Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

Notes on the Cinema, posted January 31, 2009 at 07:13 PM

Recently Seen Movies That May Have Something To Do With That Upcoming Awards Show

Slow, visually captivating, great special effects, and Brad Pitt looking hot. What more can we ask for from Hollywood? The most interesting thing about this film is that I loved it more the day after I saw it than I did when I left the theater. It's long, but it's totally absorbing. Is it the Best Picture of the year? Certainly not.

My celebrity crush on Leo continues unabated. And Kate Winslet continues to prove that she basically cannot make a bad movie. The movie's a bit frustrating because at various times you want to smack each of the lead characters in the face and tell them to get over themselves. But then at other times you sympathize with them both, too. So that's a good sign that we've got very real, in-depth characters. Two people recently told me that the book is terrific, and though I'm not much of a novel-reader I think I may take a look at it. Number of Oscars this movie will win: zero.

I love Gus Van Sant so much. And I love Sean Penn. And I love James Franco. And Penn and Franco kissing?!?!? Well, okay, actually this is a serious movie, about an important politico, at a pivotal moment in the still-continuing struggle for gay rights. It's easy see the parallels between this story and recent events like Proposition hate Eight in California and new anti-gay anti-adoption legislation in Arkansas. The movie, though, does a good job of telling its story in a very focused way, so that it achieves universality through specificity. Penn is terrific, and all smiles. If he loses the Oscar to Mickey Rourke it'll be a shame (haven't seen the Wrestler yet, so I'll do a proper compare/contrast when I do). And as much as I would love to see Van Sant win Best Director and Best Picture, I have the feeling that's not going to happen. Because of Slumdog.

This movie is wonderful, but don't let me raise your expectations too high. The film does nothing new, it does nothing extraordinary, it has no single wow-factor performance, and it doesn't fit into a category of indie outsiderness like other recent Oscar favorites like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. What it does do is take a traditional movie theme (a good person born into shit overcoming all obstacles) and makes a perfect movie out of it. It's neither believable nor incredible. It's just perfectly executed. You'll cry, you'll have your heart warmed, you'll smile, and you'll want to cheer at the end. Yeah, but is that enough to earn the votes for Best Picture and Best Director? Hell yes.

Recently Viewed DVDs That I Recommend

The Taming of the Shrew - Elizabeth Taylor, once again playing a cRaZeE wench, and Richard Burton--no less crazy here than his then-wife--looking all manly and controlling. Another Zeffirelli adaptation of Shakespeare that is winning in almost every way--including the film debut of Michael York!

The Lovers: Louis Malle once again throws Jeanne Moreau at us with all the pouty sexiness she can muster. Scandalous and moving and tres French, in a vivid new transfer from the ever-great Criterion Collection. Rent this one immediately.

Love Songs: Louis Garrel is my boyfriend. If you love me, you must love him too. Did I mention this is a musical love story about young French bisexuals? I mean, it will make you hate yourself both for your advanced age and for not being French. It's wonderful.

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