It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review, so I thought I’d post a few brief movie reviews for a change of pace. Only one movie is currently in theaters, since I tend to watch movies several years after they’ve come out on DVD. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who does this. So, from oldest release to most recent:
Dogville (2003, starring Nicole Kidman): It’s good this is a 3-hour movie, because it definitely feels like a 3-hour movie. The minimalist set, narrated plot and stylized filmmaking keep all the attention on the characters, where simple actions and clipped dialogue create a strange emotional landscape. The absurd quality of the story drew me in, the good acting held me, but in the end I wondered what the moral to this fable was, exactly.
The Squid and the Whale (2005, starring Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels): I’ve been meaning to see this divorce film for some time, both because the topic interests me, being divorced myself, and because I love the two starring actors. Unfortunately, not one of the characters in the movie was likable (with the possible exception of the youngest son), so I found myself not really caring what happened to any of them. Knowing that this movie was autobiographical (the writer and director being the older son in the tale), I cringed to think of how much anger he still carried toward his parents to portray them so unsympathetically.
Precious (2009, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique): I kept hearing how hard this movie was to watch, but perhaps because I’ve lived with ex-offenders, sat in lock-up with women in prostitution, worked in one of Chicago’s worst housing project with middle schoolers, and am currently working with a woman on a memoir with far worse details than this movie, I didn’t find anything in it overly shocking. My biggest disappointment in the movie was the cardboard character of the mother, which I found completely lacking in nuance. Even characters as horrible as she was (and I know some in real life) are actual human beings who do have more than one dimension and it behooves any of us who set out to artistically portray evil actions, to do so with a sense of compassion for even the most despicable character or our audience will all too easily dismiss them, as I wanted to do in this case.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010, a Banksy film): I just saw this one last week and I recommend it, even though I’m still scratching my head about it now. If you don’t know who Banksy is, you’ll know a little more by the end of the film about this anonymous British street artist — or will you? This documentary (or is it?) about graffiti artists (or are they?) raises far more questions than it answers about art and who gets to make it and who gets to define it and who gets to profit from it (note the title) and whether we’ve all been sold a bill of goods about what makes art, or even what makes a documentary.