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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday Films

Some quick reviews of other films recently seen:

Lincoln.  This is good, I'm not sure it's that good.  Daniel Day Lewis is amazing as Lincoln, and there are other good performances to be had.  But the second half of the movie was way more interesting.  The first half, there's a lot of political arm-twisting taking place but it's a very prosaic kind of arm-twisting, partronage jobs for votes.  Boring, nod off.  In the second half, the deadlines are approaching, the stakes are clearer, things are more fraught and more taut, the arm-twisting is more subtle and much more strong-armed, the morality of everything is more clearly heightened.  John Williams isn't just for superhero movies, he delivers a score here that is good in an almost invisible kind of way.

The Impossible:  Kind of like Lincoln, parts of it that are very good and parts of it that are much more prosaic.  Not yet in wide release but being touted for Academy Award attention, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are the parents of three children who are caught up in a devastating tsunami in Thailand.  The film is kind of true, the events mostly happened but the actual family was from Spain.  The tsunami and its aftermath are some of the best pure filmmaking and acting you are likely to see on the screen this year.  Naomi Watts and her eldest son, played by Tom Holland, are washed inland.  She's injured.  The two of them have to make their way to safety, detouring to save a toddler they hear crying, climbing a tree in case there's another after-wave.  It's excruciating to watch in a good way, you feel every grimace as Naomi Watts tries to walk and climb in spite of her injuries.  There's thespian acting in a not-Master-Thespian way between Watts and Holland.  The photography, the production design, the special effects of the wave, the acting, it's all there.  It keeps at that level as the three or them are rescued by a Thai family and taken to a hospital which is like a dreary scene out of The English Patient or Atonement only more engaging because the characters are so involving and the filmmaking more passionate.  Eventually, the film has to cut back to the father.  He and the two younger children also survived the wave, but managed to hold on to things at the hotel.  Neither group has any way of knowing the other is alive.  He leaves his two children to look for his wife and his other child.  Ewan McGregor isn't bad, there's one especially powerful scene when he borrows someone's cell phone to call the family in England to let them know he's alive and his wife's fate unknown.  But on balance, this story is a weak second to hers.  In the same way that the true story in Argo is done up with Hollywood business at the end, close calls and narrow escapes, the reunion is delayed with all sorts of scenes where Tom Holland and Ewan McGregor are this close to seeing one another but don't.  This bothered me more in The Impossible than in Argo.  Tom Holland deserves special praise.  He's 16.  His acting career was launched when he was found in a dance school and recruited to the initial cast as a Billy Elliot in the UK musical.  He gives an excellent performance here, matching or bettering the rest of the cast.  There are some criticisms of the movie for political reasons, for changing the nationality of the family or for focusing on a tourist family when most of those devastated by the tsunami were the locals.  The bigger problem, the main reason to see the movie is for brilliant scenes that do a brilliant job of making you squirm in your seat, the good kind of squirm to be sure of watching unpleasantness pleasantly depicted.

Not Fade Away:  David Chase, the mastermind of The Sopranos, about one of the '60s bands that didn't make it.  Other than for James Gandolfini's performance as the family patriarch, I'm not sure there's enough to carry this as a movie.  The teenager who becomes lead of the band gives a good performance as well, the music is good, there's nothing really wrong with the movie.   But it needs something more.

There are a few Christmas releases I need to see, Les Miz, Django, Zero Dark Thirty.  Then we can start to think about our year's best...

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