Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010). Atmospheric, but overlong and perhaps not as profound as was intended. There are things to like, including a look at the Barcelona that doesn’t appear in the tourist guides. But the film is simultaneously sprawling and monochromatic. Javier Bardem, though, deserves all the acclaim he received; he is the reason to see the movie.
The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972). Once again, I find myself in the minority when it comes to comedy. This film has been praised by everyone from Kael to Ebert to Phil Dellio, who had it as #50 on his Facebook list. The best I can say for The Heartbreak Kid is that I get what its champions are saying. May’s direction gives us satire that isn’t too mean, and the acting of the leads is fine and then some. But I am not surprised this film was compared to The Graduate, another popular comedy where I get why it’s popular more than I actually like it. Charles Grodin does his thing, and I like his thing … more so in Midnight Run than here, but he’s fine. But he is never likable, and if that was the point, OK, but I think we are supposed to identify with him, at least at first, when his honeymoon goes bad just because his new wife likes egg salad and Milky Ways. Jeannie Berlin deserves a better fate; I was always on her side, but as often as not, she’s treated with barely-concealed disdain, overcome only by Berlin’s wonderful performance. The same goes for Cybill Shepherd, who gives hints of the comedic talents she would eventually display, but is used mostly for her beauty. Ultimately, I find The Heartbreak Kid to be a movie filled with characters I didn’t like, and characters I did like who were presented in unlikable ways.
Super 8 (J.J. Abrams, 2011). This is an example of how to make a summer blockbuster that is actually worth watching. It takes its time getting to the CGI, and that’s a good thing, because the time is spent creating characters we care about, characters who are distinct from one another … if this was a non-sci-fi story about kids in 1979, it would still be good, it doesn’t need the FX to cover up for the general lameness because it’s not lame. The sci-fi stuff is good, too, though, so this one should please everyone. I also had some serious nostalgia in the scenes about making a Super 8 movie. From the packages of film to the copy of Super 8 Magazine, so much of those scenes took me back to my own time in the 70s as a budding film maker. (Oh, and Elle Fanning is really, really good.)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977). #25 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list. #128 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 movies of all time.
Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1998). #24 on my Facebook list.