Laura Linney and Philip Bosco in Tamara Jenkins’ The Savages
Kind of a weird week for movies. The fine citizens of New York and Los Angeles have a couple of interesting new releases to look forward to. If you live elsewhere, take this opportunity to go see No Country for Old Men (again or for the first time) or find I’m Not There.
First the interesting:
- The Savages (Opened Wed. 11/28). One of my favorite movies of the year. Kind of like life, it’s both funny and heart wrenching. I hesitate to call it a comedy/drama because that seems to belittle it, but it’s better than the godawful tag ‘dramedy’. Brother Philip Seymour Hoffman and sister Laura Linney are forced together to deal with their father who is suffering from dementia. It sounds like a massive downer, I know, but it’s terrific. The cast is superb and the ease with which writer/director Tamara Jenkins bounces between comedy and tragedy is amazing. Much much better than the other sibling rivalry comedy/drama Margot at the Wedding.
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. How do you tell the story of a man who can’t move or speak? Somehow, Julian Schnabel has done it. This is the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the Elle France editor who was paralyzed by stroke leaving his mind intact. Despite only being able to blink one eyelid, Bauby managed to dictate his remarkable memoir. If you’re a cynic like me, it sounds like boring Oscar bait, another celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit and all that. It is such a celebration, but one that is uncommonly well done. Check it out.
Here’s the one wide release for the week:
- Awake. Hayden Christensen goes in for surgery, but suffers the supposedly common phenomenon of ‘anesthetic awareness’. This is where anesthesia paralyzes a patient but leaves them fully conscious during surgery. In his case, the patient is married to Jessica Alba and while he’s unable to move, the horror dawns on him that he will never ever ever see her naked…ever…and he can’t cry out for help! Oh no, wait. That was me suffering anesthetic awareness during Good Luck Chuck.
And a smattering of other limited releases:
- Badland. Psychological drama about an Iraq War veteran (both wars) who has trouble dealing with life outside of the conflict. The LA Times says it “unflinchingly illuminates the toll exacted by the Iraqi War in a raw, deeply personal and completely compelling manner.” Admit it, you stopped reading this item as soon as your eyes got to “Iraq War”.
- The Sasquatch Gang. You’ve already made up your mind not to see this one just based on the title right? Good. Though I have to say it used to be worse: The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang. I’m serious. No, really. I only mention it because I think it’s inspired the worst professional review ever written. Imagine a really bad review, then translate it into Varietese: et voilà. Most. Annoying. Review. Ever.
- Sex and Breakfast. Judging by the trailer, it’s a bunch of 20-something talking about sex as though they actually know what they’re talking about. Truly awful trailer. The line “After sex I get this moment of clarity. Do you ever get that?” elicited hoots of laughter from the audience I saw it with. Deservedly so.
- He Was a Quiet Man (LA). Christian Slater is a nebbishy cubicle drone who brings a gun to work to kill his coworkers and ends up the hero when someone else has the same idea….or something like that. Also with William H. Macy and Elisha Cuthbert.
- Mama’s Boy. Comedy with Jon Heder as a 29-year-old who still lives at home with mom Diane Keaton. When motivational speaker Jeff Daniels begins romancing mom….well you can see where this is going to end up, right?
- Oswald’s Ghost (NY, LA 12/7) Documentary looking at the ongoing psychological impact of the Kennedy assassination and drawing parallels to 9/11. This one might actually be kind of interesting.
- Protagonist (NY) What do a German terrorist, a bank robber, a gay evangelist and a martial arts student all have in common? Jessica Yu’s documentary supposedly tells us…featuring puppets and the work of Greek dramatist Euripides. I say: featuring puppets…and the work of Greek dramatist Euripides.
- The Rocket (NY). MacLean’s Magazine calls it “the Gladiator of hockey movies.” I’m not sure what that even means. Are the losers eaten by lions? I think Swayze and Rob Lowe put me off hockey movies forever: Youngblood, the “Cannonball Run II” of hockey movies.
- Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding (NY, Expands 12/5). Long running off-Broadway play becomes a movie. Wasn’t this supposed to be released last year? That’s never a good sign, is it?