May 31, 2011


Lynn’s Druthers Marathon, part 19

Title: Capote
Year: 2005
Length: 114 minutes
Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr.
Music: Mychael Danna (and non-original music)
Oscars: won for Best Actor (Hoffman); nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Keener)
I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), a couple days ago
Synopsis: Truman Capote researches and writes In Cold Blood

My reaction
Concept:1/4 (Bad) Why not just remake In Cold Blood? Or, better yet, write your own story. I don't like biopics at the best of times, but a biopic that's about a great work... how can that possibly be a better use of my time than re-reading said work, or watching the movie based on it? The idea for this movie strikes me as a really well-made Making Of documentary.
Story:3/4 (Good) If I'd never seen or read In Cold Blood, and so didn't have that comparison, I would have given it a "great."
Characters:2/4 (Indifferent) Try as they might to force a dilemma onto him, Capote is just not half as interesting as the people he wrote about. And, sure, a lot of those people are in this movie, but they only really come across when the dialog is taken straight out of Capote's novel.
Dialog:3/4 (Good) Again, would have been great if I'd never seen or read In Cold Blood. As it is, I'm not clear about the ethics of using Capote's dialog in his own biopic (without crediting him). The book this is based on is supposed to be non-fiction. And Capote is clearly presented as an unreliable source. And yet the strongest parts of the film are taken straight from his book, without any hints to the audience of what their source is. Strange.
Pacing:2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography:4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design:4/4 (Great)
Acting:4/4 (Great)
Music:1/4 (Bad) Shamelessly rips off Thomas Newman.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4 (Indifferent)). I guess I had a lot of bad things to say about it, but really, it's a perfectly all right movie. Very nice to look at. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is awesome.
Objective Rating (Average):

May 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

[Post updated 5/29/2011 - addenda in brackets]

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Year: 2010
Length: 146 minutes
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves, based on the book by J.K. Rowling
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Oscars: nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects
How I saw it: in the theater, yesterday November 2010 [re-watched on video (rented from Netflix) May 2011]
Synopsis: teenage wizards are on the run from magical fascists

My reaction
Concept:3/4 (Good)
Story:3/4 (Good)
Characters:3/4 (Good)
Dialog:3/4 (Good)
Pacing:2/4 (Indifferent) The trouble with a movie not having an ending, and knowing going in that it doesn't have an ending, is that at the beginning of every new sequence I think, "Oh, it's not over yet?" [The second time through, I had no problem with the pacing.  But then I guess that's just the nature of the problem I had with it the first time though, so I'll let my "indifferent" rating stand.]
Cinematography:4/4 (Great)  I think their visuals may actually have topped Alfonso Cuarón's installment.  How did that happen?  And more importantly, why have they been holding back for the last three movies?  [No, they don't top Cuarón, but it's hardly a fair comparison. I mean, he's Alfonso Fucking Cuarón.]
Special effects/design:4/4 (Great) They have certainly come a long way in this series. It went from looking like a bad episode of Xena in the first two movies, through the lovingly-crafted-indie-movie stage, and now it finally looks like a big budget movie franchise. It's a little late, but that's better than nothing.
Acting:3/4 (Good) Am I the only person who notices that Helena Bonham Carter is awful? Because she is. [After seeing King's Speech, I take this back. She can act; she just has a thing for picking terrible, hammy roles.]
Music:3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great,4/4 (Great)). I was unimpressed with the book, which I found unmemorable (except for the bits that were supposed to be sad, which I thought were funny thanks to their persistent frequency). I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, though, despite its faults - e.g., not explaining every detail. But I don't really care that they didn't explain little things like the mirror Harry keeps looking into. Presumably it's not important to the story, and there's enough important stuff for them to spend the Explaining Time explaining. And if there weren't six other movies and a book that you could assume contained the answers, you might think of it as intriguingly mysterious rather than carelessly unexplained. In fact, I'd say it's that sort of thing that makes this movie work. They don't spend three hours cramming every detail into the movie to make sure the audience gets everything they would get from the book, like they do in some of the other Harry Potter movies. Instead, they just tell the story. It has room to breath. Its focus is appropriately narrow for a movie. And most importantly, there are only three main characters. As I recall, the books only ever had three main characters; now one of the movies can say the same thing.  They get to develop, and Have Scenes, and even do some acting.
Objective Rating:3.2/4 (Very good)

Of Gods and Men

Title: Des hommes et des dieux
Year: 2010 (France); 2011 (US)
Length: 122 minutes
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois, scenario by Etienne Comar
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Loïc Pichon
Music: non-original music (I think)
I saw it: in the theater, a few days ago
Synopsis: monks stay in north Africa during a terrorist uprising

My reaction
Concept:2/4 (Indifferent)
Story:2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters:1/4 (Bad)
Dialog:2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing:1/4 (Bad) Painfully slow. But not in a poetic way. More of a This Film Doesn't Have an Editor way.
Cinematography:4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design:4/4 (Great)
Acting:3/4 (Good)
Music:4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4 (Indifferent)). I guess it's interesting, but that's only because of (1) the subject matter, and (2) the distinctly unique pacing.  But since I don't think the pacing worked, there wasn't much here for me.  The situations in the film should have been extremely tense and suspenseful, but I never felt anything along those lines.
Objective Rating (Average):2.5/4 (Okay)

May 20, 2011

Star Trek: "The Gamesters of Triskelion"

Title: Star Trek“The Gamesters of Triskelion”
Year: 1968
Network: NBC
Episode: the sixteenth (of twenty-six) from season two; 50 minutes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Director: Gene Nelson
Writer: Margaret Armen
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Joseph Ruskin, Angelique Pettyjohn, Nichelle Nichols
Music: Alexander Courage (theme)
I saw it: on video and TV several times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: people from around the galaxy are kidnapped and kept as gladiators

My reaction
Concept:2/4 (Indifferent)
Story:1/4 (Bad)
Characters:1/4 (Bad)
Dialog:1/4 (Bad) "What is... love?"
Pacing:2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography:2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design:4/4 (Great)
Acting:1/4 (Bad)
Music:4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4 (Indifferent)). There are essentially two things in this episode: fight scenes, and a Kirk romance. The fight scenes are particularly badly done, although they seem pretty damn good compared with the romance.
Objective Rating (Average):2/4 (Indifferent)

May 18, 2011

Mabel's Married Life

Title: "Mabel's Married Life"
Year: 1914
Length: 17 minutes
Director: Charles Chaplin
Writers: Charles Chaplin & Mabel Normand
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Mack Swain
Music: uncredited organ score
I saw it: on video (Tillie's Punctured Romance bonus feature), a couple days ago
Synopsis: a jealous husband gets drunk

My reaction
Concept:1/4 (Bad)
Story:1/4 (Bad)
Characters:2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog:0/4 (Terrible) I had trouble following what was going on.
Pacing:2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography:2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design:3/4 (Good)
Acting:3/4 (Good)
Music:2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4 (Indifferent)). Worth watching for Mabel's Tramp impression. Mostly, though, it's not especially well done compared to later Chaplin shorts.
Objective Rating (Average):1.8/4 (Eh)