Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Thursday, July 14, 2016
The story arc is simple, and beautiful for it. Sophie, a London orphanage's perky little insomniac, spies an ominous shadow on her street one night, followed by its owner, a tall cloaked figure with ginormous ears, who from a distance can hear her heart beating inordinately fast and thus scoops her up, bringing her to his home across the sea for fear she would send the Royal Navy knocking on his door. She is little terrified of him, though he likewise immediately proves altogether harmless, clumsy, protective, sweet, and yes friendly. Living in an orphanage with a nasty matron, Sophie warms to him and his simple yet wondrous world. Dangerous too -- for neighbors he has nine child-eating giants, each twice his size (and he stands over 30 feet), who make sport of bullying him and attempting to sniff out his new friend. He meanwhile makes his profession in the dream business, catching them, mixing them, and blowing them into the rooms of people who could use them. His meals comprise of one of the most ghastly food items in cinema history, snozzcumbers, countered by the delightful frobscottle (I can only imagine the laughs Roald Dahl gave himself when concocting that particular beverage). She comes to call him BFG (for big friendly giant).
This film could never have been made into a live-action feature far long before now. Thank heavens no one attempted it, because the CG technology is finally such that the entire story is realized more through the stunning visuals than any other thing. Whether your eyes are being filled with wide magical landscapes, deep caverns in the BFG's home containing thousands of jars of dancing, luminescent, multicolored will o' wisp dreams, the two of them bounding in the magical wild as they go to catch them, or a close-angle of the deep introspective conversations they often have, you should be doing so in the biggest movie theater in town. John Williams described his score thus: "The BFG tries to capture dreams with his net and does something that almost looks like a Ray Bolger or Fred Astaire dance; It is an amazingly musical and choreographic sequence which required the orchestra to do things that are more associated with musical films." The orchestra never disappoints for this film. John Williams' more recent scores are admittedly less memorable than those of his earlier career (no surprise after Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., among many others). The feelings of this score are distinct and more complex, sprinkling the film with a free natural spring of life throughout. I'm still counting the days before this 83-year old icon finally calls it quits.
Enough said. Either I've sold you on this film or I haven't. It did not do well at the box office for its first two weeks due to other big family films emerging, but no excuse. Nutshell: If you enjoy Spielberg the director, you'll love this film. If you enjoyed any of his other children's features such as "The Goonies", "Jurassic Park", "E.T.", "Hook", "Jurassic Park", "Tin-Tin", "Jurassic Park", you'll love this film. If you enjoy Roald Dahl's works, you'll love this film. If you enjoy family adventure movies in general, you'll love this film. Basically, if you don't love this film, crawl back into your little Gollum hole because the world must bore you most pitifully.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
How it is I’ve been blogging about indie films for years and this one has gone untouched, I can’t be sure. Suffice it to say, it’s long overdue for a review.
One could accurately quote me saying: This is my favorite feel-good indie film of any. There are a lot of reasons why. First, this is a story of my home state. It’s no secret to anyone, Utah and I have a true love-hate relationship. But if there’s something I would hope would put Utah on the map in a different direction, it’s this true story of a self-made man and his lifelong dream of visiting this mystical state. You may be wondering why mystical — don’t get ahead of me.
Burt Munro (played by the immortal Anthony Hopkins) is a happy old codger from Invercargill, a small hamlet on the south island of New Zealand, and there’s only two things he absolutely needs in his life, as it were: a few ladies for flirting with or dating, and his old powerhouse motorsickles. In the early 1960s, there he was, working everyday (usually at six in the morning, to the irritation of his neighbors and the delight of their son) on his old faithful 1920 Scout, an Indian motorbike known for being the first ever produced in America. Munro should've probably been offered a job with Indian long prior, because he seems to know more about getting the most speed out of their bikes than they did. But that wasn’t in the cards, his ambition went far beyond. He wanted to know just how fast his bike could possibly go, given no limitations and all the modifications he made this advancing its ability. He is challenged by a local biker gang to a race on the Invercargill beach — no surprise that he smokes them all. One of the only places on earth to test an motor vehicle's true speed is a few hours west of Salt Lake City, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, where they stretch dead flat for miles and miles. This and other natural phenomena, including Utah's magnificent red rock, are some of what make it such a unique and mystical-looking place (used in more movies than I could count). So at past age 60, with heart troubles and little money, this man yet sets off on achieving this dream. Hopping on a cargo ship where he pays his keep by playing chef, carrying him and his bike across the Pacific and landing them in LA, he seems to pay no notice to the journey or the setbacks. And golly but the setbacks he has, every step of the way, though they hardly seem it, what with his good attitude and his natural likability — to the point that nigh well every person he meets is suddenly a new friend.
Hopkins lands a perfect performance in this film, one he would later say is the best thing he’d ever done. Whether speaking sentimentally or seriously is irrelevant — he made a great film, written, produced, and directed by Roger Donaldson, a New Zealand-born lifelong devotee of Munro’s legacy. This story is like no other, and the tone of the film ought to leave viewers with a deep sense of satisfaction — all the more so because we feel like we're there on that journey with him from start to finish.
(No I’m not about to tell just how Munro cooks his own leg, you’ll have to catch it.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
(2016) Officially time I got movie-blogging again. Thanks to the three gents of Cinemajaw for providing an impetus in me to really want to get talking about movies again in general, and specifically about quality small-budge indie films. Figured I'd start out with a recent one.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
JOE'S SUMUP: Sincere, powerful, delightful
(1989) Step into your imagination for a moment and think of what it would take to go one day, accomplishing all the mundane and important things of life, using only one appendage, and nothing else. And it can't be your right hand -- has to be your left foot. Take a think on that for a moment.
My wife and I recently watched "There Will Be Blood", chiefly to experience once again the matchless performances of Daniel Day-Lewis (same reason as everyone else, right?). We both came away rather bewildered by the sad strange experience, and Melissa in particular didn't like it at all, so much so that she said she didn't want to see another DDL performance, not wanting to be reminded of Crazy Mr. Plainview.
I recently got around to watching the Oscar-winning "My Left Foot". Haven't shown it to Melissa yet, but last week I told her with a smile, Honey I think I found a performance to clear Mr. Lewis' slate for ya. We'll see how she responds, but I think I can say, for the general public, you'll get your money's worth with this surprising work of art (on Netflix Instant, has been for some time).
Every once in a while a screenplay is concocted with great potential, yet for successful fruition everything depends on the casting of one actor or actress equal to its formidable tasks. I don't know whether the screenplay based on the life of Christy Brown was written with DDL in mind, but it should've been. He didn't take home his first Oscar for his performance for nothing.
Mr. Christy Brown was born in the 30s, inflicted with cerebral palsy at a time when only tentative medical research had been done on the defect, let alone available to the working class in middle Ireland. In consequence, everyone thought he was mentally retarded to the point that he was another mindless vegetable. That is, until his family witnessed him pick up a piece of chalk with the toes of his left foot at the age of 9, and write "mother" on the wooden floor of their little home. His father, a gruff hardworking man with four other children, is shocked and ecstatic, as are all of his siblings. Only his mother watches, teary-eyed and perfectly placid, because she alone always believed he could. Christy goes on in his life, determined to show the world how unfair it would be to think any less of him for his defect.
One of the greatest strengths of the film was how entirely non-sugarcoated it was. Don't mistake me, I love a good feel-good as well as the next sentimental fool, but Hollywood loves taking a great story, true or fictional, and drizzling it down into honey and syrup to the point that we're sticky with disinterest in the protagonist. Too many heroes and heroines are also far too deified, until they are so great they're no longer human. The director Jim Sheridan made the brilliant move of doing just the opposite, portraying Christy just as he was, first as a regular young boy (yet with a head tough enough to block even the fastest coming football!), then later as a man with all the regular passions, including a big one for woman and alcohol, and a rather short fuse. In not hiding those flaws, the filmmakers allowed me a personal acquaintance with a truly remarkable man who went on to do things no persons with cerebral palsy had ever done before, to our knowledge.
Props go too to all the cast, especially Brenda Fricker who also took home an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress. The Oscars aren't the bottom line, but when a film wins two acting Awards, is nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (based on the novel by its own Christy Brown, believe it or not), and Best Director, I generally suspect I'll walk away glad I saw it. I'll recommend this one over P.T. Anderson's highly acclaimed oil epic any day. Running time: 103 min.