July 19, 2008

Movies, Movies, Movies

Here's a little catalogue of movies I've seen recently and my two cents:

Lars and the Real Girl - Barnone the best film I've seen this year. A simultaneously funny and heart-wrneching portrayal of true community. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Gone Baby Gone - Disturbing viewing, especially for parents, but an above average thriller with a great performance by Casey Affleck.

Juno - Too precious for my taste. It tries so hard to be authentic, it ends up missing the mark. (see Amelie). The performances are all good, but the writing is overwrought with self-aware cleverness. There's a truly powerful moment that's spilled in the trailer, and then the most interesting story is underdeveloped (the Jason Bateman/Jennifer Garner marriage).

Confessions of a Superhero - A fun exploration of the characters who walk the Hollywood boulevard in character costumes and have aspirations of seeing their name on a star like the ones they tread each day. Occasionally manipulative of the audience, and not quite compassionate enough for my tastes, it was still a very entertaining film.

There Will Be Blood - As good as everyone says it is. Blood is a fascinating character study enfleshed by a powerful actor. Not as redeeming as PTA's other films, which I personally like a bit more, but it's pretty amazing nonetheless.

Twin Peaks (Season 1) - A fun trip through David Lynch's dementia. Somehow the confusion and bizarre are endearing. My wife and I are pretty well hooked in for season 2.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Ouch. Amazing actors putting their hands to a horribly bleak family/crime story. It's not even a little fun to watch. AND I'm not sure I believe the characters would have made the initial decision that set all the following misery in motion. That's called the "inciting incident" and if it doesn't seem inciting enough, you have a problem.

Persepolis - A fascinating look at Iranian culture and history through a very honest lens. Clever and moving animation throughout. One of the best I've seen lately.

The Savages - A very good coming-of-age story in the same vein as The Barbarian Invasions and Away From Her. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is becoming one of the greatest actors of our time and this is a sensitive and human performance with his usual light touch.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days - Yipes! A very grim look at an illegal abortion behind the Iron Curtain in the 80's . We had to turn this one off.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - A gutsy film that chronicles the life of a magazine editor who was paralyzed in a stroke. The film really puts the viewer inside his corporeal prison. Fascinating and moving.

Michael Clayton - George Clooney is good. Period. He can be intense, light, smart, dumb, romantic, and an a-hole. His abilities are on display here in this very good corporate whistle-blower tale. Interesting narrative point-of-attack here that I think serves the film well. An intriguing film well worth an evening's viewing.

Into the Wild - A look at a boy who gives up on civilization after graduating from college. I was worried this film would over romanticize the transient lifestyle he chooses over society's constraints, but it doesn't do that. There are some very beautiful moments on this boy's journey and I recommend taking the trip with him. Emile Hirsch is very good in this slight departure from Speed Racer.

Atonement- I very much enjoyed watching this film. The story, acting, and photography were all quite good. I haven't decided what to think of the ending. There's a part of me that worries about what it does to truth-telling, and a bit of me that loves the honesty with which it bucks the truth.

God Grew Tired of Us - A FASCINATING look at the lives of a handful of Sudan's Lost Boys who have been transplanted to the States for a new life. You watch them encounter television, potato chips, and isolation for the first time in their lives. To its credit, GGTOU is neither the easy indictment of materialist America nor a "dollar-and-a-dream" success story.


Charis & Judah's Mom said...

Hey, Dan! It's your old Chosen pal Cori, here, and I've got two comments.
1: Did you go to the Robert McKee Story seminar in NYC? 'Cause "inciting incident" has McKee written all over it.
2: "There's no swimmin' in m'show."
Sincerely, Roy Loomis, down from Demming.

Hope you and your family are well!

DAN BUCK said...

I am familiar with McKee. I have his book (although I can't make it through the first chapter without thinking, "I'd be better served by just WRITING"). And his name was bandied about when my script was being developed a few years ago, AND I love the portrayal of him in "Adaptation".

Inciting incident predates McKee though.

Great to hear from you.

"It's the day of the show ya'll"

Andy Rowell said...

I read your Batman comments to Amy tonight as I have you on Google Reader.

We loved Lars as well. We also liked Dan in Real Life and Once.

Your kids are cute. We have two boys Ryan (3 yrs, 3 mos) and Jacob (10 mos) as well.

We remember you fondly.

If you see Brad and Alicia Brummeler (Taylor grads and Regent College grad) or Nate and Margaret Carson (Regent College grads), say hello, they are some some of our best friends and the men are doing Ph.D.'s in Philosophy at Baylor and the women work at the classical Christian school.


Andy Rowell
Doctor of Theology Student
Duke Divinity School
Durham, North Carolina
Blog: Church Leadership Conversations