It seems like I’m writing blogs every 50 days. Maybe because I am. The most recent reason for dropping off the face of the earth? An event in Chicago, one of my favorite cities. The event was challenging and successful and the weather and city were beautiful.
At any rate, my love for Netflix has once again kept me on the movie train. Now, I hate having to recap movies that I’m probably one of the last people to see, but I do have a few of those here. So, I’ll try and keep it short.
I just saw:
Borat. (R; 2006; Sacha Baron Cohen) I had been dying to see this for three reason: I’m such a Da Ali G fan; I kept hearing it was highly offensive to, well, almost everyone (and quite frankly I don’t think there’s enough of that these days); and one of my favorite columnits, Bill Simmons recently wrote about in his running diary of the NCAA tournament (excellent reading).
Despite this, I was a little nervous that maybe it was overhyped. I was so wrong. Borat was hilarious, smart, witty, exposing–and highly, highly offensive. I had heard about all the groups/people suing the studio, but, to tell you the truth I’m suprised more people didn’t take offense. However, what I found more outrageous than the character Borat himself were the ‘real’ people he was interacting with. They later claimed that they were inaccurately portrayed. (I’m not sure how they could make that considering the fact they were the ones making themselves look bad.) But regardless, the mindset of some people in America toward minorities, both of religion and race as well as women and homosexuals should be what is truly offending us.
Saw II. (R; 2005; Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg) I won’t spend a lot of time talking about this, but I was long overdue to see it. I loved the first movie and am not ashamed to say it scared me a bit. (I did watch it late at night at home by myself–cut me some slack.) The second one proved that it could be more than just a horror film. Oh sure, there is plenty of blood, guts and grisly deaths to satisfy your expectations conditioned by the first one. However, there are some brains behind the blood, taking a Usual Suspects twist that leaves you very excited for the third (which is near the top of my queue). And, just for you fans of Saw, I have been reading quite a bit on Ain’titCoolNews.com about Saw 4 and 5 (specifically that Tobin Bell will be back for both).
Clerks II. (2005; R; Kevin Smith, Brian O’ Halloran, Jeff Anderson) This jumped to the top of my queue (and I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t seen it yet considering Clerks is in my top 20 films) after I saw an Evening with Kevin Smith at the University of Akron on March 2. It was awesome and I do plan on writing about it, but until then you’ll have to make do with my friend John Booth’s blog about the evening (we didn’t find out we were both there until long after).
Oh yea, the movie. The movie was fantastic. If you were a little worried that it might be a bit of a sellout because you loved the first so much (like I was) you shouldn’t be worried at all. As well-written and progressive as the first was, Clerks II almost has more confidence, more grounding than its predeccesor. You can tell that Smith is much more comfortable with who he is and his role in Hollywood/film lore. All the mainstays are back along with a plainer-than-usual-but-suprisingly-more-hot Rosario Dawson. Now, don’t expect the convenience store characters from the first–or even people similar to them. This time those roles are reserved for cameos/friends of Smith. And they’re just as funny. Especially Wanda Sykes. Hilarious. Beyond all that, if you’re not careful, you just might be caught off guard with a sentimental flash at the end. For me it was remembering, if only for a brief moment, who I was and what I was feeling when I watched Clerks for the first time as a high school senior. At any rate, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Little Miss Sunshine. (R; 2006; Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin) Again, I was way late in seeing what I knew would be a sure favorite, spurred to watch as soon as possible by the fact that the Oscars were the next day. I watched two Oscar-nominated films the night before the awards. Sunshine and Babel. Sunshine was head and shoulders above the latter (more on Babel in a minute) due in large part to one crucial element–solid writing. Oh sure, likeable characters (especially an innocent and still too young to know any better ‘Olive’), a road trip and the development of a non-living character (a VW bus) all contribute to the movie’s success. But the care taken in writing a story featuring likeable characters who don’t like each other very much all trying to accomplish a very nobel goal (making a little girl’s dream come true) was outstanding. A must see if you haven’t (and a well-earned, deserved supporting actor role for the underated Alan Arkin).
Babel. (R; 2006; Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett) Oh Babel. Where to begin. Maybe the simple fact that this movie is true to its title: it babels on. And on. And I’m left only caring about one of the characters’ whose life is loosely tied to the main plot–that of Rinko Kikuchi. Despite playing a deaf Japanese woman, she connects most with the audience. The rest, despite an outstanding effort from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a cumbersome attempt at trying to show how we should (and can) overcome cultural barriers. I get the point–I’m just not that impressed.
Transamerica. (R; 2005; Felicity Huffman) I’d rather spend my paragraph or so talking about the incredible efforts of Felicity Huffman than the movie itself. Sure, the movie was good–but it could’ve been on Lifetime with Judith Light playing Bree. But it wasn’t and Light didn’t play Bree. Huffman did. And that’s what puts this movie on the map. Huffman does such a good job that once you get into the movie you forget she’s a woman playing a man trying to become a woman and just see her for that, like Bree is a real person playing herself. Again, I saw this way after the fact, but Huffman deserved all of the accolades she received.
Everything is Illuminated. (R; 2005; Elijah Wood) You’ve heard me speak of my ‘will watch anything they’re in’ list; Elijah Wood might be joining this list soon. In addition to the LOTR trilogy, he has turned in solid performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Green Street Hooligans and Sin City. Now comes Everything is Illuminated. And, unlike the previous entry, this movie is actually a very good movie in addition to Wood’s performance. The story of ‘the collector’ (Wood) starts with the impending death of his grandmother (years after his grandfather passed). He is determined to uncover the truth behind his Jewish grandfather’s pilgramage to America during the Holocaust. He signs-up with a two-bit tourist organization that specializes in helping Americans find their roots. The fact that the driver of the ‘tourbus’ is blind who travels with a dog named Sammy Davis Junior Jr. makes for a compelling and touching side story. This is a movie that you’re expecting nothing but end up really enjoying.