[Pickups: March revival]

* In the Mood for Love. Yes, this is the second time this year. It was scheduled as the start of this Metro Classics sequence, and my toes curl at the words “shown on 35 mm”. It was a gift to be able to see it that way, particularly since the digital projection in January had so many issues. Films like ItMfL make me consider doing a best beloved films feature here from time to time.

* The Cutting Edge is a ridiculous movie, obviously. Ridiculously entertaining. Central Cinema showed it as the March Pajama Party, and for that it is pretty much perfect. Toe pick!

* I have never seen The Terminator before. Shocking but true. Luckily, Central Cinema is there to help me correct these grievous errors. Sarah Conner is totally my kind of action hero. She wears shoes she can run in! She gets to keep on all of her clothes! Pretty great overall, except for the full frontal Arnold. That’s what we get for sitting in the front row.

* Finally, the best TV dinner ever: Pride & Prejudice! Shown over two Wednesdays at (do we detect a pattern?) Central Cinema, Pride & Prejudice was just a fabulous, hilarious, satisfying experience. Sold out, full of fangirls of all ages, puddles of estrogen everywhere. You should all be jealous.

[Quick hits]

* Whip It is more or less your standard coming of age story. It’s a formula, but a formula that works, and this time came with a bonus: roller derby. Charming as hell, and much better than I expected it to be. If you’ve never been to derby, though, be advised that’s what derby was like when it started. Derby is changing fast, has been cleaned up a lot, and the odds are your local league is flat track. The passion for the the sport, though, you’ll recognize anywhere.

* Bright Star is a heartbreakingly beautiful film. Abbie Cornish is luminous, Ben Whishaw’s Keats is darned pretty himself, and Paul Schneider’s Brown is well aware of both of them. If this isn’t a Yuletide fandom I’ll eat my non-existent hat. Here’s the thing, though. As exquisitely crafted as it was, flawlessly written, acted, and shot, there was something missing, some note of why she chose to tell this story. It’s a hard thing to pin down when it’s there, and harder still when it isn’t, but when I can’t find it, it makes it a tough film for me to love. One thing I did particularly want to note, though, was the attention given to Fanny’s sewing. It’s the one area in her life where she could funnel her passion and creativity, and I am glad it got the screen time it deserved.

* Johnny Cash in San Quentin wasn’t quite what I expected, but that actually was an improvement. Part of the Film Forum’s 69 series, it included performance footage as well as interviews with inmates. It’s a BBC documentary, and it opens with some unexpected footage — a bit on the myth of the American West, with reenactments that leave much to be desired, but once it gets into the show (intercut with prisoner interviews) you wish it would keep going. 60 minutes was far too short!

* Toy Story & Toy Story 2 were recently rereleased in 3D. It was a lot of fun. The first is cleverer than I had remembered, and I had never seen the second one at all. I am coming round a little bit on 3D. It worked well here, unlike in Coraline where I found it distracting. I mentioned this last time I saw Toy Story, but I do love that it’s a single parent family and, in a rare feat for Disney, it’s a single mother. It doesn’t make up for their typically appalling record on female characters, but it helps. (Also, just because I thought to look it up now, according to Wikipedia, the font of True Facts, passenger side airbags were first offered as an option on the 95 model Volvo and were standard after that. For those who were concerned about the baby seat in the front. You know who you are.)

* Finally, Singin’ In the Rain was this week’s Metro Classics offering, so of course I had to go. My TV isn’t nearly as big as the theater screen, and it’s a little awkward in my living room when I’m the only one applauding for the “Make ’em Laugh” sequence. Fantastic, of course, and I have to say, if you don’t like this movie? I am quietly judging you. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve seen it since I watched the extras on Rififi and learned how kind and generous Kelly was to Jules Dassin, particularly when Dassin was being snubbed by the Hollywood community at Cannes. It makes it that much better to know that Kelly was a fantastic human being.

In the next week I’m seeing A Serious Man, two Hitchcocks, Where the Wild Things Are, and Precious. It’s fall movie season, kids, and I couldn’t be more excited. I should probably take a look at the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival schedule too, but so much gay film is crap I generally have trouble getting around to it.

In the world of things that are interesting only to me, this means that by the end of next week I’ll have met my film-in-the-theater record from 2007, and that with two and a half months of 2009 to go. Oh my giddy aunt!

[Holy Pajamas.]

I saw one movie a month for a while, which didn’t seem worth posting about, but now all of a sudden I have found my groove again. Let’s catch up. (Which is possibly the most-typed phrase on this blog. Oh well.)

* Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Exactly what you think it will be, and probably all the more effective because I got to see it with some of my favorite ladies in the world.

* The Pineapple Express. Loved it. Shut up, all of you. I can’t help it. Saul+Dale=BFFF.

* Burn After Reading. People have such short memories. When No Country For Old Men came out, people were surprised, as if there had never been Blood Simple. Then this year the Coens come out with this, and there’s, like, collective whiplash. Catch up, folks. It’s a wicked amount of fun, but it didn’t stick with me, which is totally fine.

* The Lucky Ones. Three clichés on a road trip, while on leave from the war in Iraq. Terrible, but not in an interesting way. I suspected as much going in, but Rachel McAdams is cute, the movie was free, and what else am I going to do on a Sunday morning?

* The Godfather. Recently restored & reissued, it played at the Cinerama, which is basically the best thing ever. Just as utterly captivating as always.

* Richard III. The Ian McKellen version. Fabulous. Obviously. I am not even close to a Shakespeare purist, so my toes curl for interesting updated. 1930s Fascist England? Why not? Also, the music is *fantastic*.

* Looking for Richard. Shown as part of a double feature with the above (and also in the same weekend that I saw The Godfather. Quite a lineup.) I love basically everything about Richard, from the high propaganda of Shakespeare to the back-to-the-source telling of The Daughter of Time, and in this piece, we get a peek on on actors approaching the text. Great fun.

* The Secret Life of Bees. Another free movie. I am ashamed to admit that its treacly sentimentality totally worked on me (hey, sometimes it happens) but oh MAN. Can we please, for the love of god, someday have this movie without the damn white people? Thanks.

* Ashes of Time Redux. Gorgeous. Can’t wait for the DVD. (Please, don’t bother with the original DVD. It is literally unwatchable.)

* Zack and Miri Make a Porno. One more for free. I love Kevin Smith, I love Seth Rogen, & I loved the surprising number of featured handknits. I also love that the couple sitting next to me got up and walked out a half-hour into it. I mean, seriously. Seriously. It’s not like *anything* in the movie was a surprise. I mean, come on. It is exactly what you think it will be.

[DVD through March]

* First off, did I forget to post about For the Bible Tells Me So? I am thinking I did! Fail. Every year at the film festival there are movies I hear about in line, but never manage to see. For the Bible Tells Me So was 07’s, and now I understand why. I’ve seen a lot of queer-themed documentaries, and even a few others on gays-and-religion, but this one was easily the best. American-focused, of course.

* On a recommendation from a friend, I queued Shackleton, the story of the 1914 trip of the Endurance to the South Pole. Beautifully filmed & acted. It is long, yes, but I thought it was well-paced. I have to admit I was particularly taken with all the scenes including the men singing, showing how they passed the time at sea. Also, I have to give a shout-out to Matt Day who played the photographer Frank Hurley. He’s in one of my favorite comfort movies, the criminally underrated Love and Other Catastrophes (which seriously needs to come out on DVD soon, before my VHS wears out.) Oh! It was also neat to see it after going to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich this summer — they have the replica of the James Caird used in the film.

* The Lion in Winter was utterly delicious. I’m just sorry that there wasn’t a revival of it to pair with last winter’s big screen adventure with Becket.

* Kiss of Death was in my queue already after Noir City, but I bumped it to the top after the death of Richard Widmark in late March. It’s a solid enough noir on its own, but (as everyone knows) it’s Widmark’s portrayal of the villain Tommy Udo that makes it particularly worth seeing.

* The week after Widmark passed, his Night and the City director Jules Dassin died, so Rififi moved on up the queue. I wrote a bit about Dassin on the ephemeral blog already, but in between the two films, he was blacklisted, which is why Rififi was filmed in France. It’s *the* classic heist film, worth seeing for lots of things, but in particular for the heist itself, something like a half hour with no dialogue but an excellent score. Um. No pun intended. This is not a hijinks sort of heist movie. It’s very dark.

* The Best of Youth was a six hour Italian film, originally aired on television in four parts, and then as an edited version in the theater. I am a total sucker for any sort of epic family history piece, and this was beautiful and satisfying. Also, I might now have a bit of a crush on Luigi Lo Cascio.

* Toy Story, I realize, is sort of a random selection, but I’m in a group on Ravelry that’s working through the AFI Top 100. I actually hadn’t seen it in years, possibly not since shortly after it came out on video, and I was surprised to see how well it stands up. The animation is still strong (my favorite bits being the details like scuff marks at the bottom of doors), the story has a lot of great stuff going on, and probably the use of classic toys helps it feel all the more timeless. But the thing I noticed most about it this time around is that Andy’s is a single parent household. His mom cares for him & his sister, maintains a gorgeous home, plans his birthday and the family move, and there’s never a mention of a father. So cool!

[One week in November]

I might see as many as three movies this weekend (I’m eyeing The Golden Compass & I’m Not There, plus I have a pass for Sweeney Todd), so it’s high time I got caught up here. I saw these all in the seven days prior to Thanksgiving.

* A local cinema has been putting on an on-going classics/revival festival, but as yet I’ve only made it to one. It was an excellent choice, though, Days of Heaven, which I had never seen before. (Oh my gosh this is so awful. I was trying to figure out what specifically I remembered Brooke Adams from. The answer? The Baby-Sitters Club. I don’t even know what to say to that.) It occurs to me in reading about Malick that what I like about him is also what I like about Wong Kar-Wai. They both are all over the place in shooting, and only in editing does the film really emerge, visually stunning & meditative, and often with a dreamy sort of voice-over. Hmm. Anyway, Days of Heaven is amazing, and it was particularly interesting to see it shortly after The Assassination of Jesse James, which clearly borrows from Malick a lot visually.

* Since we saw it, Into the Wild won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. Which is weird, because it’s not. It *was* precisely the movie I needed to see after the parade of cynicism that had been my other movies that month. And it was visually lush and tremendously moving & hopeful through the various people McCandless encounters. But best feature is pushing it.

* Coming closer to best feature, though, is Atonement, which I loved to heartbreaking little bits. I hadn’t read the book, but I now have it on order. I really hope that James MacAvoy finally gets some attention from this, as he’s been painfully underrated in the past, but is just fantastically good here. Also, the score is brilliant, something I don’t often pay attention to, but it draws on and develops incidental sound. Epic, beautiful, contender for sure. The Dunkirk scene alone is worth the price of admission.

* Finally, SIFF Cinema ran a Kino series recently, including a Wong Kar-Wai double feature. First up was Fallen Angels, which I’ve never seen, even though it is somewhat kind of sort of maybe related to one of my favorite films, Chungking Express. Because I am shallow, it is possible that Takeshi Kaneshiro was my favorite part of the movie. His character was fantastic, though. And at one point he wears a Tank Girl tshirt that reads “Mother Figure”. How awesome is that? Extremely awesome.

* The second film, and the main reason I bought my ticket for the pair six weeks in advance, was Happy Together. I love this movie a lot, not just a little because it managed, ten years ago, to do that thing no American film has managed — it’s a film about a gay relationship where it is not at all about being gay. It’s about these people together in this time. Astonishingly simple, really. I notice different things every time I see it, and this time I paid more attention to Chen Chang (who now I see I remembered from Three Times, where he was excellent, even though the film didn’t work for me). This film as a whole was still marvelous, of course, and a treat to see on the big screen.