Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Films at Summer's End . . .

How serene are these sunrises? They're all from the past week of hot sunny days. Now, it appears, we may be seeing cloudier skies for the foreseeable weather future. Given the temperatures I observed in our non-air-conditioned classrooms this past week, that's probably a good thing. September's a tough enough shock to the student body, without having to sit in a crowded, overheated classroom, and enough shock to the professorial body without having to lecture above the sound of an inefficient fan to faces made soporific by the heat!
I'm working on a post in which I expose my, erm, thoughts -- you'll see!. . . It will be revelatory and humourous with a soupçon of culture and education thrown in for good measure -- how's that for hype?
Meanwhile, I'm recommending some films you might enjoy. There would be more, but my memory's shot, and my Moleskin notebooks are so unfortunately dependent on someone remembering to write things down!
Memorable enough, though, are these three:
The Kids Are All Right. Mia Wasikowska is truly a young actor to watch! I loved her in In Treatment; she was great in Alice; and she's delightful again in Kids. And Julianne Moore and Annette Bening? Women of a certain age who choose their roles thoughtfully, who show their age naturally and beautifully, whose intelligence and commitment underline everything they do. And Mark Ruffalo? Icing on the cake! Pater asked me if women found him (Ruffalo) attractive. Um, yes. This one, anyway. . .
As for the premise, the plot, the character development, all convincing enough -- and if the situation seems specific to a very particular configuration of family -- two lesbian mothers, their teenage children discovering the identity of their sperm-donor father -- the family dynamics, the generational relationship, is familiar and relevant to all. Plus there are many, many laughs with the drama, and laughter is good, right?
Chloë, also featuring Julianne Moore, is another family drama, but of the thriller variety, offering few, if any laughs, but considerable tension. It also features Liam Neeson, whom I would have to tell Pater that women find attractive. It also features the gorgeous Amanda Seyfried (you know her from Big Love, perhaps) who I can well imagine men find attractive -- this role is easy to imagine Scarlet Johansson in, but Seyfried brings something fresher to the film, more vulnerability to her character's charm and danger. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that this is the first Atom Egoyan film I've seen, despite having had him on the list forever -- after all, he's a bit of a national treasure. I will now step up efforts to view the rest of his work: this takes a plot which could veer easily into cliché, but in Egoyan's hands and through these very talented, well-cast actors, it stays instead in uncomfortably thoughtful territory. I found it close to unbearable at a few spots, the same kind of tension I've felt in some of Woody Allen's work (although Allen, for me, allows the tension to last long past the point where it can be effective -- with such a long-delayed release, I slip into boredom).
And if you like your humour mixed with a big dollop of poignant (or is it the other way round?), you should check out the animated film, Mary and Max, with voicework by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The premise is a correspondence between an overweight, lonely child in Australia and the awkward, overweight lonely New York bachelor she chooses randomly as a penpal in an effort to deal with her unhappiness. You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . and along the way, you'll marvel at the medium -- the animation is brilliant, the social satire clever enough without getting in the way.
So there you are: some recommendations for some weekend film viewing. Meanwhile, here at the beach, since it will probably be too cool to swim today, we're watching the mailbox and hoping the Dexter Season 4 DVD I ordered arrives today. I've steeled myself to listen to that creepy, creepy opening music again . . .
Any film or TV recommendations? or are you still outside, enjoying the summer's last gifts?