2007 log (12)

(1 Dec) Margot at the Wedding (2007, Noah Baumbach) 42
[ Dans une des scènes de Margot at the Wedding, le personnage de Jack Black compose ses voeux de mariage et explique qu’il veut écrire quelque chose de sensible tout en étant drôle, avec de l’humour basé sur les personnalités. Ceci pourrait décrire l’ensemble du plus récent film de Noah Baumbach qui, après The Squid and the Whale, s’intéresse à nouveau à une famille dysfonctionnelle. Le récit gravite autour de deux soeurs en mauvais termes qui se retrouvent lorsque Margot (Nicole Kidman) vient passer quelques jours chez Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), qui s’apprête à se marier avec Malcolm (Black), un musicien raté. La réconciliation est toutefois fragile, chacune s’acharnant à penser qu’elle est la seule à avoir raison et que l’autre est folle. Peut-être le sont-elles un peu toutes les deux? Baumbach prend le pari risqué de centrer son film sur deux femmes complètement névrosées, voire hystériques, auxquelles il est quasi impossible de s’attacher. Pauline et Margot font preuve de cruauté psychologique et d’intransigeance non seulement entre elles mais envers Malcolm, leurs enfants, les voisins, bref, tous ceux qu’elles rencontrent. Comment éprouver de l’empathie pour des personnages qui ne semblent en avoir pour personne? On peut vraisemblablement apprécier Margot at the Wedding en tant qu’étude de cas, comme le portrait de femmes qui auraient grandement besoin de faire un travail d’introspection et de reconsidérer la façon dont elles interagissent avec leur entourage. Sauf que Baumbach semble se complaire dans leur mesquinerie et prendre plaisir à les voir humilier les autres ou elles-mêmes. Son objectif était peut-être de faire une comédie grinçante qui laisse un mauvais arrière-goût; dans ce cas, mission accomplie. Dans les rôles principaux, Nicole Kidman et Jennifer Jason Leigh s’en tirent relativement bien, dans la mesure où elles doivent défendre des personnages antipathiques dont les actions sont souvent incompréhensibles. Mais celui qui ressort le plus positivement de l’ensemble est certainement Jack Black en supposé pauvre type qui, ironiquement, s’avère être la figure la plus sympathique du film. Malcolm manque d’ambition, de bonnes manières et de retenue, mais on sent qu’il est plus intelligent qu’il n’en a l’air et qu’il a le coeur à la bonne place. Par ailleurs, c’est le seul personnage à nous faire rire autrement que jaune, une véritable bouffée d’air frais dans un film souvent étouffant. ]

(4 Dec) There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 95

(5 Dec) The Kite Runner (2007, Marc Forster) 27
[ Rarely have I seen a movie sabotage itself so spectacularly. Not that this was ever gonna be a masterpiece (right from the start it’s rather trite and contrived) but, for the first half hour or so, it felt like a harmless, not unenjoyable slice of faux-foreign melodrama. By faux-foreign, I mean one of those movies which, even though they revolve around non-American characters and are subtitled, are clearly Hollywood products designed to please filmgoers who think they’re sophisticated but really aren’t, like, hint hint, Oscar voters. Anyway, I went along painlessly enough with this tale of two Afghan kids in 1978 Kabul dealing with kite battles (no, really), bullies and the imminent Russian invasion. The first big false note is when one of the children has something disgusting done to him, and is then treated in a wholly incomprehensible and reprehensible way by the other one. Not long following that, the film skips to 1988 California, where one of the now-adult kids has ended up with his dad. This middle part of the story goes for a series key life moments (a graduation, a wedding, a funeral), which seemed to me like we were just killing time until the inevitable reunion of the protagonist with his childhood friend. Wrong. Instead, that’s when the movie starts truly going off the deep end. After another flash-forward, which takes us to 2000, we go back to Kabul, now under Taliban rule, and… I’ll try to be vague but basically, this sentimental journey turns into an utterly dumb thriller full of ridiculous twists: a false beard! A forgotten enemy back from the past! Watch out for that slingshot! I’d make a “Rambo III” joke, but that would be an insult to “Rambo III” to compare it to this. ]

(6 Dec) Des nouvelles du Nord (2007, Benoît Pilon) 60
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(9 Dec) Unbuckling My Bible Belt (2007, Patricia Tassinari) so-so
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(11 Dec) I Am Legend (2007, Francis Lawrence) 56
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(12 Dec) Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007, Jake Kasdan) 53
(13 Dec) Charlie Wilson’s War (2007, Mike Nichols) 78
(14 Dec) Tous à l’Ouest (2007, Olivier Jean-Marie) 9
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(14 Dec) Starting Out in the Evening (2007, Andrew Walker) 45
[ I’m a sucker for movies about writers, and Frank Langella plays a compelling one here, you know, the kind that publishes a few great novels then seems to disappear into semi-reclusion… Lauren Ambrose’s a peach as young woman writing her master’s thesis about him, but I wish they’d kept her admiration intellectual and not go for the May-December thing. Plus, as much as I like Lili Taylor, who play’s Langella’s daughter, he whole subplot is rather passable. All in all, kind of a missed opportunity ]

(16 Dec) Sharkwater (2007, Rob Stewart) 67
[ This documentary starts a bit like “Grizzly Man”, but with a dude with a thing for sharks instead of bears. Interestingly, it seems that sharks aren’t the man-killers they’ve been made to be, but virtually harmless to humans. The movie then moves on to the illegal poaching of sharks and, Michael Moore-style, aggressively investigates this. But it goes further than that, when the shark-lovers seemingly risk their lives by confronting high seas pirate fishing boats, corrupted South American officials and the Asian shark-finning mafia! An eye-opener in many ways. ]

(17 Dec) Atonement (2007, Joe Wright) 86
[ Okay, now I’m convinced. I wasn’t a fan of Joe Wright’s “Pride & Prejudice”, but I did admit that it was exquisitely crafted. “Atonement” is similarly gorgeously shot, gracefully edited and wonderfully scored (typewriting as music!), but it also has a much more engrossing plot and, while I still don’t get what people see in Keira “tomboy beanpole” Knightley, she thankfully has a relatively small part here and she’s not too bad in it, like in “Silk”. I’m not starting to like her, mind, but my distaste for her is softening somewhat. Maybe. Anyway, what I was getting at was that the lead character is actually the younger sister of Knightley’s character, evil little cunt Briony, who’s played though this decades-spanning story by three different actresses: the surprisingly great Saoirse Ronan, who’s like a British Dakota Fanning (I mean this as a compliment), my beloved Romola Garai and, in a show-stopping, cathartic cameo, Vanessa Redgrave. One thing though: much has been made of the 5 minute Steadicam shot, but it’s spectacularly pointless. The movie would have been better without it. In fact, all of James McAvoy’s war-less war scenes are underwhelming, they’re just filler until we finally go back to England and Briony. Every scene with her (all three incarnations of her): genius. ]

(18 Dec) Youth Without Youth (2007, Francis Ford Coppola) 39
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(20 Dec) Darkman (1990, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 93

(22 Dec) Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1994, Bradford May) [ review ] 35

(22 Dec) Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999, Michael Patrick Jann) 62
[ Somehow, despite my crush on Kiki Dunst, I’d never seen this until now. She’s a peach in this mockumentary about beauty pageants which, while not on the level of Christopher Guest’s best flicks, is still a pretty funny romp. And that’s quite a cast of bright young female stars this film had with, in addition to Kiki, Denise Richards, Amy Adams and Brittany Murphy, who all contribute to making this an enjoyable treat. ]

(23 Dec) Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1995, Bradford May) [ review ] 33

(23 Dec) True Lies (1994, James Cameron) [ review ] 85

(26 Dec) Superbad (2007, Greg Mottola) [ review ] 84

(26 Dec) Extras Season Two (2006, Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant) 76
[ Well, what I wrote when I reviewed Season One still stands, only Ricky Gervais’ character is the star of a broad, idiotic sitcom now and new famous folks show up for hilarious guest appearances: LOTR stars Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom, pop stars Chris Martin and David Bowie, Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe and even Robert De Niro. Plus, more hilariously awkward moments than ever! ]

(27 Dec) Ace in the Hole (1951, Billy Wilder) 93
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(28 Dec) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton) 74
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(30 Dec) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98
Twelfth viewing. Still my favorite picture of the decade (obviously). So simple and so complex at the same time, it’s pure cinema in all the varieties available… Perfect? Oh, maybe not, but it delivers in all the essential ways. (note: the visual above was made by Nate Rogers)

November / January