2011 Archives - Page 2 of 44 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Take This Waltz (2011)

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Someone should have told Margot (Michelle Williams) when she was growing up that living life exactly how and when you want requires a certain kind of crazy conviction and total abandonment of empathy.  She wants to live life to the fullest, but doesn't exactly have the expressive tools to explain to everyone around her that's her mission.  So she quietly goes about her daily routine making muffins, traveling, and eventually meets a handsome stranger who may be able to make her life exciting again.  On another note, someone should have told her that if the exciting life is all you live, that becomes just as repetitious as everything else.

Take This Waltz is a great film by the Canadian writer / director Sarah Polley.  She has performed and learned under one of the greatest directors of all time, Atom Egoyan, and has also been in films by David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam.  Because of these associations there is plenty of visual invention throughoutWaltz, but the most important lesson of directing came from Egoyan.  There is no point throughout the movie where Polley treats her characters with anything less than total empathy and no one gets to be the victor.

Those sort of complications thrill me, because I love when movie characters are found to be as weak and flawed as the rest of us.  Polley shows Margot as the kind of person who will never be satisfied, but seems to find relationships that will never satisfy her.  She embraces fiction and says that she is a writer but the only artistic lies she creates are the kind that lend her credibility with her friends and family.  The handsome stranger (Luke Kirby) wonders why she's in a wheelchair, she lies and says that she has leg issues.  The sister-in-law (Sarah Silverman) needs someone to tell her she's strong, so she lies and tries to support her through her alcoholism.  The husband (Seth Rogen) needs to feel loved, so she tells him he loves him.


Five (2011)

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Fun fact I did not discover until I was doing some post-film research: should you desire you can watch the entire film online and straight from the source here.

Emotional and practical reasons aside, Five is an anthology film, and those always interest me.  When they work there is a wonderful alchemy at play as various directors stretch their creative muscles to rally around a common theme.  So, with the best of intentions, I went straight into Five hoping for the best as some of my favorite films have been either adapted directly for television or released as an anthology.

Never let it be said the stories aren't economical, they all do tell self-contained stories that fit into the overarching disease theme in crisp twenty minute segments.  Overall this isn't something I could recommend, especially coming off a very recent viewing of Mike Nichols' cinematic adaptation of Wit, but if you are looking for some quick bonding time with a struggling loved one you could do far worse than the shorts here.

Since they vary so much in quality, here are quick reviews on each film.  The overall narrative centers around a cancer treatment facility that each film goes to at least once.  Just so we'll end on a positive note, I'll go from the worst to the best of the five.


Margaret (2011)

There’s one good scene in Margaret, unfortunately it comes right at the end.  Lisa (Anna Paquin) has been struggling with a lawsuit stemming she helped start after trying to move on from a death she helped contribute to.  She and her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) sit together at an opera and Lisa begins to cry.  The singers voices seem to be competing with each other, but eventually find a loud harmony, and Lisa collapses into her mom.

The optimist in me would like to think that Lisa finally figured it out.  She understands that it is not about who can be louder but finding a pitch where everything sounds beautiful.  The pessimist in me thinks that she hasn’t grown up more during that show than the last traumatic moments of her life.  In this scenario Lisa realizes that no matter how loud she makes her own voice it will become symbolically distinctive from another.

The scene can be read in these two distinctive ways, undoubtedly many more, and relies on the opera and Paquin’s sobbing for the soundtrack.  Loneliness creeps into both the mom and daughter as they try to enjoy something they both admitted earlier makes them feel isolated in watching.  It’s a lovely moment, and also the only time a truly divisive reading could be read into this heavy-handed moral tale of teenage privilege.


A Separation (2011)

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No one is able to escape the camera.  It's capable of judging so easily be clearly sees everything.  So what do we see in A Separation?  Everything.  This is the film Bergman was talking about when he said that truth in cinema is a lie told through light surrounded by darkness.

Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simini (Leila Hatami) are not arguing so much as they've reached an impasse of exasperation.  Whatever connection they shared is strained through Simini's desire to raise her daughter away from all of this.  The judge (Babak Karimi) asks what a better land means without her father to come with them?  She cannot answer and Nader cannot leave.  He's dedicated himself to his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), struck down with Alzheimer's, who does not remember the person who is responsible for his daily survival.

On they go, getting angrier, darting their reasons.  She has visas to a better place, he has a job, she sees opportunity, he sees obligation, and neither one shares barely an empathetic thought for their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).  Despite their love, which both will show again and again, she's become another bargaining chip in the rift that has grown between them.  Their daughter, sensing she is about to feel the same, tries to clutch them both and down they all fall.


Age of the Dragons (2011)

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Danny and I have different reviewing philosophies.  He is willing to turn off a film if he feels it has no merit and continuing to watch it will only further emphasize the point.  I do not want to give my opinion about a movie until I've watched the entire movie because it feels like I'm not doing the film its proper due by watching it as intended.  We could hash philosophical even further by wondering what "as intended" is, but for the purposes of this review let's keep it as start to finish.

Clear?  Ok.  I watched all of Age of the Dragons but it is the second film I've ever watched I fell asleep trying to do so.  The other movie was Last Year at Marienbad, an experience I was only able to make it through on my third attempt thanks to Danny beginning a riff-a-thon that kept me laughing and awake throughout the whole movie.  Dragons is not as lucky, it does not have any arresting images, it barely even has a change of scenery.

Acting through the image of what I think is a responsible film critic, I tried to go back to the moment I fell asleep but found it difficult to determine where my attention nodded off.  No one moment distinguished itself from the last after ten minutes into the film.  Dour characters stare gloomily into the snowy ground and talk tough while Vinnie Jones suckles on a pipe as though industrial strength turbo glue was basted on the shaft.  Wintery backgrounds give way to the same long shot of a familiar snow covered expanse and then a badly animated CGI dragon stops just long enough to taunt the players with its wing-span.