[Films Worth Getting Up For: The Summer]

This summer I haven’t been writing much, and when I have, it’s about movies I wasn’t impressed with. That’s no fun! Over on the (also neglected) real life blog I stole a concept from a friend, writing quarterly posts about things “worth getting up for”. So here’s my “films worth getting up for” this summer.

A caveat: I spend a lot of time seeing revival film, but for the purposes of this post I am ignoring all of that. Obviously it was worth getting up for things like Grand Illusion, a Buster Keaton double feature, and Dirty Dancing. This post is about new stuff that lit my socks on fire.

* The Imposter. A must-see, truly stranger-than-fiction documentary. The set-up is that 13 year old Nicholas Barclay goes missing in Texas. Three years later, the family gets a call from police in Spain, saying he’s been found there. In spite of the fact that the man in custody is clearly older than 16 & bears no physical resemblance to Barclay, they welcome him into their home.

The documentary includes interviews with the family, various officials involved in the process of bringing this person from Spain, a private detective (fascinating in his own right), and the imposter himself, Frédéric Bourdin. He is astonishingly willing to discuss how he pulled it off and why he did it.

The film also includes family home video and some dramatic recreation, and basically you’re going to sit there exclaiming “WHAT?” a lot. So you should see it with other people and leave time to talk it over.

* Old Goats is a local film starring non-actors, both of which are often warning signs. Luckily, it is also utterly delightful. Borne of director Taylor Guterson’s desire to capture the personalities of the three leads, the film sets up a fictional structure in which Brit, Bob, and Dave are essentially playing themselves. And they are hilarious as they deal with retirement, dating, technology, and their own histories. It’s an earnest, crowd-pleaser sort of film, and you don’t need to be an old goat yourself to enjoy it.

* Robot and Frank is also a film that tackles aging, but further along than the Goats. Frank Langella plays Frank, a retired thief who is having trouble living on his own. Rather than moving him into a care facility, his son (James Marsden) brings him a robot assistant.

Frank is initially resistant to the idea, but he starts developing a relationship with the robot when he discovers that the robot may know the definition of terms related to morality, but does not see how they apply to the world. That is, the robot has no qualms helping Frank return to his old profession.

It’s set in the “near future”, where all the smartphones are see-through and we Skype on our tv, but of course most things don’t change. Frank is trying to hold on to his independence while aging, his son is worried about his memory issues, and his daughter (Liv Tyler) is a Eat Pray Love sort of traveler, who is horrified at the prospect of robot labor.

* Moonrise Kingdom. I wound up seeing this three times in the theaters, once on opening day & then twice more when it moved to SIFF Cinema. It’s a lovely film, & like most Wes Anderson films I like it more each time I see it.

* There’s a lot of writing out there on Beasts of the Southern Wild, both positive and negative, which I’m not interested in recapping here but you should absolutely seek out. For me, Beasts was a powerful criticism of systems & institutions: systems that ignore climate change & the environment for the sake of profit, systems that cut off the Bathtub from the City and then allowing the Bathtub to be flooded for the sake of the City, and most of all the top-down attempts at intervention that came after, unlooked for, untrustworthy evacuation & medical services. I did not see it as poverty porn, nor as condemnation of the people living in the Bathtub and the decisions they made within the choices they were allowed.

* Samsara is a guided meditation on the journey of life. Wait, come back. Shot in 25 countries over the course of five years, it’s a hyper-real, gorgeous, & true presentation of life on this planet. Must see in the theater.

* The Bourne Legacy. I’m a fan of the Bourne franchise, and this was another smart & satisfying popcorn movie. The greatest weakness was that they tried too hard to tie it to the previous Bourne films. Not necessary, guys! I like knowing where it fits in the timeline — I’ve said a lot that I love how the third movie takes place during the last ten minutes of the second one — but there was definite Matt Damon overkill. We get it, guys. Trust this story.

* Finally, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I will write about properly once I can say something other than ALL OF THE FEELINGS.

What movies set your socks on fire this summer?


Beasts of the Southern Wild continues at SIFF at the Uptown through at least September 20th.
The Bourne Legacy is playing at various Seattle theaters.
The Imposter is playing at Sundance Cinemas.
Old Goats continues at SIFF at the Uptown through at least September 20th.
Moonrise Kingdom is playing at various Seattle theaters.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower opens Friday September 28th at the Harvard Exit.
Robot & Frank continues at the Egyptian through September 20th.
Samsara continues at the Cinerama through September 20th & moves to SIFF on September 21st.

[The Fantastic Mr Fox]

Guys, this is such a good year for allegedly children’s movies. We had Up, we had Wild Things, and now? The Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson’s stop motion adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel, which was so much better than I had even hoped. I am a little grumpy, to be honest, that it didn’t get the viral marketing blitz that Coraline did. Who, for example, knit the wee fox sweaters? Inquiring knitters want to know.

I have to say right out that I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, even though I did not enjoy The Life Aquatic & own The Darjeeling Limited mostly for the nearly-fetishized shots of Adrian Brody & his v long limbs. The Fantastic Mr Fox is visually unmistakable as Anderson, from the open-book opening to the cross-section dollhouse-esque shots to the neurotic perils of family life. I wanted to own the DVD immediately, to freeze-frame and admire the detail. With all the visual richness, though, it’s somehow less fussy than Anderson tends to be. It’s clever, but not irritatingly so, full of fox-sized adventure in a dangerous world, more true for being handmade. It’s fantastic.


I saw stuff! It ruled! I am going to see lots more starting tonight, though, so let’s catch up right quick.

* 3:10 to Yuma. I liked it a lot, but didn’t *love* it. I hadn’t paid much attention to casting beyond the obvious, though, and was delighted to get so much Dallas Roberts. He’s worth seeing in anything.

* Dan in Real Life. I hit this free screening because I kinda dug a lot of people in the cast & because all the music was done by Sondre Lerche. It’s your standard romcom, but I thought it had charm. You have to know, though, that I am a sucker for any sort of performance in a film, and this one had a family improv-round-the-piano *and* a family talent show. Pure win, so far as I am concerned, especially as one of the brothers is played by Norbert Leo Butz.

* Lust, Caution. Eagerly anticipated by me, obviously, as I am a huge Tony Leung fan. And that Ang Lee guy isn’t bad either. I read a lot of mixed reviews before I went, and they’re all wrong. It was an utterly gorgeous film, it did not feel nearly as long as it was, and the critical obsession with the sex in it says a lot more about the critics than it does about the sex.

* Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Hello, awards season. Beautiful film, unsurprising to anyone who saw the first one. I’m still just utterly delighted that we got a sequel at all, and it’s marvelous. I’m looking forward to the inevitable special edition of the two films.

* The Darjeeling Limited. Oh Wes. Thank you. At this point I don’t adore it like I do Rushmore & Tenenbaums, but I really like it a lot and am looking forward to seeing it again. I’ve read a lot of meta on Anderson this week, but most of it has been really reductive, some to the degree you’re wondering if people are seeing the same movies. The obvious example is criticism of the treatment of India in Darjeeling, which tends to skip over little things like facts, and also that the film is clearly critical of the brothers’ use of India. Basically, I want to shake authors and ask if they’re paying attention. If Anderson’s weird about anything (and lord knows he is, and that’s why I love him) he’s weird about *women*. Discuss. (Also, Adrien Brody is painfully attractive. I’m just saying.)