Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night. Not exactly a movie, of course, but I watched it again, this time in Blu-ray. It sounds magnificent ... the visuals are OK, although I confess I did some work while it was on, so I didn't pay that much attention to the video. I made sure to watch one of my favorite scenes, when Bruce and James Burton duel on "Pretty Woman." 9/10.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I loved seeing Spain in Blu-ray, even if we're going to Andalucía rather than Cataluña in June. I'm not convinced Woody Allen actually knows much about Spain, or Cataluña, or Barcelona. Neither am I convinced he knows much about youngish American tourists in Spain, or about Spaniards. He once made a movie, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, that was an approximation of Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night ... it wasn't half as good as its inspiration, but at least you got the feeling Allen loved Bergman. This movie lacks even that affection. It goes by pleasantly enough ... by no means is it a disaster ... but it's ultimately forgettable. Penelope Cruz gets an Oscar nomination, and she is wonderful, but even here, I'd credit the actor more than the director. Cruz struggled in her American movies, and made us wonder why she was considered a star in Europe. Then she went back to Spain and started doing great work again in her native language (Volver being a good example). Apparently, Allen speaks no Spanish and let Cruz and Javier Bardem improvise much of their Spanish dialogue, and I suspect that explains why Cruz shines here in ways she didn't in earlier American films ... she speaks Spanish at least half of the time, and she lets it all hang out, as they say. She's the best thing about the movie. 6/10.
Revolutionary Road. Winslet is excellent as usual, Leo is the perfect choice for his part, the movie is properly depressing, and it's about as good as, oh, Shoot the Moon. I can think of at least two problems. One, Michael Shannon's Oscar-nominated performance as the crazy guy who says out loud the truths everyone else is thinking is irritating. Of course he got nominated ... he's playing the crazy guy who tells the truth. But his character is more anvilicious than subtle ... his every scene consists of clubbing the audience over the head so we get the points we should have already figured out for ourselves. Two, as Brian Lowry pointed out in Variety, this needs more time. I think the comparisons to Mad Men are lazy, but the main idea, that an in-depth study of suburban angst needs more than two hours, is accurate. But then, since the new golden age of television, this has been true ... I may complain about movies that are too long, but in many cases, the problem is that they are too short, by about five seasons. Still, there are signs that TV's golden age is passing, and I'm always telling students who want to write 5000 words when the assignment calls for 1500 that there is value in being concise. Perhaps the next big thing will be movies that use their relatively short length to good advantage. I don't think that's the case with Revolutionary Road. 6/10.
The Duchess. Pretty. 6/10.