Sunday, January 31, 2016

Film Notes: Down With Love

Down With Love (2003), a romantic comedy about a battle of the sexes between a swinging early 60s hedonist (Ewen McGregor) and a late 60s free love feminist (Renée Zellweger) set in the Manhattan of the early 1960s Down With Love is director Peyton Reed's attempt to recapture the mise-en-scene--which it does decently enough of the Doris Day and Rock Hudson films of the late 1950s and 1960s but with a difference. But while Down With Love wants us to believe that it is a slyly knowing light put down of the Doris and Rock romantic comedies of the past, the film ends up being, to quote cultural critic Jean Baudrillard, a simulation. Down With Love is a simulation with a difference, however. The film is a more obvious and, as a reviewer in the Time Out Guide nicely put it, a coarser version of the Doris and Rock romantic comedies which preceded it and which it purports to be parodying. First time entertaining romantic light comedy. Second time over the top dismal failure. Give it a miss.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Film Notes: Beowulf and Grendel

I didn't expect to enjoy the Icelandic, Canadian, and British co-production of Beowulf and Grendel (2005) as much as I did but I did. This bittersweet tale of revenge and the need for understanding not only reminded me of the classic 1950 revenge Westerns of Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart but its stark and austere Icelandic settings reminded me of the stark and austere landscapes of Lone Pine in the classic 1950s Westerns of Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott. Further proof if needed that Westerns are alive and well and living in fantasy and action adventure films these days. Check it out.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Film Notes: Return to Me

Bonnie Hunt's (director, co-writer, co-star) Return to Me is a tale of love, loves magic, the desperation of love, and loves destiny. It is also Chicago native Hunt's love letter to her home town, particularly to Chicago's Old Town, a neighborhood of the city I remember visiting as a teen. Return to Me is wonderfully old fashioned right down to its Dino and Sinatra sound track and that, in my opinion, is all for the good. This wonderful film brought back wonderful memories to me of me and my sister sitting in front of the TV on Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching the best of Hollywood classics. Check it out.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Film Notes: Angel-a

Angel-a is (2005) director Luc Besson's fantasy tale of a down on his luck petty gambler (Jamel Debbouze) who owes money to several unsavory Parisian loan sharks who is saved from suicide on the Alexander III bridge by a beautiful blond haired angel named Angela (Rie Rasmussen). Most of all, however, Angel-a is Besson's gorgeous black and white love letter to the city of lights. Angel-a, which narratively recalls Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and which visually recalls Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1988) is not likely to please the comic book action adventure crowd but for those of you interested in film and particularly cinematography as art, check out this cinematographically stunning film.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Film Notes: The Affair of the Necklace

I recently watched The Affair of the Necklace (2001), Charles Shyer's epic fact based tale of aristocratic scandal set just before the French Revolution. There is a lot to admire in this film including its wonderful cinematography, its impressive costumes, and its superb sets. The film, however, at least in my opinion, simply can't escape, until its final scenes, its hollow centre, namely the miscasting of Hillary Swank as the central character of the film Jeanne de Saint-Rimy de Valois. Like critic Roger Ebert I can't help but wonder what the film would have been like had someone like Helena Bonham Carter played Jeanne instead of Swank. British actors are simply, in my opinion, better at costume dramas than American actors by and large. American accents just don't sound right to my ear. All that said, The Affair of the Necklace is worth taking a look at, at least once.