Reviews…or, Is My Opinion God?

Of course it is.  I am the deity of this blog, and don’t you forget it.

So, my reviews, in reverse order from what I’ve watched most recently back into the distant past of 2 months ago:

Hope Springs:  I have long thought that if a role didn’t depend on a great accent and physical interpretation, Meryl Streep just doesn’t look as talented.  I thought that when I saw her in the violin movie a million years ago, and I’ve thought it again.  In Hope Springs her character borders on caricature and sometimes downright crosses the line.  Tommy Lee Jones has an equally recognizable type, but he brings something beyond the recognizability–a journey of revelation into this shut down guy’s heart.  I loved his performance and love him, hated the writing (I’ve been married for 25 years and there’s a lot more beneath the surface than this writer seems to get) and knew ahead of time exactly what expression would appear on Meryl’s face.  Recommend:  skip it.

Other Desert Cities:  I have great admiration for Speakeasy as a theatre company–I like the plays they choose a great deal and love what they try to do for and with theatre.  So I hate to say that this play needed an intense rewrite (what happens to playwrights who have written for television?).  I’d heard a lot about Karen MacDonald–and I thought the character and her performance of all those complication and layers really stole the show.  Anne Gottlieb was probably miscast and overacted almost every single moment.  I’d skip this one, much as I hate to say it.

Les Mis:  I have written on FB about the redefining of the film musical, done here with great vision and commitment to the medium of film and to the close up used to reveal the bottom of human suffering.  Yes, the singing is raw and hard to hear.  Yes, Russell Crowe sucks.  But Anne Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream will haunt me for years.  I think the film is imperfect and uneven and a great risk, and it gives me hope for the art of film-making…there are new creative ventures still to be made outside of special effects.  BRAVO!  Own it!

The Wire:  I am totally and completely IN LOVE.  Idris Elba is my new fantasy actor–okay, I loved him already from watching Luther (where his co-star Ruth Wilson is even better than he is).  But almost without exception this show stays true to the bone.  FANTASTIC!

The Impossible:  Do writers think we’re stupid?  And what’s with the critics saying this is the best film of the year?  Okay, a disaster film that really takes you inside the experience of disaster.  Showing a great deal of human kindness under pressure. And, okay, there isn’t a bad performance.  But there also isn’t a story.  NO STORY.  Which means no real revelation.  Disaster happens, people lose each other, find each other, over.  There isn’t a point of identification or an exploration of any one character’s humanity to the point of showing what people are capable of under terrible stress and calamity (okay, a little with the oldest son).  If you like to watch disaster, great. Cinematography, great.  But, again.  NO STORY.

Lincoln:  I’m not sure what keeps this from being the best film of the year.  Maybe it’s that we don’t like intellectual movies–because the story is about political chess moves, and the passion of Lincoln, and his goodness.  But here it is–I think Tony Kushner is one of the top 5 living writers, and to hear the gorgeous language in a film with that kind of performance by Daniel Day Lewis…see it.  It’s nice to remember courage, and artistry, and the thinking brain.  (But don’t go sleepy, because the film is really more like theatre, and you have to ENGAGE.)

Silver Linings Playbook:  You know, after the fact I forget how disturbing the movie was, because it has a typical Hollywood ending (cheapening what’s come before, and undermining the grit of the beginning and middle).  I think of it as a comedy.  But this is memory as revision, and the truth is that the grit and the neurosis and dysfunction of the movie are so real in the beginning that the movie is almost an indie.  I say that as a compliment.  Up until the stupid dance competition, the movie is excellent.  Bradley Cooper did okay, and the rest of the cast was much better than okay, with Jennifer Lawrence stealing the film as I suspect she will every film she’s ever in.  Anyhow, see it.  Try not to let the ending ruin it for you.

Argo:  I thought Ben Affleck was exceptional and don’t understand why he isn’t nominated for acting awards.  I thought everyone else was excellent, too, and the filming was excellent, but this is another Hollywood ending and I wasn’t on the edge of my seat…I knew what would happen, everyone did, but I didn’t get as interested in the machinations as I did with Lincoln.  I just knew what had to happen to make the next thing happen.  Good movie.  Worth seeing.  I admire Affleck and think he is underrated in many ways.  But, not enough surprise, sorry.

Marigold Hotel.  Judi Dench.  Maggie Smith.  Need I say more?  I don’t care about expected or unexpected, just about the most fantastic ensemble maybe ever.

Downton Abbey:  Season 1 was great, but by the end of season 2 I was getting a little sick of all the soap opera instead of really good new ideas.  I mean, can everyone quit picking on Bates, already?  I hate to say that the death of Lady Sybil is the best thing yet, but it is.  And I liked both the character and the actor.  At least it was a surprise.  I’d like more surprises, please.  Less groaning soap opera and some real insight instead.

Django Unchained–Haven’t seen it.  I’m a complete wimp when it comes to violence, so I unfortunately have never seen a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Zero Dark Thirty–See above.  I regret my inability to watch torture, but there you go.