Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wasn't it nice to see people all giddy again about winning an Oscar? To witness thoughtful and unanticipated honorifics bestowed upon a handful of the most deserving entrants? (see: Tilda Swinton) To hear more than one recipient extol the necessity of making art? To discover that chivalry still flourishes in the expediency-flouting gesture of affording someone her proper say? (Jon Stewart's a mensch.) Jack Fisk should have won Art Direction for There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men might have taken home a Sound trophy, and, well, at least they chose the right Hal Holbrook clip, but most everyone walked away with a slice of the pie, and overall Oscar '07 felt like the right kind of prom: thankful, gracious, thoughtful, inclusionary. (Until Gandhi 2 sweeps next year and it's back to the same old drawing board.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

  • Quantum of Solace, the Buckleyesque title of the new James Bond film, eschews all heretofore requisite reference to dying or death, dispenses with vaginal euphemism, and should have this dimwit nation running for its Webster's. Score one (finally!) for the English language, and take that, George "Huckleberry" Bush!
  • Is Ruby Dee really poised to win an Oscar for massaging the exhausted (and in this case, underwritten) role of Righteous Matriarch in the negligible American Gangster? There are at least two worthy candidates in contention who will sadly come a cropper if Ms. Dee takes home the septuagenarian door prize: the redoubtable Cate Blanchett as a mutable, 60s-era Dylan in I'm Not There, and fearless Tilda Swinton as Michael Clayton's gradually rattled company girl. (Sorry -- I liked Gone Baby Gone, but Amy Ryan's performance was a wee bit studied.) Right, I know -- who really gives a lick?...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

  • Chato's Land (United Artists, 1972) -- Peak-condition Bronson as a wronged, laconic half-breed, willfully pursued by a motley assemblage of vigilantes whose own, interior landscapes prove more their undoing than the titular West: the Civil War romanticist haunted by defeat (an undeniable Jack Palance); the God-fearing Scotsman (an other himself) upbraided by an inability to side against the mob; the blind, entitled Americans to whom their native quarry is just another "savage." Unfussily directed by Michael Winner from a trenchant script by Gerald Wilson. Smashingly, grinningly effective in its objectivity, with a gutsy, veracious close.
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Paramount, 1973) -- Touchy-feely adaptation of Richard Bach's novella about an iconoclastic seabird, though uneasily appended with hoary, Christian overtones, is nonetheless a wonder; one can almost forgive director Hall Bartlett the reported transgressions against his cast when the effects are this unique. Jack Couffer's pre-CGI vistas of gull against nature are often stunning, and ably supported by the guilty pleasure of Neil Diamond's swaggering, musical Farina. An occasionally sluggish and perpetually derided yet ultimately winning curio.
  • WarGames (MGM, 1983) -- Fail-Safe for the Pac-Man generation, and still as astonishingly callow as it was back when considered keen. Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes' credulity-straining script (undoubtedly Oscar-nominated by an Academy membership straining to be hip) sees teen geek Matthew Broderick hack into the United States military's missile defense system and unwittingly commence a countdown to nuclear Armageddon. A perhaps not-too-entirely implausible premise groaningly undone by catchpenny character development (nincompoop adults versus bright young things), innumerable black holes in logic, and maddeningly unresolved narrative threads. (You'll wonder just exactly what happened to the soldiers from the prologue.) Darling, unlikely, and not surprisingly embraced by the nuke-rattled global village of the early 80s. Ugh.