A combination of being busy, not doing reviews for the paper anymore and being a bit burned out on the whole idea of «blog» has made a long stretch of no posts…Here's some of the things of worth I've seen over the past few weeks.
The Proposition (2006, Australia). Singer Nick Cave penned the script to this brutal and spare Australian outback western and it’s a dark, intense affair (like a lot of Cave’s music has been over the years). On display in The Proposition is violence, bloodletting, gaunt actors, flies, unshaved dirty men with filthy teeth. This had some of the most primal bursts of violence I’ve seen in a while and I loved it. Guy Pearce plays an outlaw who is given the choice to save one brother by killing another by a desperate lawman. Pearce, who is unbelievably filthy and emaciated in this, journeys to his brother who is hiding in a cave and contemplates killing him. Great to see a western again and I highly recommend this film as it’s going to be one of my favorites of the year. Spare, dark, literate, atmospheric and hauntingly violent.
Inside Man (2006, USA). This was a very pleasant surprise from director Spike Lee that is the best thing he's directed in a long time. It's a straight up genre picture from Lee—a thriller set around a New York City bank heist. Lee often weighs his films down with heavyhanded statements that almost ruin everything else in the film but he doesn't do that here and I'm thankfull for that. Great cast, great fun and one of the better heist films I've seen in a while.
Raising Victor Vargas (2003, USA). This is a sweet little independent film about a teen who thinks he's a ladies man who gets caught in bed with «Fat Donna». In an attempt to up his street cred in the neighborhood begins to woo the unattainable «Juicy» Judy. This Judy is a challenge, a firecracker who takes no crap and doesn't want anything to do with the immature neighborhood boys. Raising Victor Vargas has a captivating performance by Altagracia Guzman as Victor's religious, put-upon Grandma who is raising him and his siblings. Guzman is so great in this I wanted to see more of her days and not the teenagers on display. She's not really an actor as this was her first role (she was 72 during filming) but I just loved her performance more than anyone elses in this.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2006, USA). This is a fascinating documentary that tells the story of one of the great, largely unknown songwriters of the past 25 years. Johnston’s raw music, often full of innocence, wonder and sweetness, and sung in his unique, off-key voice, exists despite the fact he has battled extreme bouts of manic depression and other mental illnesses over the past two decades. Johnston has been in and out of institutions and passed around various family members while never giving up his music or art pursuits. The documentary attempts to tell us Johnston’s life while also exploring just how completely depression can destroy the creative impulse, as Johnston is only a shell of himself due to the various medications he takes. I've never been much of a fan of Johnston's but The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a bittersweet, poignant, humorous, lovingly created tribute to an eccentric American original that battles his demons via song and lives on in rock and roll lore as a legendary figure of the underground.
Friends With Money (2006, USA). Kind of a disappointment here. Nicole Holofcener makes this a little too caustic and bitter for me—I know, that’s kind of her way of doing things but I guess I just wasn’t in the mood. Some rich friends (and one poorer one) sit around and whine about their marriages and lives blah blah blah. I really loved Holofcener’s Lovely and Amazing from 2001 but this one didn’t do it for me.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006, USA). The end is nigh. Maybe in my lifetime we’ll in a complete disaster zone of a planet. At least that’s Al Gore’s contention in this riveting documentary based around his environmental slide shows that he’s been putting on. As Gore simply illustrates just how much damage has been done to the climate (even I grasp the dire implications and I’m a science nitwit) I was swamped by two main questions: 1/ How world leaders let global warming evolve to the state that it’s in and 2/ How in the hell did Gore lose the 2000 election to George W. Bush? Right, he didn’t really lose did he? Guess I’m still bitter and seeing what ol’ W. has done the past 6 years I have a right to that bitterness as it's been one bonehead move after another.