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Friday, July 17, 2009

Quick Notes on.....

I'll be leaving soon for a week-long vacation (and the blog will probably be quiet), but I wanted to get a few notes in on some recent viewings.

Coming up end of July/beginning of August: I hope to see and write about The Hurt Locker and (500) Days of Summer, two movies I've heard great things about, AND Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

To Die For (1995)

Gus Van Sant's dark comedy was the critical breakout for Nicole Kidman, and she is very very good. She portrays a vapid, soulless, minor-league newscaster who is willing to do anything (including sleep with and manipulate her high school student) in order to get to the top. The acting in this movie is very good. Kidman is spectacular and I also really loved a young Joaquin Phoenix as a somewhat dim-witted high school student. Fun to watch, but not particularly deep or the kind of movie that stays with you for a long time.

Grade: B
City Lights (1931)

Perhaps Charlie Chaplin's most famous movie, and rightly so. The story of a homeless man (Chaplin's famous "Little Tramp") who falls in love with a blind flower-seller. This is a silent film in the best sense of the word. It relies on physical comedy and the emotions of the actors and very little on the title cards. As you watch Chaplin fight (literally in a hilarious boxing scene) against the powerful forces in society, you are guaranteed a smile on your face. The ending of this movie is simply sublime.

Grade: A

George Washington (2000)

A completely unique film. This movie follows the young and mostly African-American residents of a depressed town in North Carolina. It begins with a series of scenes of these children talking to one another, and their dialogue is funny and poignant. A great dramatic event occurs in the movie, but the movie is not really about the event. Its about children growing up, and facing heartbreak, and the ways their characters are developed as they adjust to the realities of their life. The cinematography is stunning and is able to make beautiful images out of a mostly bleak landscape. This movie is definitely not plot-drive, and can truthfully be described as "slow." I succumbed to its lazy rhythms, and was transfixed by the young characters and their plight. I also loved how it shows the lives of characters we rarely get to see on screen. A haunting and quiet gem.

Grade: A-

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