Brief comments on film by Amy.
Some old, some new. Domestic films and foreign too.
Gran Torino — I can’t remember the last time I saw a film I liked as much as I like Gran Torino which was surprising to me. I was pretty sure it would be well done but I had braced myself for the racially charged theme and overall dark atmosphere that often accompanies a Clint Eastwood movie. Though the film was by no means a tip-toe- through-the-tulips kind of experience, it felt a lot like life—ordinary days made up of seemingly ordinary moments punctuated by life-changing moments of drama. I must admit to having a bit of a crush on Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski, despite his crusty outer shell. I could even tolerate the less than heroic token Christian. If you have an above average tolerance for bad language, this is a must-see.
Henry Poole Is Here — It was a slow night at the Spiegel household and I thought I would check out this Luke Wilson flick. I really didn’t have any expectations for a dark comedy about the face of Jesus appearing on the side of a suicidal man’s house. I am not sure that the filmmakers themselves knew exactly what they wanted to convey or, if they did, they weren’t entirely successful at conveying their message. I appreciated their openness to the supernatural but hated that they couldn’t bring themselves to draw conclusions or make a more explicit statement about faith. Still, good performances and an uplifting theme make it a great slow night movie.
The Reader — Okay, I don’t care if she played a great Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibilty) or not, Kate Winslet is no longer invited to my first slumber party in heaven. (This is a game I play with myself when feeling like all my heroes predate me by a couple hundred years. I imagine sitting around eating cheese puffs and drinking beer with Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. Sad, but true.) Jim tells me this story represents nihilism, the complete meaninglessness of human history. It was maddening because since there is no meaning, there can be no villains, no heroes, no redemption—something this movie greatly needed. Winslet is a talented actress who delivers a stellar performance (most of which she gives in some state of undress), but nothing could redeem this film’s harsh take on the choices we make.
Mentionables: Children of Heaven — I don’t know how they make films in Iran but I loved the first eighty-two minutes of this movie and hated the last minute. If only I could wave my magic movie wand and change it to suit, this would be an all-time favorite). I Capture the Castle — Still thinking about this one but I am a sucker for period clothing and a great British Isles setting. The Proposal — Pure fluff, but one of the funniest romantic comedies to come down the pike in quite a while.
Agree with you on most counts with “Gran Torino,” but wasn’t the non-Eastwood acting a little sub-par? To be direct, it felt to us like an excellent story delivered by those barely adequate to deliver it.
I could not agree more with your review of “The Reader” and took a deep sigh of relief after reading what you wrote.
Hey! Your recommendation for “Gran Torino” will definately be taken up. I pretty wary of westerns. It’s a genre I’m slow to watch…maybe because it seems to be a slow genre… But once I watch one I tend to really love it!
Also I checked out “Little Dorrit” and loved it so much I’m reading the book…although I love reading Dickens so that wasn’t a stretch for me. He has a way of rewarding his readers with humor and depth…
On a different note I came across this website:
and was wondering if anyone uses it and if so…is it good? Are there others out there like it?
Agree that Gran Torino is a fine movie. I may be stretching this just a bit (or a great deal!), but I found it to have many redeeming qualities:
1. Walt finds meaning not in a life lived working 40 years at the same job or fighting a war that is all but forgotten, but in helping others.
2. Walt eventually gives his life for the sake of those whom he originally despised. Redemptivelly powerful!
3. Grumpy old people can be gotten reached by the showering of love and gifts from others.
4. The theme song at the end (written by Eastwood) is outstanding and shows the musical talent of Eastwood. The performances by Eastwood and then Jamie Cullum are worth the price of the rental!