Some reviews to come, but first a link...
Waaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! They're being intolerant of my intolerance!!
See, I always thought that part of living in a civilized society was learning to accommodate people with different beliefs. I guess not. Do I think diversity and sensitivity courses should be 100% mandatory? Not really- you can't force your beliefs on people, even if you're right. But "I'll say whatever the hell I want and if you feel oppressed, tough shit" isn't a sensible policy either. OK, let me get this straight- you've known since you were little that everyone in the world isn't like you, you've had all this time to get used to it, and you still can't handle that not everyone believes as you do or acts as you would? Talk about your whiny babies. Maybe you could build a cute little Shyamalanesque Village and let the rest of us live in the 21st century.
Wait a sec, that sounded pretty intolerant. Sorry about that.
Having been raised in the Catholic faith, I have a good deal of respect for religion, despite not currently being a practicing member. As such, I can't help but feel like the Fundies are ruining it for everyone else. And that goes for all fundamentalist religions- just as not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Christians are rabid Bible-thumpers. Many find a place for God and his teachings in their lives without allowing their beliefs to impede on the peaceful lives of others. So when a certain subset of Christians feels the need to spread their bigotry in the guise of religious teaching, while it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I refuse to extrapolate this relatively small group into the whole of Christian America.
What level-headed believers in a loving God need to do is to stand up to this vocal minority who pretends to speak for everyone. Call it the "Not In His Name" movement- a forceful reaction to those who would voice their hatred and closed-mindedness through the faith. I know there are plenty of faithful who don't feel the need to oppress others, but they don't seem to be heard above the shouts of the Fundies. Because as I've said before, when it comes to getting attention, it isn't about how much you're hurt, but how loudly you cry.
Wow, that was a lot longer than I'd originally planned. Wonder what I think of fundamentalists...
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2005, Jason Reitman, seen in theatre)- while often very funny, the comedy here feels too easy in spots (Nick's visit to Hollywood, complete with a nattering Adam Brody and Rob Lowe's Asian fetish, seems most guilty of this) before setting into a kind of twisted-Capra groove which extols the virtues of thinking for oneself. Director Reitman, son of Ivan, works in his own daddy stuff through the storyline involving Nick and his kid, which goes down surprisingly well under the circumstances. I think it helps that the kid makes a good sounding board for Nick as well as an audience surrogate- we're with Nick when he is, but his objections by and large follow those of the audience. And of course the role of Nick fits star Aaron Eckhart like a glove- a smooth-talker with only the vaguest hint of smarm, which distracts from how intelligent and quick-thinking he really is. Everyone who sees this seems to have a favorite scene- mine's the one with Sam Elliott as the cancer-afflicted ex-Marlboro Man, in which Nick brilliantly levels with him and applies reverse psychology to convince him to accept a payoff from a tobacco company. Rating: **1/2.
THE BAXTER (2005, Michael Showalter, seen on DVD)- a film as unassuming and forgettable as the person described by the title (he's the safe alternative to the dashing romantic hero, not to be confused with a helper guy). Problem is, it can't quite navigate the thin line it attempts to walk- it wants to be clever and perceptive about the guy's predicament, to be funny, to be a stylish comment on the convention, and to get romantic at the end when the Baxter musters up the sand to take a chance on the girl he really loves (SPOILER!). And it wants to all all this without breaking a sweat. Sadly, as a filmmaker Showalter has neither the experience nor the chops to pull it off, although short of Lubitsch or maybe Cukor it's hard to imagine who might've been able to (Wes Anderson? Whit Stillman?). As for Showalter the actor, he's not quite deep enough to carry the film- he's convincing enough in the role, but he lacks the emotional specificity to play up the character's better points rather than just simply the ones that support the film's thesis. Showalter is a longtime sketch comedy star (The State, Stella, etc.), and this film bears this out, since it feels more like a series of scenes than a cohesive whole. Consider the seemingly endless array of single-scene performers- some of whom are funny (especially Peter Dinklage's flamboyantly gay wedding planner), but who feel like narrative detours. All the same, the film has a certain charm, and it's hard not to root for a movie about the underdog at least a little. And is it me or is Michelle Williams at least as good here as she was in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? Maybe it's just my blind spot for long-suffering wives or reactive characters in general... Rating: **.
KEANE (2004, Lodge Kerrigan, seen on DVD)- I've seen this before, but since I didn't review it last time I felt I should at least say something. Watching the alternate "Soderbergh cut" (an extra on the DVD) as well as the director's cut only underline what made Kerrigan's version so effective- while Soderbergh had the idea to show the symptoms of Keane's psychological afflictions before moving on to his major tragedy, Kerrigan wisely puts the tragedy front and center. It's the disappearance of his daughter that drives him, and whether he was a drunk, a cokehead, or a schizophrenic before she disappeared, it's clear that one she was gone, he was left without a center, and that his search for her makes a poor substitute. Another element Soderbergh elides is the family drama of Lynn and Kyra- Kerrigan paints their relationship in brief but effective strokes, turning them into realistic people rather than the plot devices they might have been (in Soderbergh's cut, for example, after meeting Keane just once, Lynn entrusts him with their daughter- hardly realistic in my opinion). And of course Damian Lewis is so awesome in this movie- hard to believe this was the same overacting horrorshow in DREAMCATCHER. Although admittedly there wasn't much room there for GOOD acting... Rating: ***1/2.