It’s going to be an abbreviated Watercooler from my end this week. It’s my birthday weekend and I’m smack dab in the middle of festivities that have included no movie-going whatsoever. Looking over the news, it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much and there was little to shout about among the new releases except for Project Nim which doesn’t open here until next week.

I notice with pleasure that Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris continues it’s inevitable climb toward $40 million. It sits at $38.6 after this weekend, just edging past Annie Hall for the #3 spot and nipping at Manhattan’s heels.

So that’s that then. What about you? Seen anything worth talking about in the last week?


11 Responses to “A quick one while he’s away”

  1. Have a happy birthday! :-)

    We watched Fail Safe on TCM last night. Another Lumet special, with a terrific cast.

    That was it for me on the movie front.

  2. Happy Brithday Craig!!!!!! I seem to have lost count, but I would say it’s the big 4-0, no?

    This was an extraordinarily busy week on the movie scene, especially when you consider that the period covered by this diary is only six days, and that I spent some time watching stuff at home on the plasma, Despite these obstacles, Lucille and I managed to see five films in theatres. Actually, Lucille and some of the kids saw four, while the mid-week Italian film ‘The Double Hour’ was seen with my new friend Alan Hardy at the Quad Cinema.

    The Double Hour (La Doppia Ora) *** (Tuesday night) Quad Cinemas

    Ocean Heaven **** (Friday night) NY Asian Festival at Walter Reade

    Ninja Kids ** (Saturday afternoon) NY Asian Festival at Japan Society

    Project Nim **** 1/2 (Saturday night) Angelika Film Center

    Planet of the Apes (1968) **** 1/2 (Sunday afternoon) Film Forum

    Documentarian James Marsh, who scored mightily a few years ago with MAN ON WIRE has again earned every bit of the expansive praise he’s been winning for his new film PROJECT NIM, which subtly builds up some extraordinary emotional connection between viewer and the wrenching true story of a chimpanzee who is reared by humans as part of a scientific project. After being taken from his mother he is raised like a human baby with human companions, and then moved to a new family after some complications. After exhibiting the physical strength and wild nature of his species he is then heartlessly abandoned and used for scientific experiments and finally placed in a lonely horse ranch, dying at the age of 26 of a heart attack. March superbly incorporates interviews with all those connected to the project, interspercing the film with photos, home footage and the words that showcase the progress Nim makes in sign language and ingratiating himself with his new families. The telling interviews are ultimately, though, what makes the case for injustice so compelling and so heart wrenching. Incredibly, Marsh has made a documentary as excellent as his MAN ON WIRE, and for 2011 it’s the best in that department. I am pondering at this point as to if I should go all the way with a ***** rating.

    Two films seen at the New York Asian Film Festival were a study in contrasts. The Chinese film, OCEAN HEAVEN, that featured veteran actor Jet Li as the father of an autistic boy yielded some powerful drama, even with some some obvious manipulation. It’s one of the best films we’ve seen on that subject, and strikes most of the right chords, including magnificent cinematography by the great Christopher Doyle and a moving score by famed composer Joe Hisaishi. I am expecting a NYC release and some excellent reviews before the year is out.

    On the other hand the uneven “children’s film” NINJA KIDS was a major disappointment, considering it was directed by TAKASHI MIIKE, who just earlier this year impressed many of us with 13 ASSASSINS. But Miike is a hit and miss kind of guy, and this latest film (which received its “World Premiere” at this Festival) is a cornball, slapstick take on the Harry Potter story with all sorts of vile ‘human excrement’ jokes and actions, some dumb slapstick, and redundant gags that make you want to stand up and scream.

    The Italian thriller THE DOUBLE HOUR makes some interesting detours, and its director has some obvious talent with actors, but it’s a narratively uneven affair that in the end is only partially satisfying. It did receive some amazing reviews though. Finally it was a special thrill to see the classic science-fiction film PLANET OF THE APES (1968) at the Film Forum and confirm all the reasons why we liked this film in the first place: Rod Serling’s great screenplay from Pierre Boulle’s novel, Leon Shamroy’s beautiful widescreen cinematography, the cast of distinguished Hoolywood actors playing apes, and one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most piercing scores.

  3. Happy Birthday! Wish you all the smiles, memorable moments, success and great films you desire. Stay healthy and positive, the rest will work itself out.

    Always does in the end. If it doesn’t it’s not the end! :)

    Have a great party!

    As for films… I didn’t see much this weekend. Watched The Godfather (for probably 10th time) and Pirates of the Carribean 4 (nothing too special but much better than the 2nd and 3rd films).

  4. I’ve been sidelined the past week — to the point where Craig’s birthday snuck past me. Belated birthday felicitations, m’boy!

    Awhile back I finally got to see Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and really liked it. Also, I enjoyed The Trip — it’s more than just a bunch of riffing, in my view, although it took a few scenes to get used to the idea of an entire movie with Steve Koogan as a major character. I suspect my particular enjoyment of the film has something to do with being familiar with how performers oftentimes communicate.

    This evening I may see Tabloid by Erroll Morris.

  5. Happy Birthday, Craig! I hope you’re enjoying yourself today, yesterday, tomorrow…hell, just enjoy the whole darn year, why dontcha?

  6. Happy Birthday Craig. 42 is the one age I’m looking forward to getting to be some day. That and maybe 100. :)

    I watched sort of a random assortment of stuff. Finished watching Downton Abbey Season 1, which I quite enjoyed. Watched Disney’s Oceans, which was lovely and awe-inspiring and just the ticket to getting me out of a foul funk that day. Caught the Bennet Miller doc The Cruise from 1998–colorful and entertaining, and a little heartwrenching to see the two towers still standing, knowing what we now know. And last night I watched the Miss Marple mystery on Masterpiece Theater, another pleasant enough diversion. Hadn’t seen one of those in quite a long time.

    Haven’t been near a theater, though if this heat wave keeps up (and it will) and my AC doesn’t (and it won’t), I may be spending a lot of hours at the movies just to see absolutely anything in cool comfort. It was 108 yesterday, and this isn’t even supposed to be the hottest part of summer, not for weeks.

  7. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s a sprightly young chap from Minnesota who is celebrating Craig Kennedy’s birthday with one of his own.

    He’s smart, he’s personable, he’s a man commited to causes, and his name would have you believe that he’s the product of French ancestry.

    Would anyone here have an idea of who this dapper gentleman is? Heck, I hear he turned 60.

  8. Happy birthday Craig! According to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. You’ve reached a point of true enlightenment. You should celebrate the fact by checking into the Hotel Chevalier with Natalie Portman and her bruises, before touring India on the Darjeeling Limited.

    Sam, that dapper gent is of course the indefatigable champion of justice and good taste – our dear friend M. de Plume.

    No movie watching but finished season 2 of the French Police/Judicial drama series Spiral. The first season was a fascinating introduction to what is a very different criminal justice system from what we’re used to and was generally entertaining, but season 2 really excelled with a stronger storyline and fine performances.

    Also checked out the first two episodes of The Walking Dead. I like that it doesn’t feel rushed and admire the high production values, which among other things helps to convey the extent of the cataclysm. The story and characterizations are fairly familiar but I like how they infuse the whole endeavor with a sense of gravitas and humanity. It has me curious about the graphic novels the show is based on.

  9. A belated thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes. It was a great weekend.

    Alison, I dig Lumet but have never been a huge fan of Fail Safe. It reminds me of what Dr. Strangelove would’ve been if they hadn’t made it a comedy. Not a fair comparison, but once you confront the absurdity of nuclear annihilation with a laugh, hand-wringing earnestness just doesn’t seem to do the subject justice.

    Sam, I regret missing all my chances to see Project Nim, but I’ll catch it when it officially opens here in LA. As you know, I’m a big fan of Marsh’s Man on Wire.

    Not sure where you got your information about about the fellow from Minnesota, but the truth is I had a good friend down from Seattle and a grand time was had by all.

    Piro, that’s kind of encouraging news about Pirates 4. I’m not crazy about the series, but the 1st is still definitely better than the the others so if 4 is at least a step up from the last two, that’s at least something. Also, I could watch Godfather over and over and over again. That thing just never gets old.

    Pierre, glad you were able to catch up to Boonmee. I look forward to seeing it again myself. It didn’t quite have the same magic for me as the director’s previous film Syndromes and a Century, but that’s a pretty tall order to fill in my book.

    Jennybee, I keep meaning to catch up with Downton Abbey, but I keep not doing it. I guess I just haven’t been in the mood for that kind of BBC period thing. I’ve been watching a lot of the new Doctor Who though.

    It turns out Sartre, I now know the answer to life the universe and everything, but I’m not telling.

  10. Craig, no question Dr. Strangelove is superior, and actually the TCM host Robert Osborne in his intro and talk at the end of the movie brought up the very same point you make – that at the time when this played in the movies people had already seen Strangelove and no one could watch Failsafe without thinking of it. It was hard for people to take it seriously.

    This was actually the first time I watched this movie from beginning to end. Not my favorite by any means either but Lumet was a stellar director who drew great work from his ensemble casts and there was a lot to admire about the film from that standpoint I thought.

  11. I think Fail Safe is still good, and timely, it just missed its window of opportunity by about a year.

    What’s interesting is I read the source books for both Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe and they’re surprisingly similar. It just took a bit of genius for Kubrick and Terry Southern to realize what they had with their story and turn it on its head.

    Again though, it’s not really a fair comparison and honestly you can’t ever go too far wrong with Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau.

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