True Grit ****
I’ve lapped flithy water from a hoofprint. Glad to have it. (Thanks, brother Bo.) Like all Coen brothers pictures, this is a violent comedy with a sweetly vengeful tang. No one else on earth knows how to produce that particular flavor. “True Grit” isn’t their best, but who cares? Perfection isn’t the Coen brothers’ game. The aesthetic they announced with “Blood Simple” might have...
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story ****
Don’t see this unless you already appreciate the divine genius of Eddie Izzard, who has won and successfully defended the big brass belt of reigning world champion of long-form standup comedy, successor to the likes of Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and, maybe, Robin Williams. This movie wasn’t made to convince you that Izzard is hilarious enough blow your mind; if that knowledge is still ahead of...
I’m Still Here **
Theory was that everyone else hated this picture because they didn’t get it, but I’d get it and would have a great time. So I watch 45 minutes of “I’m Still Here” on the elliptical machine. I work up a real good sweat and believe I understand what Joaquin Phoenix and director Casey Affleck are trying to do, but the movie doesn’t work. If there’s a big payoff in the...
This jacket belongs to you. People I respect are into this Johnnie To stuff, the Hong Kong cinema of ultraviolence. “Vengeance” is my first; I got sucked in by a good review and the presence of lizard-eyed Johnny Hallyday, whom I’d enjoyed in “Man on the Train,” and who is just so cool for being a rock star who is French. Hallyday’s been rolling that impossible boulder uphill for decades, so you...
The Aspern Papers by Henry James ****
I thought it decent not to show greed again so soon after the catastrophe. This delightfully nasty novella, set aside for a brief dalliance with Keith Richards’ Life, pulled me right back. Its narrator, a ninny and a cad, is a presumably minor literary critic obsessed with a poet named Jeffrey Aspern. Having identified an old woman in Venice, Juliana Bordereau, as Aspern’s former lover, and...
Life by Keith Richards, James Fox *****
By law, you have to be conscious to be arrested. In Keith Richards’ Life, You get what you’d expect at the start of a good autobiography: a dazzling introductory sequence – this one featuring the ultimate comic drug-bust – and then childhood. We meet Keith’s mother Doris, who never again played piano with Keith’s father, Bert, after she caught him cavorting with another woman atop her...
The Town ***
Something’s wrong with this picture. Took me a while to figure out what. Directed by Ben Affleck, “The Town” has plenty going for it. It’s yet another story of brutal crime in Boston, a genre that in recent years produced one great movie, Martin Scorcese’s “The Departed,” and one picture that people other than me regard as great, Clint Eastwood’ s “Mystic River.” Affleck’s direction is mostly...
The Last Station ***
“The Last Station” is about Tolstoy’s last year. More particularly, it’s about the conflict between the cult of so-called Tolstoyans, who adopted the writer’s dreamy ideas as if they were blueprints for life, and his wife, the Countess Tolstoy, who is portrayed here as loving, needy in the ways that all people are, and grounded. Christopher Plummer plays Tolstoy. James McAvoy, as Tolstoy’s...
I Need It So Bad ???
As must be obvious, I’m new to blogging. Read maybe ten blog posts in my whole life; never saw the point. People diddling themselves, I figured. Nothing wrong with that, do it myself, but no need to watch. Now that I’m the diddler, maybe I’m becoming more open-minded. (That reminds me of the worst advice I ever got, from a college roommate whom I love to this day: If you open your mind too wide,...
I Am Love ****
If you follow movies, you don’t need me to tell you this one is good. Where I can help, maybe, is warning you how stupid you’ll feel if you watch “I Am Love” on an iPod, as I did. They should be showing films like this on IMAX, instead of all that James Cameron stuff. Such gorgeous cinema – and such divine music — deserve the biggest screen and best sound system you can find. The elements...