Recently Laurel and I have watched six movies that garnered a four star review from Roger Ebert, our favorite critic. A seventh wasn’t formally reviewed by Ebert, but we’ll take the liberty of giving it four stars for him.
Here are my capsules of our recommended flicks. Well, six get a thumbs up from both of us. The other, with which I’ll begin, got a thumbs down from Laurel even though she only listened to the audio of it from a distant cranky critic seat.
Sin City. I loved it. Especially, as the MPAA warning says, for its “sustained, strong, stylized violence.” As I bathed my psyche in this film noir world of dangerous prostitutes and steely-jawed tough guys, the only thing that marred my ultra-violent mellow was Laurel regularly yelling, “Turn it down! It sounds so violent!” Yes, dear, that’s the way it’s supposed to sound.
Mad Hot Ballroom. Heartwarming yin to Sin City’s yang, this is a documentary about a citywide ballroom dance competition featuring New York City fifth-graders. You’ll laugh with the winners and cry with the losers. If you’re like me, you’ll also wonder, “How come those little kids can dance so much better than I can?” And, most other people.
The New World. Great music. As music/dancing challenged as I am, I loved the haunting theme of this recent release. And what’s not to like about watching a lissome 14 year old Pocahontas fall in love with a much older John Smith? The movie is slow, but taming a new world moves at its own pace, I guess. Really gives the feel of what it must have been like to be one of the first to stand on the edge of an unknown continent.
Brokeback Mountain. Only here in Salem, the blob of conservatism midway between progressive Portland and Eugene, would five people walk out of the theatre when a homosexual sex scene appeared on the screen. Tip: if you buy a ticket to a movie about gay cowboys, you should expect some man on man kissing (plus other action). But what do you bet that if it had been two women getting it on, everyone would have stayed in their seats?
Crash. Hugely enjoyable in the “Grand Canyon” style of interlocking characters and story lines that made me marvel at the skill of the screenwriter(s). As soon as the first words of dialogue are spoken, you know this movie is going to be real. As Ebert says, it’s a rare flick that can change people for the better. “Crash” has that potential, being a powerfully honest (and entertaining) study of race relations and prejudice.
Grizzly Man. The real life story of Timothy Treadwell, who spent thirteen summers living with wild grizzlies in Alaska. The guy is both certifiably crazy and wonderfully sane. Gripping footage shot by Treadwell makes this movie highly enjoyable both as a nature flick and as a look at the farther reaches of human compulsion. The Grizzly Man lived on the edge and he died on the edge.
Pride and Prejudice. A “chick flick” that I got dragged to by the resident female, who wanted to see its chickflickness on the big screen. But I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, even though I sat expectantly through the entire 127 minutes and never saw a single car chase (which, now that I think about it, fits for a 1700s period piece). The movie gives you a sense of what living back then must have been really like, though one huge unreal moment came when Darcy terms Elizabeth’s looks merely “tolerable.” To say that Keira Nightley is tolerable in the beauty department is as absurd as saying that George Bush is tolerable in the honesty department.
Darn! I had intended to get through this entire post without throwing in a derogatory aside about our unesteemed president. Just couldn’t help myself.