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Christmas Season Movies (a Month Late)

Well, I’ve finally seen THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, MILK, THE READER, and DOUBT.

How many Americans or NLT readers can say THAT? I haven’t seen REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, it’s true, because it hasn’t come to my town. But I accept in advance the criticism that the movie turns the novel’s smart satire (of haute bourgeois whining) into tragedy (in the stupid mode of AMERICAN BEAUTY).

All the films I saw are well made and feature excellent performances. But they are all shamelessly and, in my case, unsuccessfully manipulative--with the exception of DOUBT. DOUBT captured my attention as a realistic portrayal of the way people really are.

The distinguished Dan Mahoney told me yesterday that he doubted he would see DOUBT because it portrays for our contempt a rigidly authoritarian nun. But that’s exactly what it doesn’t do. Meryl Streep’s portrayal of the Mother Superior/principal of the early 1960s--a breed that has disappeared completely--is uncannily accurate. And there’s nothing rigid or authoritarian about her. She has her doubts, but she keeps them to herself, and she leads with authority--and brilliant cleverness--out of genuine love. We see what was so good about the old working-class parochial schools, as well as what wasn’t so good about a complacent church on the brink of semi-collapse. So DOUBT is all about feminism rightly understood. It’s also about the sometimes criminal (and aggressivley unremorseful) self-induglence that was liberated in the Sixties out of trendy doubt and lawless love. There’s more for traditionalist than progressive Catholics to like about this movie, although it should make both groups somewhat uncomfortable. This message movie is unfashionable enough to have all the principals nominated for Oscars but not the film as a whole. (It’s also an injustice that DARK KNIGHT wasn’t nominated, by the way.)

All the other films I saw were naive by comparison. Quick reviews: CURIOUS CASE, RACHEL and THE READER are creepy incredible in different ways. SLUMDOG’s manipulations are overtly shameless and mean to be in the service of huge and edifying sentimental entertainment. I just wasn’t that entertained by the really silly premise. BUT the Indian game show host is a large and interesting character, and India is displayed as an endlessly fascinating and very crowded country full of charming, if often criminally ruthless, entrepreneurs on the make. I’m glad India is our ally, although I’m not that interested in visiting there soon. MILK on one level is shameless propaganda, and it’s useless to criticize that fact. It also shows that we’re still not ready for an authentic gay men are people too movie. I’m ready to believe that Harvey Milk was a rather remarkable and effective political figure, but this movie goes the hagiography route. Sean Penn’s acting is more subtle than the words he’s given to say.

Discussions - 4 Comments

AND I saw Revolutionary Road. So eat it Lawler.

What is your beef with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? I thought it was masterful. And somehow profoundly conservative. What did you think?

I thought the premise was sort of psychologically implausible and gave me the creeps. Maybe that's because I was stuck with thinking a lot about Alzheimer's recently, which is real regression to the womb. It was well filmed and sort of charming here and there. Benjamin himself was not such an interesting guy, and the movie was pretty darn long Comparisons with Forrest Gump are inevitable, and I prefer Forrest. But, Mr. Tocqueville, I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise. That's why I posted the post.

Haven't been to the talking pictures in a while, but I have re-watched Forrest Gump a few times. Forest Gump is flat out excellent, and while I haven't seen Milk or even brokeback mountain and don't have much interest in doing so, I figure that Philadelphia another Tom Hanks movie comes as close to being "an authentic gay men are people too movie" as any sane person, straight or otherwise would care to push it.

I don't mean to disparage the amount of good stuff that can still come out in theaters, but my DVD collection is already tremendous, and somehow when you are sitting on over 2000 shiny disks it seems wastefull to go watch new stuff. This isn't deep, but it has economic consequences, in particular I think we may see a lot of folks staying away from upgrading to the blueray technology, both for economic reasons and also because in a sense we already have a monster library (fixed cost). In this sense then I don't think the box office will do quite as well as it did in previous depressions.

I still adopt this general mindset in regards to new books as well, and I figure that even if you stored them electronically at some point it would dawn on you that they only have a value when digested, even if you can attach a potential/abstract value in having them at hand in case a need arose.

So we are in a depression but we have massive inventories, like a bear fat and ready to hibernate or a squirel with a large cache of nuts...in fact if we have grandparents who stockpilled and never tossed a thing...we have veritable treasure troves(mostly trash) to pour through, the attic, the garage, and who knows how many VHS tapes they own?

This is still a serious digression prompted only by the mention of Forrest Gump, but the beauty of Forrest isn't having a lot to work with(which I still think we have) but in employing what we do have. Forrest Gump is Benjamin Franklin's untaxed man which is already more intellectual than Forrest would have to say about that.

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