(Bob Fosse, 1972)

alone, on DVD at 1681 3rd Ave., September 2011


There’s very little that happens in this movie; it’s basically a long, elegant prelude to the Holocaust.  The chilling “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” sequence sums up the movie’s sense of foreboding brilliantly, but for the most part, political matters are kept in the background, while the foreground is occupied by forced gaiety and romantic intrigue.  The songs are confined to the stage, which means they can only comment on the action, rather than drive it forward – but since there isn’t much action anyway, I guess it hardly matters.  Liza Minelli is awfully good.  There’s a moment in her final song when she sings the lyric “that’s what comes of too much pills and liquor,” and a haunted look comes into her eyes, and it’s hard not to imagine that she’s thinking about her mother.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 11:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Pumping Iron

(George Butler and Robert Fiore, 1977)

with Dad, Mom, Caitlin, and Darcy, Lake House screening room, 8/30/11


Arnold Schwartzenegger has to be the most confident human being to walk the planet since, I don’t know, Hannibal.  He’s also canny and charismatic, self-aware, affable, and utterly ruthless.  It’s impossible not to like the guy, even as he expresses a cheerful willingness to backstab his friends and prey on the weak in order to win his sixth Mister Olympia title.  Pumping Iron makes you feel like a temporary insider in the world of competitive bodybuilding, but the freakshow element never entirely goes away.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Crazy, Stupid, Love

(Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, 2011)

alone, East 86th St. Cinemas, August 2011


A pleasurably unconventional romantic comedy, which manages to juggle a handful of love stories without turning into an anthology like Love Actually.  Ryan Gosling has made a kind of specialty out of cinematic sexual chemistry; Exhibit A is The Notebook, Exhibit B is Blue Valentine, and his charmingly goofy dynamic with Emma Stone here rounds out the trilogy.  Speaking of Emma Stone, she’s utterly delightful – gutsy and awkward and deliciously off-kilter – and the borderline-cheesy premise that Gosling’s lothario gives up his womanizing ways to be with her is entirely convincing, because we fall in love with her too.  The plot of Crazy, Stupid, Love zigs and zags and jumps between different stories; I was never sure where it was going, and that in itself is a singular pleasure.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Delhi Belly

(Abhinay Deo, 2011)

alone, mall in Delhi, 8/13/11


Delhi Belly is a triumph of execution.  In outline, it’s a standard-issue crime comedy, but its deft cinematography, deadpan humor, and grounded performances let it rise above the average.  It’s like an Indian Guy Ritchie movie, but less densely plotted and more humane.  Somewhere in the midst of all the farce, there’s a love story we can actually invest in, and the requisite gangsters are bumbling and funny, and at the same time legitimately dangerous.  Delhi Belly knows when to play for laughs and when to play it straight, and even though it has more poop jokes than I would deem strictly necessary, by and large it exhibits surprising wit and restraint.  Plus, the frenetic Hindi-punk theme song is awesome.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  

(Farah Khan, 2007)

alone, flight to Delhi, 8/10/11


I am not the target audience for this movie.  As a cultural artifact, though, it’s pretty fascinating.  I was struck by the way the movie spoofs the Bollywood film industry while still taking itself entirely seriously – melodramatic supernatural plot and all.  I was struck by how mannered and charmless the lead is, though apparently he’s the biggest movie star in India, so maybe I’m missing something.  I was struck by the movie’s considerable length, and the fact that its third act is basically a whole new movie.  I was struck by a lot of things, but I wasn’t swept up and carried away.  Maybe some things just don’t translate.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Captain America: The First Avenger

(Joe Johnston, 2011)

with Evan Downey and Kasey Dunn, Kahului Mall Cineplex, 8/7/11


I sort of wish one of this summer’s big Marvel movies had sucked, and that one had been amazing.  Instead, we get three solid efforts, and it’s not easy to establish a contrast.  Chris Evans, who was such a manic frat-boy Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies, taps into an unexpected depth of earnestness here; he comes across as the squarest guy on the planet circa 1942.  The movie gets the job done well enough, but many of Captain America’s exploits are confined to a montage, so that in the end this feels more like a prequel to The Avengers than a movie in its own right.


Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

(Charles Crichton, 1988)

alone, flight to Tokyo, 7/25/11


On some level, it’s unfair to rewatch a comedy; it will almost inevitably fail to be as uproarious as you remember.  Then again, perhaps the mark of a great comedy is that even when it’s not making you laugh, it holds your attention – and by that measure, A Fish Called Wanda succeeds in spades.  Kevin Kline’s live-wire, balls-to-the-wall performance at Otto is especially mesmerizing, but John Cleese’s restrained Archie Leach is also quite impressive, in its own quiet British way.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

1778 Stories of Me and My Wife

(Mamoru Hoshi, 2011)

alone, flight to Tokyo, 7/25/11


Almost heartbreaking, but ultimately too cute and much much much too slow.  Theoretically a meditation on the power of art and love to conquer death, 1778 Stories becomes a test of endurance before it gets around to becoming anything else.


Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Midnight in Paris

(Woody Allen, 2011)

with Paulina Barros, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Summer 2011


After the sour apple that was You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, it’s a pleasant surprise to find Woody Allen’s new movie sweet, romantic, and hopeful.  Midnight in Paris manages to be both a clear-eyed critique of nostalgia, and a lush celebration of the past.  Nice.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

(David Yates, 2011)

with Darcy, Mom, Dad, Elise Babigian, Mike Ford, and Beth Ford, Millerton Moviehouse, 7/18/11


Half the movie, half the fun!  Turns out going to a theater to see only the second half of a movie isn’t much more gratifying than going to see only the first.  There’s lot of fighting in this, but nothing all that climactic; the series has reached the point where if you’re not a devoted Potterhead, it’s very difficult to care.  This is a merciful time to end it, in my opinion.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment