Monday, May 30, 2005

Mona Lisa Smile

Movie: Mona Lisa Smile

Definitely a Dead Poet's Society clone, except this time with women, but still well done. It's not as serious or deep as the other, and its rather negative (and naive) message seems to be that being different is better than traditional values, with no regard to the actual differences. The plot is simple: a bohemian California teacher comes to teach art history at Wellesley and changes the lives of her conservative students. There are a few unexpecteds that make things not too predictable, but I found the lack of persuasive arguments to be the film's weakest aspect. Instead of confronting the traditional values with logic or emotional arguments, the characters simply accept that they cannot change institutions and leave. I don't really understand the point.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bon Voyage

Movie: Bon Voyage

This French film is a little disjointed: it's alternatively a farce and a drama, like it can't decide which. It has moments of comedic ridiculousness tied with serious drama. It's set in Paris at the eve of the German invasion and ultimately involves escaping from the Germans, which is rather serious. But having our former silly characters suddenly serious is odd. I liked many aspects of it but the whole left me a little hollow.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Clearing

Movie: The Clearing

Unusually introspective film that's more like a play. There are really only three characters, a man and his wife and the kidnapper. The woman tries to deal with the mystery of her husband's disappearance and he and the kidnapper discuss the meaning of life. It's a little slow and dull at times, and the ending's not exactly surprising, but overall it's a decent film with excellent performances. Unfortunately, it doesn't break enough new ground to be a classic, but it's interesting.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Movie: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The first film was poor, the second pretty good, and appropriately, this third one is a mixed of both. The dialogue and acting is extremely lame, but unlike the B-movie inspired original trilogy, the polished special effects and tone of this one makes the poor performances seem disjointed and awkward. Most of the action was also poor: the light saber sequences are so fast you can't really make out what's happening so you just sort of wait through the blur for the good guy to suddenly emerge triumphant. Boring. There are a few good scenes and sequences, but much is convoluted and drawn out far too long. The most anticipating and interesting aspect of this film is the story of how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Unfortunately, this is poorly done. The actor -- and I hesitate to call him that -- who plays Anakin is terrible beyond words and completely botches any drama in the situation. The complex and agonizing switch of his loyalties is heavy-handed and much too abrupt. George Lucas attempts to make this realistic by having Anakin show his frustration at not being promoted to Jedi Master fast enough, but this explanation is not carried out and eventually falls short. There was a hint that Anakin was drawn to the dark side as a way to save his love's life, but then that plot line was totally abandoned: it was like once he made the leap to the dark side none of his motives for getting there mattered any more. Now if the darkness had consumed him and become an end to itself, like the Ring does in The Lord of the Rings, that would have been one thing, but that was not illustrated in this movie. I found this weakness the worst aspect of this film. However, the drama of Darth Vader's creation is still the most dramatic and exciting part of the three recent films and finally gives us a hint of the drama of the first trilogy. Not the best, not the worst, but disappointing because I expected too much. Worth seeing for fans of the series; others will be bored.


Friday, May 27, 2005

The House of the Flying Daggers

Movie: The House of the Flying Daggers

Another great movie from the director of Hero. This one's not as profound, but it's stylish and interesting. The story's convoluted with almost every character a sort of double agent. The basic premise is military people trying to track down the unknown new leader of the Flying Daggers rebel gang. The main guy romances a woman who he thinks is the daughter of the former leader, but things are not as they seem. Is he genuinely falling in love with her or is it an act? It's a pretty cool scenario, but the unexpected tragic ending was a disappointment.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Aviator

Movie: The Aviator

Better than I expected, though the plot was rather routine and seemed to glorify Howard Hughes' life a little much. The visuals were impressive, but the acting was a disappointment (especially Cate Blanchet's Heburn which felt totally false to me), though I must admit, Leo DiCaprio's Hughes -- which prior to the film I thought was completely miscast -- was actually pretty good. More interesting from a historical perspective (especially now that I live five minutes from the actual "Spruce Goose" airplane) than the story or performances, but not a bad movie. I had never realized that Hughes was an actual engineer and did so many things to revolutionize commercial aviation in this country (like retractable landing gear).


Saturday, May 7, 2005

Grandpa's 90th Birthday

Today we celebrated Grandpa's 90th birthday. I had sent out invitations to many of his old friends and family and we received a ton of wonderful letters and cards. Probably close to 40 people actually came to the party, which was held "open house" style, from noon to evening. This worked well because people could come whenever it was convenient for them. Grandpa got to see many people he hadn't seen in many years and it was a wonderful day. He was amazingly alert, chipper, and healthy: people were astonished in what good shape he was in. It really is a remarkable achievement and wonderful to see him doing so well at 90 years of age.