About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Barney's enTangled Version

I saw Tangled last Saturday at the Bloomfield 8 theatres in suburban Hartford, a small neighborhood sloped-floor multiplex type theatre that opened in 1996, closed when its ten year lease ran out, and reopened under local management a couple years later. It's perfectly pleasant. The seats were comfortable enough, the screens were decently sized, the sound was decent. The movie? Well, I can't give it the "excellent" that Bryce Moore did. Nor did I like as much as Peter Ahlstrom. Or Myke Cole, for that matter. It's not that I didn't like it, but I didn't love it. It was just a perfectly pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. The animation itself is quite good. It succeeds at having a hand-animated look, feel, sheen, without being hand-animated. And the scene of the fire lanterns rising is genuinely beautiful by any measure. There are other above average aspects as well, including Donna Murphy's wonderful voicing and singing in the role of the mother, and the little bit of modern added edge to the relationship between mother and daughter. But there are also things that annoyed me, like the clothing for the male lead. It's like he started out being a prince, but then got changed to being a thief later on in the development of the script only they couldn't change his clothes, so I was constantly distracted by his very blousey blouse that didn't look like anything anyone else was wearing. The songs were good, but not great. The script was perfectly fine, but other than the added bit of co-dependency I didn't find it to divert too much from a lot of familiar notes. So I liked it, if someone else enjoyed it a lot more than me, well, fine.

Barney's Version is opening for a one week Academy Award qualifying run this week in NY and LA. This was a pleasant surprise, a movie I went to see because I could see as part of the Variety Screening Series but without great expectations. It's adapted from a novel by Mordecai Richler, the Canadian novelist, which doesn't include great expectations. It has Paul Giamatti in it, and I don't dislike him by any measure but at the same time he rarely shows up in movies that I really like. And he's playing a character who spends large chunks of the movie in a drunken state, and if there's one thing I absolutely hate it's a movie that acts like it's fun to go around being drunk. And lo and behold, I found myself quite taken. Paul Giamatti's performance is really wonderful. He's unpleasant; I mean, he is drunk most of the time and is the kind of guy who'll meet his true love on the day of his wedding -- and his true love ain't the person he's marrying. The performance hits all of those notes, but also hits an endearing tone when the drunken suitor manages that same day to also prove himself to be as devoted and dedicated and persistent as he is drunk. He's backed up nicely by the rest of the cast. Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver are quite good as two of the women in Giamatti's life. Dustin Hoffman is better than good as the father. Bruce Greenwood shows up in a nice role, and if you want to see what good acting is all about see how naturalistic he is here and then watch how naturalistic his much more affected performance becomes over the course of Mao's Last Dancer. It was even nice to see a movie filmed in Canada that's actually Canadian. All in all, the movie just worked for me. I don't want to oversell it, probably not going to play all over the country and you don't want to drive three hours to some art cinema to go track it down. I doubt Paul Giamatti will get an Oscar nomination, but I'd have an easier time rooting for him here than in Sideways. And he gave very good Q&A after the movie, too.

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