I used to be a lot more into following the latest movie releases, but that has slackened with age. This past year I’ve seen a few that have really stood out, and I’d like to list them alphabetically here. It is by no means definitive, so please comment away.
The Dark Knight – Did anyone else notice that the Joker’s first ‘origin’ story is centered around his disturbed internalization of his exclusion from the brutal death of his mother? Just like Bruce Wayne? Also when that semi flips over – that sound made the entire audience just wig out.
Man on Wire – A caper documentary about a French tightrope walker who wants to walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. In case you didn’t know (I did not), that walk wasn’t planned – he has his crew of oddballs break in in the middle of the night and setup the wire. The film is wonderful; seeing the delight and wonder of this very strange but very acrobatic French guy in tackling this problem can’t be seperated (at least for me) of the very visceral reaction of knowing what eventually happens to the Towers. Balancing that knowledge against the beautiful act of him crossing it left me feeling as though the wind was knocked out of me in the best possible way.
Milk – A little unfair since I saw it at the Castro theater, where a lot of the action for The Mayor of Castro Street takes place. For all the great performances, which were great, the movie excels at showing the workings of city politics (gay teenage hookers and teamsters, unite!), building a nice companion to a political year where kids and techies took over the caucus and donation systems from the outside.
Quantum of Solace – I really like James Bond reworked as a high-class thug, though I know I am in the minority. I alway wonder what CIA agents tell themselves; I think I got a clue when the dubious agent says “Oh I guess we should only talk to nice people” with the cynicism of long term government employees. Not great, but solid. The cinematography stood out – it actually bothered to not look like every other throwaway action flick.
Rachel Getting Married – A weekend for a wedding that has to deal with family drama gets to also be a celebration of family, love and music. I was surprised by everyone’s performance, especially the dad’s.
Wall*E – Easily the most creative, and conversation starting, movie of the year. Whether you enjoy thinking of consumerism as catastrophe and social control, or you a Conservative Aristotelian who worries about technology as divorce from Nature, or an environmentalist who think the ecology of the Earth mimics the ecology of ourselves, your head will be spinning when you are finished. And as a movie it is fantastic – I applaud any ‘children’s’ movie that is silent its first 20 minutes. (Michael Berube blogged about the disconnect of seeing the movie on an airplane, where it was watched on a tiny screen a foot in front of his locked in chair.)
I did not see Synecdoche, New York or Role Models. But I want to. Iron Man and Tropic Thunder were good for lazy Summer afternoons, and Robert Downey Jr. seriously is brilliant, but I don’t think they’d survive a second viewing. You?