Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Some loose ends; Some movies


On my recent article decrying the push for a 28th Amendment, repealing the requirement that a person be a native-born citizen in order to run for President. A letter to the editor of The New York Times suggests that perhaps you amend the age requirement for President as well. It currently states that a person must be 35 years of age. The letter suggests that a person be a citizen for 35 years. I need to think it through more, but I could possibly live with that.


Saw Finding Neverland, a film based on a play that was originally produced at our very own Workshop Theater. It is the "story" (inspired by actual events)of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. It is a very quiet movie, and even the scenes with the most emotional fireworks --- which are the scenes between Johnny Depp and Julie Christie --- are played at barely above a whisper. There is a lot of stiff upper lip. Still, if you like this sort of heart-warming costume drama, you will really like this film (if you can stay awake through a perhaps over long set up), and if you don't, you won't.

I would add that all four of the leads (Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell and Christie) are very careful to avoid cliche in this work, and they all basically do it by giving the audience a peek into their own self-awareness of how childish their adult behavior can be, but how in life adults often can not help acting like children. One of the films central ironies (and it is clear very early, so I am not giving away secrets) is that the boy who is the model for Peter Pan (one of the sons of the character played by Kate Winslet)is the most reality-based person on the screen -- a child who will often act like an adult. As an advanced seminar in acting, of avoiding the traps inherent in this sort of stiff-upper-lift tear-jerker, you might also really like this film.


We also recently caught up with this Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet film on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay. It is a romantic comedy, but unlike any romantic comedy you have seen before. According to the movie, you can have a spotless mind -- brainwashing your prior bad romances away. Even after you figure out the central conceit of the movie (and if you are quicker than me, you might do that simply by looking at the box the video comes in), it is very interesting how they go about it.

Remembering Kate Winslet mostly from Titanic, or even Sense and Sensibility, and now seeing her in these two films, is a startling change.

By the way, this is not a "Jim Carrey" comedy, he is an actor for hire. And this is not a Jim Carrey "serious movie," most of which stink. Carrey is very personable, and charming, but without all the antics.

It is very effective, and in common with Peter Pan, it is very self-aware of its own childish antics. I recommend it highly.


Whereby Paul Giamatti, early 40s, middle-aged, middle-school teacher, wine expert, wanna-be novelist, but really collector of rejection letters, takes Thomas Haden Church, horn-dog, ex-soap opera actor, voice-over "artist", familiar but not famous, career on the downside but not a complete disaster, for a trip, in lieu of a bachelor party, to the Northern California wine country. Giamatti takes up, to his own surprise, with Virginia Madsen, an old acquaintance, a waitress with aspirations of being a horticulturist, a wine expert in her own right. Church, to be married on Saturday, takes up with Madsen's friend, Sandra Oh, also a wine expert. Life appears to have knocked Giamatti's character, Miles, "Sideways," or maybe, like a good bottle of wine, he is just spending time in the cellar, waiting for the right time to be opened up.

I am glad that this movie appears to be succeeding financially. These characters, especially the women --- a little older, still attractive, but not what they were, coming off divorces, with children --- are not the sorts of people you see represented in films, or even on television. But you know them, and if you haven't been through what they're going through, you either know someone who has or you don't get out enough. I also know that if you are under a certain age, basically the target age for most movies, you don't know them, have not been through that, will not go through that soon, and cannot understand why anyone would waste a Saturday night on a movie about such "dull" people.

The movie is shot in California, and, perhaps because of budget, the director, Alexander Payne (who also directed Election -- the best movie about high school since American Grafitti and The Breakfast Club)missed a chance to make a movie with truly stunning photography. Short of that, however, if you are feeling a little past your prime, can sit through a movie without a lot of high speed car chases, and can understand how a movie can be completely about sex and marriage without being dirty, you should go see this movie.