There isn’t a lot to crow about on the movie scene this weekend. The last week my news feed has been dominated by Comic Con coverage which is always a lot of sizzle but very little steak when it comes to movies. Somewhere along the line Hollywood figured out they could use it as a platform to hype its summer genre films, but with coverage at an all time high, the impact seems to be at an all time low.

This isn’t a criticism of Comic Con. I’m sure it continues to be a lot of fun for the people who are into it and go every year, but as a focal point for movie coverage I’m glad it’s over.

That’s about all I have this week. You can almost feel summer starting to wind down already, can’t you? There are a couple of biggish movies on the horizon, but it feels like gears are already changing and things are quieting down for fall and the “serious” movies and the unavoidable awards race. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, but I’m ready for summer to be done.

25 Responses to “7/24/11”

  1. On Saturday night I watched My Foolish Heart (1949) with Susan Hayward and Dana Andrews. Susan Hayward was nominated for a best actress Oscar in 1950 and Victor Young and Ned Washington were also nominated for music and lyrics respectively for original song. I quite liked it, but I’m a sap.

  2. The African film LIFE, ABOVE ALL boasts an extraordinary lead performance by a remarkably-gifted non-professional girl named Knamotso Manyaka, who is the anchor in a character study of a family in South Africa. The director Oliver Shmitz, who was brought up by German parents at the film’s location weaves some beautiful and colorful tapestries into the often wrenching narrative that reportedly had many at Cannes in tears. The narrative sometimes gets lost in tedium, but it’s a film with heart and deft observations.

    THE WOMAN WITH THE FIVE ELEPHANTS (DIE FRAU MIT DEN 5 ELEFANTEN) is a documentary that profiles Svetlana Gaier, a Russian who famously translated Dostoyevsky’s famed five novels into German, and who maintained her cerebral acumem and family dedication until she was 87. She died later that year, well after the making of this remarkable documentary, which examined her childhood in Kiev, the torture and eventual death of her father, and her being “rescued” from the clutches of Stalin by the Nazis, and brought to Germany where she attended university and the skills that made her the most respected Dostoyevsky translator in the world. The small things in her life like the cooking and the quiet revelations are as fascinating as her celebrated propensity. One of the year’s best documentaries.

  3. I haven’t seen that one Jeanine. Was it on the TCM?

    Sam, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for Elephants. It’s shaping up to be another good year for documentaries. You were right about Nim too by the way.

  4. I missed out on seeing Inside the New York Times, which features columnist David Carr. I expect this to be good — anyone seen it?

    Other than that, I forced myself to watch Caged on TCM starring Eleanor Parker — the so-called “Woman of 1,000 Faces” — in one of her Oscar-nominated performances. She was good, but I think because she had so many “faces” she never became a big star. Hope Emerson as the prison matron was fun to see. The film itself was good in its early 1950s, Hollywoody New Realism sort of way.

  5. I saw Captain America, which is pretty much a big budget B-movie. Great cast, but at times the direction was pretty miserable. However, it was better than any action film with a guy running in an American flag has any right to be.

    Also saw the final Harry Potter film. Never read the books and didn’t enjoy the first half of this series much, but David Yates has done a very respectable job with these last few films. They’re not perfect, but the gothic horror and the maturity of the storytelling really made it more or less worth my while. I thank my stars and garters that Chris Columbus left this series when he did.

    Last and certainly not least, I saw Project Nim. Still turning it over in my mind, but this was a very good documentary, telling a truly tragic story that I found hard to watch at times. For all our empathy, knowledge, and wisdom, mankind can be an incredibly arrogant and selfish species.

  6. Finally watched Sucker Punch.

    I’m split. Don’t know what to make of it. On one hand it was very well crafted. On the other there were some problems with it storywise which I can’t call minor… Maybe I’ll give it a day or two before making a final call.

    I also want to see Inside NY Times so if anyone has seen it and has an opinion, please, do share.

    During the weekend I managed to catch the first season of Game of Thrones. Not a film but qualitywise it really brings something to the table. Watched all 10 ep. in 2 days.

  7. Piro, as I noted on a recent News du Jour comment thread, I’ve been catching up with Game of Thrones myself while I read along with book. So far I’m finding the book more fulfilling, but Episode 3 it started getting much better. Peter Dinklage is great.

    I’m torn on Sucker Punch too. There was a lot to like about it, but I hesitate with what it’s trying to say. It seems to be trying to thread the needle between exploitation and anti-exploitation and I don’t think Snyder quite pulled it off.

    Joel, maybe it was lowered expectations or maybe it was general disappointment over the Marvel-produced movies so far, but I enjoyed Captain America more than either of the Iron Mans, more than Hulk and more than Thor. It was more fun than X-Men: First Class too which isn’t technically Marvel movie, but still. Having said that, I can’t really defend it. It was not perfect, but it was fun which is more than I can say about any of those others with the exception of Iron Man which only got by because Robert Downey Jr. is so great.

    Nim is infuriating yet kind of a must-see.

    Pierre, I’ve never had the pleasure of Caged. I love the lurid title. Sounds like a step or two above (or below depending on what you go for) the usual “Women in Prison” flick.

    I let Inside the NY Times slip through my grasp despite numerous opportunities to see it before and after it opened, so I’m not much help. I’ve heard from reliable sources that it’s not entirely illuminating, but it’s entertaining especially if you ilke Mr. Carr (I do)

  8. Inside the NYT played one screen for a week here in Portland, both a liberal safe haven and very, very NYT-friendly. It then disappeared completely. I missed it, so now I guess we all wait for DVD.

    I think a doc like this would have done a bit better later in the Summer or in the Fall, but what do I know about marketing and programming documentaries?

  9. Nothing much on the movie front for me, though I did catch The Razor’s Edge with Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney and a whole bunch of excellent supporting actors on PBS Saturday night.

  10. Peter Dinklage is great! :)

    As for Sucker Punch… We had a huge argument with one of my brothers. For him the film was too open-ended. I didn’t mind it but at all times had the feeling that the author didn’t know where he is going. In the end they managed to pull together a coherent story but it just couldn’t convince me that there is anything deep enough for this to be different than any other summer film… Otherwise, there were quite a few things to enjoy in the film (a bit too self-serious at times)…

  11. I’m reading the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve seen most of the first two episodes of HBO’s adaptation of book 1 and couldn’t help but primarily focus on adaptation choices rather than losing myself in the television version. I’m going to give it a little time before revisiting and completing the Game of Thrones television series so my wife can read the book first and I can appraise it without the book being so distractingly fresh in my mind.

    Finally caught True Grit. A very well crafted film that told a relatively simple story in an engaging and entertaining way. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue, Bridges’ performance – though his heavy accent and growl of a voice made me miss some of what his character said, and the unhurried pacing that showcased characterization. The sequence where Rooster takes Hattie to get treatment for the snake bite was the highlight of the film for me.

  12. Game of Thrones is great, and yes it does get stronger as the season progresses. I’m reading the books post-watching-the-series now.

    Glad you appreciated True Grit, sartre. It’s even better the second time (though I imagine with the baby you’ll not get a chance to revisit it for some time).

    Here in the real Fort Smith we’ve been about scorched to death by this heatwave. Broke the 1934 dust bowl record for number of consecutive days over 100 degrees. 100-103 doesn’t even seem that hot to me anymore, and the upper 90s are a positive breeze. So in attempt to distract us from the fact the a.c. couldn’t possibly keep up, we watched the Kenneth Branagh miniseries, Shackleton. All icy and snowy and Antarctic. And it worked! The show was very well done with high production values and good actors, and I was bundled up in afghans by the end. The next night we watched the third disc of special features, mainly a longish doc on the history of Antarctic exploration. Good stuff. That’s all I’ve got. I’m taking recommendations for snowy/icy films though! :)

  13. Shackleton has always struck me as a fascinating character and I’ve enjoyed documentaries about him, including one I saw in Imax several years ago. Thanks Jen for pointing out there is a series about him, and I’m pleased it gave you and your husband some psychological reprieve from the relentless heatwave.

  14. Piro, in the end I felt like Sucker Punch wanted to be more important than it really was and I didn’t care for what I interpreted it as saying. It was wallowing in exploitative tropes ripped off from manga and action films, but it always paused just before presenting an image that was truly gratuitous while having a message that was kind of flaccidly pro-girlpower. I was unconvinced by it’s pro-girl message and, this will sound horrible but, I think it would’ve been more successful if it had just gone full on exploitation.

    Having said all that, I probably need to see it again. I’m basing my opinions on one viewing and, for better or for worse, I think Snyder put enough of his soul into this thing to deserve a second crack.

    Jennybee, I know jack about Shackelton. I admire what Branagh has done in the past with Shakespeare, but Thor turned out to be a quivering dud. Then again, I’m the guy who thought Captain America was nifty so I’m not a guy whose opinion about superhero movies means a great deal.

    Sartre, what’s interesting about Game of Thrones that I’ve noticed as far as episode three is that the adaptation seems to be actually adding details into the story. Stuff that was implied but unspoken in the books.

    I’ve also heard tell that a character dies in the series who didn’t die in the book. I don’t know this for a fact, I’m basing this on a remembrance of headlines I read in my newsfeed and the subsequent hubbub from fans of the book (did I already mention this somewhere in a comment thread or was it an email…?) ANYWAY, the point is I think the HBO series is diverging enough from the book to be interesting. Perhaps because there’s no real clue when the author is going to wrap up the story to his satisfaction.

    Having said that, HBO hasn’t shown a lot of patience with some of their better shows (coughcoughDeadwoodcough) so I hope they give Game of Thrones a chance to live up to its full potential and wrap it up satisfactorily.

    Alison, did you ever see the Bill Murray version of Razor’s Edge? I haven’t, but I remember people freaking out that the guy from SNL, Caddyshack, Stripes and Ghostbusters was in a “serious” movie.

  15. “Sartre, what’s interesting about Game of Thrones that I’ve noticed as far as episode three is that the adaptation seems to be actually adding details into the story. Stuff that was implied but unspoken in the books.”

    I kind of know where you’re coming from but for me they removed some of the gradual reveal and mystery by making things more explicit than the book did. I understand why they necessarily compressed the storytelling and made it more economical but I didn’t get the same sense of enhancement. Perhaps I will once I see more of the adaptation.

  16. @JB: Either version of The Thing (Carpenter or Hawks) and Kurosawa’s Derzu Urzala. See also Fargo, The Shining, and maybe Dr Zhivago. You could also theme a night with The Call of the Wild and White Fang or go action-oriented with Ice Station Zebra and March of the Penguins.

  17. Oooh, thrilled to see the Game of Thrones love here at LiC. I ended up watching the full season a few weeks ago. I went in knowing next to nothing (except for a huge spoiler that made the media rounds), and ended up loving the whole affair. And yes, Peter Dinklage is the personal highlight for me (with Emilia Clarke, I think that’s her name, a close second).

    As far as films, I saw “American” the Bill Hicks docu. To be honest, I think there is a story there, a compelling one, but in execution it was just terrible. Sadly, I just didn’t think the guy I saw in that film was worthy of all the praise; I think I laughed twice during the stand up bits, and there are many of those. I did enjoy the portrayal of his relationship to family and friends, but other than that found it very underwhelming.

    My brother finally saw “True Grit” so we discussed it at length. Both big fans but whereas I found the ending at the depressing end of the spectrum, he found it to be perfect — I now believe it is both.

  18. Sartre. Or perhaps not. I’m only on #3, so we’ll see how it goes.

    JB, I think you’ve already seen the Herzog doc about Antarctica, but that’s worth watching twice.

    Dorothy, I think I know what big spoiler you’re talking about re Thrones. I remember a lot of buzz when a character dies who didn’t die in the books. Luckily, I’m forgetful enough not to remember the name aided by the fact the name wouldn’t have meant anything to me at the time anyway.

    Bill Hicks has a strong following, but I’m with you in admiring him more than actually finding him laugh out loud funny.

    For True Grit, I think I’d go with melancholy more than depressing. And yes, perfect.

    Also: I still have that doc you recommended sitting on my coffee table (hangs head in shame)

  19. Ah, “melancholy,” much better description!

    And no need to hang your head in shame, I know you’ve kept quite busy watching plenty of films; that one can wait :) I will hang my head in shame for not watching The New World yet, but know that I purchased a copy and since I’m on vacation next week, I expect to devour it then (with the hope that I’ll also get to see Tree of Life).

  20. Crossing fingers on New World and Tree of Life. You never really know how Malick is going to go down for people and I can think of plenty of reasonable arguments for someone not liking either of those films, so we’ll see how it goes for you. Looking forward to hearing your response.

  21. I admired Hicks quite a bit back in his day, but that was 15-20 years ago. Since then, most of his humor has been appropriated by others and much of the raw, insightful commentary that set him apart then now seems commonplace when cable comedy is dominated by The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, etc and social commentary is par for the course with stand-up. I can’t recall if its in the film, but Dennis Leary has been accused of stealing Hicks’ jokes and Lewis Black is practically a carbon copy of Hicks’ abrassive intensity. This doc is about 15 years too late, and I agree that it’s not well constructed.

    Dorothy, I hope you enjoy your Malick mini-fest.

  22. Craig, I remember when Murray’s version of The Razor’s Edge came out but I never got to see it. I should probably check it out. It would be interesting to see how he handled the role.

  23. Joel: you hit it right on the head. The film did not capture how revolutionary his act was at the time; it did arrive way too late, but I think in better equipped hands, the story would have been much more compelling.

    Craig, I can’t wait for this week’s Watercooler . . . I just saw Malick’s Tree of Life and ran here, still teary-eyed, to let you know just how much I loved it. Just, wow. “The New World” shall be screened tomorrow night.

  24. Glad you liked Tree of Life, Dorothy.

  25. It’s a thing of beauty, Alison. I’m still reeling.

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