Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hugo

The more and more I think about Hugo, the more and more I like the movie. I knew little about the film going into it other than Martin Scorsese is the man behind the camera and my friends who saw it left the theater with high praise. 
Scorsese created his first 3D film (and if you’re paying attention has a cameo in it) as an adaptation of a book by Brian Selznick, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”
I wouldn’t say that I thought Hugo would be “my kind of movie,” but I was pleasantly surprised and definitely think it’s a contender for Best Picture.
Well done, Scorsese, well done. The film has already earned honors from the National Board of Review, Washington DC Area Film Critics and Nevada Film Critics Society, as well as nominations for the Golden Globes.
It centers on Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), an orphan boy living in a train station in 1930s Paris with the mission to continue the legacy of his father, (Jude Law). That mission becomes the platform for a more in-depth mystery Hugo needs to solve.
The story and character development build slowly, but not to the point where I lost interest in the direction of the plot. I am hesitant to say more, as is usually the case, because I don’t want to spoil the plot points I didn’t know about before going into the film. Those unknowns definitely added to my enjoyment of Hugo.
I will say that as Hugo embarks on his quest he is met with a nemesis of sorts, Papa Georges, played by Ben Kingsley.
Georges is a toy shop owner in the train station on the surface, but his character has a fascinating past based on a real-life person I knew little about. From there, Hugo is a little bit of a movie within a movie for the viewers.
I enjoyed the supporting performances by Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Chloe Grace Moretz as Hugo’s train-station sidekick, Isabelle, and especially Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector.
Visually, the film was stunning but perhaps there could have been more 3D tricks. (However, some scenes with the Station Inspector’s dog were a treat in that regard).
The one question I had before watching Hugo is if it would be a story geared more toward kids or adults. I know the answer now: All you need is imagination.
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The Ides of March

Award season is upon us and I’d like to have another week off work to see all the best picture nominees and films with nominated actors. Seriously, can someone make that happen? That probably isn’t a valid excuse, even for a film fanatic like myself, to take off work but at least I have time now to catch up on reviews while at my parents’ north woods home enjoying my holiday vacation.
Last year, I made a point to see all the best picture nominees before the Oscars and I am planning on a repeat performance of that feat. Going by the Golden Globes best drama and musical/comedy lists I’ve made it through Moneyball (sigh), The Ides of March, Hugo (loved — and stay tuned for my review), Midnight in Paris, 50/50, and Bridesmaids.

I need to see The Descendants, The Help, War Horse, The Artist and My Week With Marilyn — not including films with nominated actors or those strictly on my personal wish list.

The Ides of March was definitely one of those and it and Ryan Gosling’s acting nomination have my vote. (He is also nominated for Crazy, Stupid, Love — ladies watch it).
In addition to Gosling, I think the cast in The Ides of March was one of the film’s many strong points.
George Clooney directed and co-wrote the film and based it on the play Farragut North. Clooney also acts in the film as Mike Morris, the Ohio governor in a presidential race that centers mainly on events leading up to the state’s primary in March.
I felt the play translated well to the big screen and Clooney successfully intertwined the plot lines of politics and morality.
As a viewer you wonder if particular characters are good or bad and what you would do if presented with the situations they face. At most times all the characters are competing with each other and themselves in deciding between taking actions that are right or wrong. Gosling, as campaign press secretary Stephen Meyers, faces this most of all with his external enemies being Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) on Morris’ campaign, and Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) who works for the opposing presidential candidate.
The morality battle and plot twists left me on the edge of my seat for the entire film.
I thought The Ides of March was on its way out of the theater when I rushed to see it last weekend, but now that it’s in the award nomination pool everyone needs to mark their calendar to see it.

Like Crazy and Sidewalls

Well I meant to write about Like Crazy shortly after I saw it, but life got in the way and here I am catching up now. Unfortunately, some of my initial thoughts about it escape me today so I thought I’d watch another love story as a source of inspiration: Sidewalls. It helped!
Like Crazy stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a couple who meet in college, fall in love, but then struggle with a long-distance relationship. They are essentially stuck apart after Jones’ character, Anna, violates the terms of her visa and she must stay in London while Jacob (Yelchin) is in America. From there the film follows Jacob and Anna through their personal journeys involving work and even other relationships, but ultimately they want to find their way back together. At times I found myself wondering why these two people were so in love and trying to read between the lines of their relationship. That wasn’t the purpose of the story, I learned, it’s to shed light on the ups and downs of relationships and to make it seem real to the viewer.

I think the actors’ improvisation in some scenes together, referred to by director Drake Doremus in an interview, accomplished that goal and turned out a unique film in the love story genre.

My next film, Sidewalls, also presents a unique love story for the viewer. The film centers on Martin and Mariana, two soul mates who live in apartment buildings across the street and cross paths in the city without knowing it. Writer and director Gustavo Taretto juxtaposes Martin and Mariana’s eventual real meeting with the back drop of Buenos Aires using artsy-fartsy camera work and animation.
For that reason I can at least recommend this movie to people who like design and art and say that you’ll be pleasantly surprised otherwise.
Sidewalls reminded me some of Amelie and Lost In Translation, but I have not seen two characters like Martin and Mariana before. In addition to their back story (Martin is a web designer who doesn’t get out much and Mariana is an architect who has only been able to use her craft designing store window displays), I enjoyed the quirks Taretto developed for his main characters.

On the surface Sidewalls appeared to be two separate stories going on at once, much like parts of Like Crazy, but it has much more depth than I expected. For Twin Citians, Sidewalls’ limited run in the theater is over, but I was able to rent it on cable. Like Crazy is still playing at Edina Cinema
If you’re in the mood for love, these stories may bring you down before up, but give them a try.

Just as I finished this post one of my guilty-pleasure love stories, Serendipity, came on TV. Signing off, happy Sunday everyone!

Young @ Heart

I haven’t been doing so well since I decided to get a library card as a way to see more movies on my list after I cancelled Netflix. I’ll go back to the red envelopes someday, but thought I could make do with the library in the meantime. Unfortunately when it comes to movies my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I ended up with multiple DVDs at home I didn’t have time to watch before their due date.
After using up all my renewals for the documentary and having only one day left to watch, I dropped everything else I was doing and decided I needed to finally learn the story of group of singing seniors in Massachusetts.
The PBS documentary centers on a group of 80-somethings preparing for a concert while mixing in some of the main characters’ life stories and music videos of their chosen song list. Chorus director and founder Bob Cilman challenges his group to sing modern tunes and the oldies during multiple rehearsals per week. What’s most heartwarming and perhaps made me turn into a human waterfall (pack the Kleenex for this one folks) is their gusto to try and try again and proudly sing to a packed house of their fans.
They master singing a song with the word can in it 71 times (Yes We Can Can), hard rock from Sonic Youth (Schizophrenia), and ballads like Cold Play’s Fix You. That was a somber moment in the film for me, but in the end Young @ Heart is about fun in the golden years and these seniors’ goal to live it up to good music. 
The story of Young @ Heart makes you step back and remember to appreciate the small things in life and that you can do anything you put your mind to.

Plus, it has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard of late. The chorus is now approaching its 30th anniversary and is even going on tour next Spring. Whether they come to Minnesota or not, I highly recommend taking 90 minutes to watch Young @ Heart.