[May Week One]

Take the Money and Run was one of this week’s 69 series films. I was so jealous of a group of folks at this screening — it looked like a dad & teenage son, and then two of the teen’s friends. I always am jealous when parents bring kids to revival film (or, really, anything that’s not the prepackaged cereal-and-action-figures tie-in sort of thing) because that never would have happened in my “most film is immoral and indecent and a waste of time and money” family.

They were sitting in front of me, so I got to hear their conversation: if any of them had seen any Allen before, and then it somehow drifted off into Shakespeare in Love (which one of the teens didn’t like because it was too funny & made a joke of Romeo & Juliet, which is actually my problem with Baz’s version), and then complaints about it winning over Saving Private Ryan (which entertained me, because that was a topic of discussion in a friend’s journal the day before.))

The film itself is great, one of the original mockumentaries, with a snappy script & fantastic sight gags. It’s the first film he wrote *and* directed *and* starred in, and as such is essential Allen.

Probably the best thing about State of Play was Helen Mirren; also the direction, Russell Crowe & his long hair, the Great Big Sea needle drop, and the set decoration (this is not meant to be damning with faint praise; the sets, particularly for Cal’s office & the newsroom, were fantastic). Unsurprisingly, UK miniseries is much richer & more satisfying. It’s sort of unavoidable when you take 6 hours down to 2. The film is solid, though, and Jason Bateman’s supporting turn as Dominic Foy is fabulous.

[The Last King of Scotland]

I was glad that The Last King of Scotland came back into theaters this week, because I was sorry to have missed it the first time around. It returned on the buzz created by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, and rightly so. His performance was amazing, charismatic and horrific, and the underrated James McAvoy more than held his own, carrying the film in his own right as the willfully naive youth, swept into Amin’s world on a wave of luxury, flattery, and denial.

Like Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the big questions is about the violence. There was both more and less than I had expected. For much of the film, the violence is held off in the background, but when it does come to the forefront it is graphic and has tremendous impact, making this a film I’m glad I saw, but not one I am in any great hurry to see again.

It isn’t, as often implied, a biopic as Amin so much as the journey of McAvoy’s character in Uganda, and that’s the main argued flaw. His character is, I understand, a composite character, providing a white outsider point of view. I do think that the emphasis on Scotland is interesting, makes that outsider point more complex, and begins to address the issue of the perceived need for a white POV character at all. The film is aware of the issue, criticizing what Garrigan thought he was doing in Uganda in the first place.