Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Eyes On... February 15, 2010

Having a four-day weekend gives me a lot of time to catch up on watching shit. I've been sitting on a couple movies from Netflix for something like a month now, so I had to get around to it. So, here's what I've been watching.

Zodiac (2007)

I'd rank this right up there with All the President's Men as one of the best films ever made about the workings of a newspaper. Yet, this movie has greater ambition. It shows the workings of a newspaper staff, a police staff, and a serial killer, and it does so with great performances from an exceptional cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, especially, deserves kudos for playing the role of Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who becomes deeply obsessed with solving the mystery of the Zodiac killer. What I loved most about the film, though, was the way director David Fincher chronicled the passage of time through subtle changes in set, characterizations, and relationships. If you're expecting something similar to Fincher's classic Seven, you will be disappointed, but hopefully rewarded.

Reality Bites (1994)

How I made it through my teens and twenties without seeing this movie is beyond me. Nonetheless, my girlfriend made me watch it, and while it is certainly dated (it's hard to look at Ben Stiller without laughing at his haircut), it has its charms, too. The performances of Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke are standout, and the film has some great one-liners ("I'm a non-practicing virgin;" "He's the reason Cliff's Notes were invented"). Unfortunately, the film's story gets lost in its attempt to be 90s "cool."

South Park (Season 1: 1998)

When I was an ultra-conservative Christian, I really hated, hated, HATED South Park. Having gone back and watched the first season, I can't understand why. This show is fucking hysterical. It's dark, sick, uneven, and wicked satire. What makes it so good is similar to what made The Simpsons so great: the cast of characters. There are so many original and creative characters in this weird little world, from the fat, ego-centric Cartman, to loverboy Chef, to the is-he-gay-or-is-he-not Mr. Garrison and his puppet Mr. Hand. If you've watched South Park for a long time, you're probably laughing at how stupid I sound, but I sort of feel like a kid who's discovered his old man's stash of porn.

A Serious Man (2009)

This Coen Brother retelling of the Book of Job should be retitled, "A Serious Bore" or "A Serious Snore." Seriously, I was ready to take Job's friend's advice by the middle of the movie: curse God and die. You will, too.

My Sister's Keeper (2009)

I'm not a big fan of manipulative tearjerker movies. If it's got a sick kid in it, I usually run the other direction. Fuck that, man! I don't need another Hollywood movie to make me feel bad for the less fortunate. With that attitude, I watched My Sister's Keeper, and spent a lot of the second half of the movie dabbing my eyes with Kleenex. This film is about an 11-year old girl named Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin), who hires a lawyer to sue her parents in order to obtain personal medical rights. Anna's sister, Kate, has a rare form of Leukemia, and Anna's parents had Anna in the first place in order to use her to keep Kate alive via bone marrow, blood, and organs. Sick and twisted shit, right? Lifetime movie-of-the-week type shit. Despite the tabloid premise, though, director Nick Cassevettes strikes a balanced tone in the movie by cleverly allowing each character's perspective to be felt through well-placed voice overs. We sympathize with Anna's dilemma, yet also appreciate the sincerity of her obsessive mother (Cameron Diaz) who refuses to let her oldest child die. What I loved best about the movie, though, was the performance of Sofia Vassilieva as the dying Kate. This type of role is usually thankless in most of these types of movies, but here Kate is portrayed as more than just a child knocking on Heaven's door. She is the most well-rounded character of them all, and by making her story the centerpiece of the film, especially her heartbreaking love story, we realize why the legal battle is so important for everyone else involved. Is this picture of the year material? No, but it's the kind of movie you'll probably want to revisit, especially when you want a good cry.

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