So with this post I’ve caught up with all the major acting nominees (thank you Victoria for holding my hand through Still Alice this afternoon) except The Judge, but given release dates and DVDs I don’t think I can get to that before the Oscars (and frankly I’ll be shocked if Robert Duvall upset J.K. Simmons in that category, so I don’t feel too bad about not getting around to it in time).
I saw some really great movies this week, and a lot of them seemed to deal with themes of how we isolate ourselves from and learn to connect with each other across boundaries, both real and imagined. I may just be over thinking things (shocking to none of you I’m sure) or being over emotional this week, but I found most of these really moving.
20,000 Days on Earth
So this was nominated for Best Documentary at the BAFTAs, but based on the trailer I was confused, because it looked like it was going to be a dramatic (as in fiction) film, maybe even set in the future. But if it is truly a documentary it is playing interestingly with the conventions of that genre. For example, instead of floating talking head interviews Cave (musician Nick Cave) drives his old collaborators around Brighton in his car asking them about himself.
I didn’t have any sort of relationship with Cave’s work before watching this and, frankly, based on the music here it doesn’t really sound like my thing, but watching anyone’s creative process is usually enlightening and the blend between introspection and archival geekery (he’s always being called away to answer questions at “the archive” was right up my alley.
If you were in the right mood (which I unfortunately wasn’t particularly) and/or you have a connection to Cave’s other work, then I could see how this film would be thoroughly engrossing. And I did really love the way they cut together the last performance sequence and this quote which I’ve put up on my cork board for inspiration:
Two Days, One Night
What a perfect little film. Marion Cotillard portrays just the right balance between vulnerable and strong (even though her character, who suffers from depression, would never call herself strong.) And Fabrizio Rongione as her husband is the right amount of lovable without crossing over into unbelievable.
The premise – that Cotillard’s Sandra has been placed in the ridiculously awful situation where her coworkers have been forced to vote to either keep their bonus or keep her working. They choose their bonuses initially, but then she is given the weekend to convince them to choose her. It’s wrenching, not only to see her struggle with the inherent awkwardness (and that putting it lightly, especially when she’s just recovering from a bad bout with her illness) but also to watch her coworkers, the decent one’s anyway, deal with their own needs versus hers.
In the wrong hands this could have been a saccharine-sweet melodrama, but the Dardenne brothers manage to tell the story with subtly and humanity. This is one of those movies (like Foxcatcher) that I feel like I could easily write a dissertation about (especially focusing on capitalism and the inherent selfishness it requires of all of us that participate in the system) but the movie doesn’t preach at you about it, so neither will I.
I guess it was my week for soft, subtle looks at humanity. Another BAFTA nominee, starring the lovely-elfin Ben Whishaw as the widowed partner of a Cambodian-Chinese man (Andrew Leung) who died before coming out to his traditional mother (Pei-pei Cheng).
It’s a classic tear jerker told through a collage of timelines and daydreams that illustrates the shattering nature of the surviving characters’ grief. The language barrier between the two left in mourning is a great metaphor for their dislocation, and yet it’s somehow brought together without feeling trite or too simple. It’s streaming on Netflix and I highly recommend it.
While less subtle (there’s far too much shouting into bullhorns for this to ever be called subtle), it totally fell into my theme for the week – movies about how we all have to be kind to each other. And even more explicitly than Two Days, One Night, this movie – about a group of lesbian and gay activists in 1980s London who start collecting money for the striking miners in Wales – is all about breaking down the cultural myths that we are somehow insurmountable different from people in other “subcultures.”
But aside from the fact that I totally agree with the soapbox its standing on (watch the writer winning a BAFTA for more on that) it’s also just really fun – the cast is delightful, the fashion over the top but not distractingly so, and the script hilarious. It was one of those movies I wanted to be longer just so I could keep hanging out with these people.
Well, it’ll break your heart. And I wouldn’t recommend going after a 4 mile hike, or if you do have more water on you than I did before you may dehydrate yourself by crying and leave feeling rather numb. But Julianne Moore is really remarkable as the title character, a brilliant professor who gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and fades before our eyes. I’ve always imagined the disease to be horrifically logical backwards progression, where patients lose themselves and their memories in the order they were made (or rather the reverse of that). But this movie captures the heartbreaking back and forth and muddled nature of how the disease actually hits people.
Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Hunter Parrish, and Kate Bosworth are believable and relatable as her family dealing with watching her slip away from herself, but this movie works because Julianne Moore is a genius level talent.