Director Wes Anderson and I have been going through a sort of rocky relationship. I loved loved loved Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Then came The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which I hated. All the sudden his cleverness and attention to artistic detail seemed to become overly fussy and overly precious. Then The Darjeeling Limited, which I didn't hate but met with a gigantic shrug. It didn't exactly bore me, but it also didn't seem to contain any genuine emotion.
This is all a leadup to Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I'm happy to say that Wes and I are on solid footing again. While it's not as good as Anderson's best, the animated form certainly suits him. The puppets are absolutely gorgeous, the voiceover talent perfect (especially Clooney in the lead), the score memorable and the story very sweet and moving without becoming too cutesy. It's light, it's fun, and I really enjoyed it. What's next, Wes?
This movie (nominated for Best Documentary last year) is basically a mash-up of the books Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I've read both books, and the movie really didn't give me any new information not included in the books. It was also interesting that the movie made the industrial organic (Earthbound Farms) into heroes, where Pollan had a much more nuanced view of them in his book.
That said, I think this movie gives a good overview of the food industry for those who may not have read the books. I would have preferred something more in-depth, but it was an easy movie to watch.
This highly acclaimed movie was France's entry for Best Foreign Language Film last year. Tahar Rahim plays a young illiterate Arab man named Malik sent to a French prison who rises through the ranks of Corsican organized crime to become something very powerful. Almost the whole entire 2 1/2 hour movie deals with life in prison for Malik. As long as the movie is, it is riveting the whole way through. Rahim's performance is outstanding, and you are with his character the whole way through, even when his moral choices become quite questionable. Director Jacques Audiard tells his story with great care and with the occasional avant-garde flourish that gives the movie a touch of magic.
As well-crafted as this movie was, there was a small part of me that wanted just a bit more. More of Rahim's soul, more of his backstory, more to care about. Still, this is definitely a movie worth seeing.
The Dark Knight (2008)
I actually appreciated this movie a lot more on its second viewing. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is even greater than I remember. Plus, director Christopher Nolan creates a world that is consistently dark and refuses to play on the sometimes irritating jokiness of past Batman movies. While I think the movie is a bit overlong, and has one climax too many, this is a superhero movie with a dark soul and a lot to think about.
I love this movie, plain and simple. The family dynamics independent film is one of my favorite genres, and this one is great. Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, two actors I adore, turn in two of the best performances of the past decade in this movie as a brother and sister reconnecting. Ruffalo is Terry, the screw-up who crawls back to the small town he grew up in. Linney is Sammy, the put-together (but not really) single mother who cares so deeply for her son and brother that it hurts. It's a small, delicate, and delightful movie about family bonds that doesn't disappoint. If the final scenes don't put a lump in your throat, check your pulse.
The Daytrippers (1996)
I caught this 90s independent comedy mostly because of the cast. Parker Posey (I'll watch her in anything), Stanley Tucci, and Hope Davis. It was fun, but also a little disjointed and a little too infected by quirkiness. It's about a woman (Hope Davis) who takes along her family to go confront her husband in Manhattan when she finds a suspicious note. It also made me realize that many indie films seemed to mature into more cohesive movies in the 2000s.
Let the Right One In (2008)
If you see one movie about teenage vampires, please see this instead of Twilight. This Swedish movie is about a 12-year-old boy who meets his neighbor, who just happens to be a vampire. The movie doesn't waste much time showing us how this young vampire lives. It does take a while to figure out who to root for and who to root against in the movie. The movie has just about the right amount of gore to be exciting and scary without being over-the-top. The movie plays a lot with adolescent anxieties in the movie. It also has a really terrific ending. Horror is definitely not my favorite genre, but this is one worth checking out (it's on Netflix's "Watch Now").
The Prestige (2006)
If you see one turn-of-the-century movie about magicians, I would recommend this one over The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton. The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan, pits Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale against one another as dueling magicians who are always trying to one-up one another with the tricks. The magic is fun to watch, the performances are good (by Jackman, Bale, and Scarlett Johannson), and it has a nice twist ending. What the movie lacks is emotional investment. You are interested in the story, but don't really care about the characters.