It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about movies! Anyone who remembers my movie posts from many moons ago will remember that I’m not a true reviewer – I’m a fan. I don’t rate them (except on Netflix) and my “reviews” are really just stream of consciousness notes about what I thought about them. That said, if I’m including a movie in one of my samplers, then I think it’s worth watching. Sometimes just because it’s fun or entertaining – and other times because you can learn something from it or it has a great message. SPOILER ALERT: This sampler’s full of spoilers. If you hate spoilers, watch the movies first and then come back to discuss! 😀
This was a fantastic movie. If you can’t see it in the theater, put it in your queue for later. For starters, Ben Affleck! I love him, always have, even in some of his choices that weren’t as commercially or critically successful. When he came out with The Town in 2010 I wanted to track him down and give him a high-five. (If you haven’t seen that movie yet, what are you waiting for? Rent it tonight!) So… Argo… It was tense, somber, and serious. Affleck deftly set up the historical background of the story (a 1980 joint Canadian-American covert rescue of six American diplomats in Iran during the time of the Iran hostage crises) and then immediately immersed viewers into this compelling drama of survival and rescue. But what sets this movie apart from other spy thrillers, survival stories, and rescue missions is the movie’s use of its true life inspirational sources. The movie was based on an event called the “Canadian Caper.” Since a “caper” is a lighthearted prank or trick, one would assume a modern-day filmmaker creating a film about at-risk diplomats in the middle east wouldn’t even try to work in all the mental associations that the word “caper” brings to mind. Not so. I found the film’s Hollywood set scenes just as engaging – in entirely different ways – as the Iranian set scenes.
This is an older movie that I streamed because I wanted to take a look again at the way the parallel plot was structured. I’d remembered this movie as being sweet and entertaining. (I remembered correctly). It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the British scholar Maud Bailey and Aaron Eckhart as the American scholar Roland Michell. Over the course of the film the two research the possibility of a romance between two fictitious Victorian-era poets. The film alternates between the two modern-day characters hunting for clues and the two poets living in the late 1800’s. The film does a great job of switching between the two timelines, while teasing out the mystery elements (with both clues and further unanswered questions provided at just the right moments) and the romantic elements in each of the two lovers’ stories. Who would like this film? Anyone who likes quieter romances, period pieces, and literary mysteries.
When I saw the trailer for this, I *had* to rent it. It had quirky written all over it, it’s directed by Wes Anderson, and it has a terrific cast (Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman)! If you liked The Life Aquatic or The Royal Tennebaums or you like slightly offbeat coming-of-age movies and/or odd or unusual romances (Amelie or Benny & Joon), this is a movie you should see. I loved the look of the film (the scenes and costumes had a sort of vintage, cartoonish look to them), the way in which the story was told (likely a Wes Anderson hallmark I could spend an entire post trying to analyze), and the acting by both of the young stars who play the main leads (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Suzy, the character, has her faults, but oh – how I adored her expressions! Hayward pulled off haughty-yet-vulnerable to a tee.
My whole family watched this one Friday night. Everyone enjoyed it. If you’re looking for an animated film that doesn’t feel like it’s just another regurgitated Disney plot, this is one to consider. The English speaking cast included Anjelica Houston, Marcia Gay Harden, and Mathew Modine. I don’t know anything about art or music, but both the noir-ish animation and the jazz soundtrack contributed to the welcome unfamiliar feel of this movie. The artwork seemed to have sharper edges than a Disney or Pixar film might and the soundtrack featured Billie Holiday instead of cast members singing songs made for the movie. The story also felt different. I very much liked it, but couldn’t help laughing good-naturedly over the almost too easy ending. How likely is it that Claudine (a cop) and Nico (a cat burglar) would ever get together in real life?
Brutal and violent, not my usual top choice, but it was a good movie. Worth seeing. As a writer you can’t help but muse about how you might have told the story differently. I don’t have any huge criticisms, just small gripes based on personal taste. Maybe it was late, but I missed a big theme or message. Answering the question What’s this movie really about? would have catapulted this movie from “B” to “A” for me. It was based on a true story, so that’s what it was about, but even so, lots of filmmakers have used true stories as inspiration to make a statement about something. Also, I might have chosen only one hero – and that hero would have been Forest Bondurant. While I found Jack Bondurant’s growth arc compelling (and Shia LaBeouf’s acting excellent), it was predictable. Three minutes in I pegged him as Michael Corleone. Forest, however, was a potentially mythical character. All the talk of the Bondurants’ invincibility and Forest’s immortality, well, maybe’s it’s my love of fantasy, but I would *loved* to have seen the filmmakers make more of that. Lastly, the epilogue ending. Was that really needed? I could have done without the frozen pond scene and the voice over of reality at the end.
Final Thoughts: Argo v. Lawless
Why did I like Argo so much more than Lawless? They were each based on true stories. Each were set against a backdrop of violence. Hmm… I’m still thinking over this, but I think for a few reasons. First, Argo had an unquestionable hero – Tony Mendez. Second, it had a message: do the right thing, even when the likelihood of succeeding seems impossible. The movie underscored all of the risks everyone took to rescue the diplomats: the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, their Iranian maid, and Tony Mendez. But when Mendez made the decision to continue with the rescue despite Washington having cancelled the operation, that was a heroic moment. That, for me, was the defining moment of the film. Third, Affleck’s use of humor in Argo was nothing short of genius level work whereas Lawless was completely humorless, which was fine because it was a dark story. But that’s why I loved Argo more. It too was a dark story, but it seemed to use humor to illustrate another message: sometimes, laughter and an appreciation of the absurd can be a lifeline –the difference between life and death.
So, how about you? Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think? Have you seen any other movies that we should consider watching this weekend? If so, let us know in the comments. Best wishes for a wonderful weekend with lots of movie watching, book reading, holiday shopping or whatever it is that makes you happy! 😀