Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ricky Gervais: Out of England

A rule to live by: when Ricky Gervais does a comedy special, rent it.
Motley Queue

Monday, May 11, 2009


Well now, the American Dairy Association is going to be unpleasantly surprised when they watch this tribute film.

Tee, hee. All jokes aside, it's no surprise that Milk is a good film. It was nominated for a slew of awards and Sean Penn is obviously terrific in it. I'm pretty sure Sean Penn is terrific when he trims his toenails or pays his utility bills, so it's hard to be bowled over by his performances any more, right? It's like putting A-Rod up to bat. You're pretty safe to go get a hot dog because you know the team's in good hands.

It's easy to admire Penn's charismatic portrayal of the first openly gay public office holder, Harvey Milk. But did I love the movie itself? Love might be a strong word. It's really good, but it doesn't evolve beyond the trappings of a biopic, trying to cram so much history into so little film and make us understand the person's soul at the same time. The latter is where the movie really failed for me.

Maybe that's because the tableau of characters surround Harvey Milk felt stereotyped and trite, as if director Gus Van Sant threw them in because he needed them to be there, not because he really wanted to pay them any attention. Look at me, I'm the hysterically unpredictable foreign boyfriend! Look at me, I'm the wisecracking lesbian campaign manager!

I never found myself engaging with any of the supporting cast, with the exception of Josh Brolin, who absolutely seethes in every scene (as one would expect the stepson of Barbra Streisand to do very well, zing!). He's like a pile of twitching electrical cables just inches from a pool of water. Watching his character slowly unwind iis the real pleasure of watching Milk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let the Right One In

Okay all you Swedish film fans...

[Insert cricket noises here]

Okay, so there aren't many of you out there, but don't fret. Let the Right One In was my first Swedish film too, coming on the recommendation of former coworker, Meredith, who has never led me astray. She was right once again, this movie is a winner.

Shot in the winter and set in Stockholm, the film's cold and desolate locales are the perfect setting for the spare and harrowing tale. The plot revolves around 12-year-old Oskar, whose awkwardness and loneliness make him the frequent target of school bullies. Oskar is painfully Swedish looking: white-blonde hair, red-rimmed rheumy eyes and skin so pale it appears translucent. He has what is either the worst haircut on the planet, or a look that is really cool in Sweden. I can't tell which, but I'm betting on the former.

Oskar reluctantly befriends a mysterious gypsy-like girl in his apartment building, Eli, whom we later discover is no ordinary child. Are you ready for it? Okay, she's a vampire -- but don't jump to conclusions -- this is no Hollywood-style vampire movie, although there is a fun amount of gore and destruction. This is a sorrowful, lonely tale of a vampire child seeking simple understanding and love from another human being. A romance develops between Oksar and Eli as she teaches him to defend himself and he helps her feel a connection to the normal world. Their friendship takes center stage over Eli's darker needs.

There are a few grisly scenes in the film and a couple of lame special effects but on the whole, this is a refreshingly spare hand to the filming, letting us anticipate the impending danger, rather than showering us in a Hollywood gore-fest.

Do yourself a favor and watch the movie with both the English-dubbed audio AND the English subtitles on. They are hilariously mismatched, like this:

Oskar's audio: "I don't think so."
Oskar's subtitle: "Please do not consider my answer to be yes."

Ha, ha, ha. It goes on and on....we couldn't get enough of it.