movie roundup

Until someone builds something like all consuming to keep track of the movies I've seen, I only sporadically keep up with them here. But that's better than not keeping track at all. I once knew a guy who had a notebook where he listed every single movie he saw -- and he'd been doing this since he was 15. I'd love to have a list like that. Mostly because my memory for titles or actors' names is lousy, so it'd be a big help when I want to recommend a film, or see something again. imdb and Netflix are a big help for looking things up, but only if you can remember some detail to get you started with the search, rather than the miscellany my brain holds on to: you know, that film we saw last winter that had the blond woman in it, who was in that other movie about the spy? and there was the car accident, and the little kid? I'm forever trying to trace back through the recesses of my lousy memory. The plus side of a bad memory, though, is that I can rewatch a film I saw 10 years ago and fully enjoy it a 2nd time, since I've forgotten everything but the broadest outline of characters and plot. (Not true for everything, but for a lot of movies.)

Anyway, some of things I've seen recently include:
  • Sideways -- we just saw this today, and I really enjoyed it. It's smart, it's funny, and it has the marvelous Sandra Oh in it (if you haven't seen her in Last Night, you really should! it's a wonderful bittersweet existential indie pic). Ostensibly it follows two guys on a trip through wine country during the week before one of them is due to get married -- it's a buddy picture, a last fling/wild oats picture. But it's also about creativity, about arriving in early middle age and trying to figure out your life, and about how deep knowledge acquired in the course of pursuing a hobby or interest -- in this case, wine -- can wind up offering the key to understanding the larger picture.
  • Undertow: David Gordon Green can create a beautiful shot -- but there's not a whole lot of plot in any of his movies. I like All the Real Girls the best of any of his that I've seen. Unlike a French movie with no plot (like any Rohmer film, for instance) , where at least you have characters talking -- this movie you don't have much talking either. Green wants the setting/scenery to do the talking. But I enjoyed it well enough while I was watching it.
  • The Incredibles. I saw it. I admired the technical aspects. I acknowledged the sweet family values behind it. I fell asleep. Really, I did. I knew I'd possibly have a hard time sitting through it, because I just don't really like animation. That puts me firmly on the margin of most American viewers -- it probably has to do with how I was raised or something. But it's true. I just don't like cartoons. No matter how cute, or sophisticated, or violent -- whether it's Loony Tunes or anime, it mostly leaves me cold.
  • The Forgotten. Julianne Moore is definitely in my list of actors I'd watch reciting the phone book. And I really enjoyed this thriller up until the last 20 minutes -- there was really no way to resolve the movie in a fulfilling way. Interesting mix of the psychological and the extraterrestial.
  • Birth. Fascinating to watch this one in a movie theatre, since there are a couple of scenes that had people (mostly men) freaking out -- giggling/gasping in discomfort. Intriguing premise, and some really interesting acting -- it's all about family dynamics. Points for the great haircut on Nicole Kidman, too.
  • By Hook or By Crook (DVD). I LOVED this movie. It's beautiful, moving, funny, quirky. Best of all, it features two very butch women in a buddy pic that isn't about being lesbian or transgender. The characters (played by the co-writers and directors of the film) are just who they are. For me and my partner, it was extremely refreshing to see masculine women on screen -- you very rarely see butches, even in lesbian films, except as minor characters. IfThe L-Word is mainstreaming the representation of lesbians on screen, it's only presenting a certain version of lesbian sexuality (long haired femmes with femmes), one that's really appealing to straight men, who make up a big portion of the audience for that show. Not that any one show, or any one movie, can ever represent the complexity and variety of lesbian gender and sexuality -- any more than any one hetero movie can -- but because there are still far fewer lesbian films made, the stakes involved in such representations are pretty high. I'm a femme-identified lesbian, but because I'm attracted to and partnered with a butch woman, my identity as a lesbian is no more represented in The L-Word than my partner's is. By Hook or By Crook is also exciting because it's coming out of the Bay Area punk dyke scene (Sini Anderson and others were involved in the making of it) and there's a lot of creative independent energy visible in the film. Digital video is one tool for the coming aesthetic revolution . . .