Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Holiday Films

Well, I only saw two more:

WALK HARD is very uneven. It has some really funny moments mocking Dylan, Brian Wilson, and the Beatles in India. But its main story mocking Johnny Cash is often just stupid and needlessly gross. The songs aren’t good enough and the acting is in a nervous, often annoying position between slapstick and something like serious. John C. Reilly has some talent, but not enough self-irony. You’ll leave the theatre longing for that Will Farrell touch.

ATONEMENT is a very classy and endlessly layered psychological study that connects with every English aristocratic virtue and vice, except those that have to do with God and ruling. In its own deep way it’s sort of a chick flick and not quite for me. But as far as I’m concerned it’s the best made movie of the year. As a man of undistinguished Irish and American stock, I have to admit to being a little tonedeaf to things classy and English.

So I tend to agree with many critics that JUNO is no. 1 and ATONEMENT no. 2 for the year. The more I think about Juno the more I admire it, and I’m managing not to think much about ATONEMENT. And I’m not forgetting CHARLIE WILSON’s war.

So, you might ask, why have you not seen NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which as kind of tied JUNO across the critical spectrum for best picture of the year? When a movie is praised for its revelation of the nihilistic and violent core of human existence, I have the decency to wait until the twelve days of Christmas have past before satisfying my curiosity about what the brilliant Coen brothers have thought up now. But stay tuned.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Thanks for saving me from Walk Hard and alterting me to Atonement. I'm definitely with you on Juno. I saw Charlie Wilson's war and found it fabulously interesting. All in all I found it politically wholesome in the sense that it shows that not every important thing that needs to get done is compatible with full transparency and the rule of law. Now of course I wonder how much of the back-story is true, or rather, more or less true-to-life. For example: would Texan baptist right-wing anti-communists really host flesh-pageant parties as depicted? And there's stuff I don't get about hot-tubbing, but that's probably not important.

Ralph: I also thought Charlie Wilson's War was very interesting; also so funny that I kept embarrasing my son as I kept laughing out loud (much too loud) at lines like you can teach them to type, etc., and yelling "jailbait" when he wanted his staff. I read the book when it first came out, and it seemed to me then that it was by and large true. Alas, I no longer remember it well enough to compare it to the movie. I don't know about hosting the parties, but I do not think he got to see her neked (as Charley says) after she married. You're right about the hot tubbing.

Peter, you really need to confront "No Country." It left me troubled and slightly depressed. But I've since seen "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and felt much better.

The holidays and a new job have allowed little time for serious moviegoing, but I plan to see "Charlie Wilson" and "Juno" very soon.

Peter and Ralph, Thanks for the great CW comments. The rest of you have to see it. BB, I appreciate the call to courage when it comes to existential confrontation, and (after doubling my Prozac dose) I'll try to my duty as a human being this weekend. But I hate those Chimpmunks and cartoon movies in general.

Peter,

I second the suggestion to see "No Country for Old Men," since I am a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy, Tommy Lee Jones, and the Coen Brothers. This combination defied the overexpectation effect, and in my view, delivered a great movie.

I would also expect (and would like to hear....) that the message would appeal to many social conservatives: there is a war on, between Good and Evil, and, while "Good" cannot hope to win in our lifetime, the worst choice of all is for individuals to give up. That choice leads to certain oblivion.

An added bonus: the West Texas scenery was gorgeous, and made me homesick.

Happy New Year!

I went with friends who wanted to see The Great Debaters, but it was the only show at the multiplex that was sold out! at 6:30! (guess what town I'm in.) So I ended up in Atonement. Well, it has flaws, but this is a real movie, about love and death, gorgeously filmed. There is a torrid (but somehow, to risk a cliche, "tasteful") love scene, and then there is an absolutely chaste love scene, in a kind of lunch hall, that I found exquisite and compelling. The depiction of Dunkirk is powerful, fascinating. But here is my critique -- and I thought I'd never say this (I don't like long movies): the movie is too short. It probably needs to be a mini-series. The final concept is, as a concept beautiful,rich -- but it remains somewhat abstract; there is not enough time to prepare it. Nevetheless, let me conclude, this may not be a great movie, but it is a real movie, in some old-fashioned sense, and I can appreciate that.

We finally went to see Juno last evening. It was a good story, but the writing was a little too precious. However, my sons or others who like TV's "Arrested Development" or movies like "Darjeeling Express" would have a nerve finding this writing bothersome. Those have the same sort of glib, witty cuteness in the dialog. Yet the movie is cleverly done and well done in the sense that there are visuals that I am sure I didn't quite catch that left an impression in a vague way. I would see them more completely the next time around.

I am very worried about my son who found the movie too intense. He had said girls were crying in the theater and it had to be personal sympathy crying. The glibness of the dialog cut against pathos. There was no sobbing when we went, but the theater was very full of girls. Male friends of my sons have told me that they hated the movie. They all seem to walk out at the birth scene. I, maybe brutally, discuss with them the theme of male abandonment of responsibility for children and child-rearing. Each one says, "I would never..." but we all know those who have.

So maybe the language doesn't matter so much if it moves the young to consider life, an infant's life, something of value.


I will probably wait to watch "No Country for Old Men" on a small screen. I a McCarthy fan, too, but to watch the violence on screen, it will have to be a smaller screen for me to stomach it. I hope to see all of the movies mentioned above, except "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

Well, more fabulous comments from Ralph and Kate. Ralph is exactly right that the best way to praise ATONEMENT is as a genuinelly olf-fashioned movie, a real movie--although one that's hard to follow because its too fast and too abstract.
And Kate is right that in JUNO it's the glibness that cuts the pathos. That's partly to suit "arrested development" tastes of today, but women have always used verbal quickness to mask their vulnerability.

I know some young women who speak much like the character, Juno. I have a hard time being addressed as "Dude" by them, though my sons tell me that being so addressed is an indication of acceptance. Still, I think lack the essentials for dudeness. That everyone else seemed to have the same sort of verbal cuteness, from the drug store clerk to the dad, I found unlikely and a bit grating.

There were other aspects of the movie that I liked and I do find myself thinking about it.

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