been decimated after the lead senior flubbed last year’s championship by projectile vomiting out her “I Saw The Sign” solo. Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Movies Likes To Ride

I don’t think it’s helpful to call a work of art “pretentious,” but I do think it’s meaningful to call one “unpretentious.” Rather than open up an unnecessarily Bourdieuvian riff, let me put it this way: I dig a good B-movie. One of my favorites of the last decade was Cellular, a nimble kidnap thriller in which Kim Basinger is uniquely suited to slay one of her captors because she’s a seventh-grade biology teacher who knows her axillary arteries. Life-and-death stakes, a little broad comedy, car chases, never boring and never in bad faith.

Stephanie Zacharek’s compare-and-contrast of Premium Rush to The Master gave me the idea that the former might be in my zone, Read the rest of this entry »

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