Friday, November 13, 2009

Catching Up: Double Feature on Veteran's Day

This Wednesday was Veteran's Day so to, celebrate the freedom of having a day off during the middle of the week and having two movies I have been itching to see, I took the opportunity to treat myself to a double feature. I learned something too: you know the large popcorn and large soda they are always trying to foist on you with the promise of free refills? Well I have never gotten a refill in my life, until I did this double-feature thing on Wednesday. I think it was the only time it really works. By "works" I mean, I was disgustingly full and fell asleep, like a log, fairly early. Other than that it was a great day of movies, even better than my last vacation double feature:

An Education (2009)
Going into this, I was definitely expecting something different. I was expecting something about class warfare in early 60's London. What I got was more akin to a character study of a young girl at that age, right before college, where it seems like everything is about to change. Its about wanting to be a part of a very certain part of the adult world, discovering an easy way to be a part of it, and then realizing that things are never so easy. Usually you end up realizing that as you are getting older, but Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is forced to change her perceptions early on when she runs into a kind of "myserious" stranger. So to speak. Carey Mulligan is a revelation (looking at imdb, apparently she was in "Public Enemies"-but I don't remember her) She stands out among a really strong cast, particularly Alfred Molina as her father and Olivia Williams as her teacher. I still think they should have found an actual English actor to play Peter Sarsgaard's role, but its really a minor quibble. Oh, I also like the soundtrack too, its scored with a lot of early 60's music, particularly the french pop Jenny listens too. It really is fantastic, and I think Nick Hornby's screenplay is generally great.

A Serious Man (2009)

I had a friend say once that Hollywood should just shut down and the Coen Brothers should teach a master class on making films. I am two days removed from seeing this, and I am still going over in my head what, if anything, it all "means"-if anything. The final shot itself is just as mysterious as the last part in "No Country For Old Men". Its a deeply absurd, yet abstractly deep look at penance, faith, and basically retribution from the gods, all in the form of the extreme misfortunes of one man ( a superb Michael Stuhlbarg). It really is amazing, but it will probably take another viewing or two to really take it all in. I was so awed and flummoxed by it, I couldn't even explain to my wife when we were having dinner right after I saw it. The two line summary does not give it justice. Suffice to say, it really is top flight Coens, and it is wryly funny but never broad. I would call it a pitch black comedy, but even calling it that seems to take away from the signficance of it somehw. The cast, made of either B or C listers or straight unknowns are all good. (Richard Kind as Stuhlbarg's brother-is probably the best known name) Carter Burwell's score is amazing. Roger Deakins' cinematography is beautiful, and Roderick Jayne's editing is perfectly paced.

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