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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

bo's paltry attempt at movie reviews

during my hiatus from the internet, my wife and i went out to the movies. we saw three in the last couple of weeks, and here's my feeble attempt to illuminate, elucidate, and educate those of you who are interested in thought provoking movies that don't involve the usual testosterone laden fare found at the local cineplex

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen).
i'm so woefully incapable of writing anything that would give even a taste of how good this movie was. no big car chases, no grand buildings blowing up and collapsing. this is not the typical hollywood fare the whizkids think we americans would want to spend our hard earned dollars on. for my money, movies like this are the reason there are still movie theaters. i will generally ignore the "blockbusters" simply because they insult my intelligence. that so many others enjoy and spend their money to watch that tripe is just another sign that americans are going the way of the romans. bread and circus needs fulfilled, the masses stay placated.
this movie is food for the brain, and nourishment for the soul. heady words, but in my case, true. follow the above link to imdb and read the featured review. the writer posts a thoughtful and accurate description of the movie.
a taste:
The "operative process" against Dreyman is overseen by Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler, played by Ulrich Mühe, an actor from the former East who was himself once in the Stasi's cross-hairs. Captain Wiesler starts the film as a colorless, icy, tight-lipped professional who shows no mercy in fighting the "enemies of socialism": if he needs to interrogate a suspect for 10 hours without sleep to get a confession, he will do so -- and then place the seat-cover the suspect sat on in a vacuum jar in case the miscreant should later need to be tracked by bloodhounds. At night, Captain Wiesler returns to his tiny apartment in an grubby, anonymous high-rise. He settles himself among his inexpressibly drab furniture, eats a meal squeezed out of a plastic tube while watching reports about agricultural production, and then goes to bed alone.

i hope to see the actor that played Captain Wiesler, Ulrich Muhe in other works. i'll have to hunt a few up. great actor, very understated, yet expressive as hell.
this movie was in German, with English subtitles.

second movie (i'm working backwards from latest to earliest) that di and i went to see was a Spanish language movie by director Guillermo Del Toro (would that be Bill the Bull?). the movie: Pan's Labyrinth, or El Laberinto del Fauno, is a fascinating and moving story about a young girl forced into a life far different than the one she knew when her father was alive. there are many things in this movie to talk about, but i'll just touch on a couple.
first, the housekeeper Mercedes was played perfectly by Maribel Verdú, whom i first saw in Y tu mamá también, a brilliantly funny/sad movie from Mexico. her performance alone is worth the price of admission.
then there is the grey man. one of the best realized and depicted "bogeyman" characters in recent memory. when you hear the phrase "wrap my eyes around you", you will have a whole new visualization after this flick.
third, the Spanish Civil War in the late thirties and early forties isn't something most of us are too up to speed on, even having read Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls". the ferocity of that conflict in its waning days is well portrayed.
and last but not least, there is a scene where one of the characters is wounded, and that scene, along with the self-repair, is with little equal for squirm value.
this is not a kid movie, even though there is a lot of fantasy involved. there is a pervasive darkness throughout, and the ending is either completely uplifting or a total bummer, depending on your own interpretation of events. i love movies like this.
Spanish language with English subtitles.

and last, but no means least, is The Queen, an English movie about the turmoil within the English royal family at the time of Princess Di's death. one of my four or five favorite actors ever, Hellen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II with an astonishing understated clarity. her portrayal of the queen gives the woman a humanity that those of us on this side of the atlantic don't see. our only exposure is through the media, and what we experience is the packaged version. Helen Mirren gives this fascinating, real life person a human face. i've been a Mirren fan for some time. I think the character she played in the BBC's Prime Suspect series, Jane Tennison, is one of the absolute best portrayals of a flawed human being striving to keep moving forward. brilliant. and she brought that ability to this movie. her portrayal of the queen was completely convincing.
to steal a paragraph from IMDB:
Helen Mirren says transforming herself into the Queen came almost naturally after the wig and glasses, especially since she shares a default facial expression, a slightly down turned mouth, with the monarch. She also regularly reviewed film and video footage of Elizabeth and kept photographs in her trailer during production. The writer Peter Morgan says it was convincing enough that, by the end of production, crew members who had been accustomed to slouching or relaxing when they addressed her were standing straight up and respectfully folding their hands behind their backs.

there are two other points about this movie that i'd like to make.
first, the actor that played Tony Blair did a great job. Micheal Sheen hit Blair's cadences spot on. i've seen a lot of blair on the tube, and the physical resemblance is amazing. but i have to tell you, i saw him in a made for british tv movie a couple of years ago called Dirty Filthy Love. in that flick, he plays a man with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Tourette's. his twitching and outbursts of "SHIT, FUCK" will forever be linked to him in my mind. i was kind of expecting his twitching to start and yelling SHIT in the queen's face. kind of an amusing mental exercise, eh?
the second thing about this movie was i couldn't completely get away from the feeling this was really a made for TV movie that i didn't have to sit through commercials to see. good movie, but the whole Princess Di thing has been hashed and rehashed in various made for tv drivel that seeing this gave me the feeling i was treading familiar territory.
English language, but you pick up on most of it after a while.

so, anyone else see these movies? what did you think about them?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I did manage to see Pan's Labyrinth and The Queen, and liked them both quite a bit ... I was hoping del Toro's movie would somehow sneak into the Best Picture list for the Oscars, but at least maybe he can take home the Foreign Language prize .. it would be well-deserved

2/24/07, 3:34 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Unbelievable-I didn't know you had it in you. Very good movie reviews. Is this your new Blog direction?
The old Muser

2/25/07, 2:11 PM  

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