Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three Movie Reviews

I'll say Happy Valentine's Day, although this post has nothing to do with Valentine's Day or romance.

Turns out Khuntami was right after all. We had quite a snow yesterday. I took the day as vacation, which was just as well; the university closed early because of the storm, so I would have only been able to work a half-day even if I had gone in. To occupy me during the snow day, I checked out a pile of movies from the library. (Why yes, I am avoiding working on my novel.)

First, I watched Bonnie and Clyde, the 1967 film with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. This tells the more-or-less true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, notorious Depression Era bank robbers. One of my coworkers warned me that it was violent and bloody. And it was, but only when necessary. I never felt the violence was gratuitous or inappropriate. Given the subject matter, it was spot on--not too little, not too much, but just right. The movie was as true to history as any Hollywood film is, which is to say it took a lot of liberties. But that's okay--it was an excellent story. The blurb on the back of the case says the film "balances itself on a knife-edge of laughter and terror," but I found it neither comedic nor horrifying, just realistic. Like real life, it was a peculiar mixture of light and dark. It was suspenseful and thrilling, and at times sweet. Bonnie and Clyde were in love, and in the spaces between the robberies and murders, there was palpable tenderness between them. It was a masterful film.

The second DVD I watched was O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), another tale of Depression Era miscreants, this one minus all the violence. Three prisoners escape from a chain gang and go in search of buried treasure, the loot from a bank robbery. The movie was professed to be based on Homer's The Odyssey, and while many key elements were present, such as the blind prophet, the sirens, and the cyclops (who took the form of a one-eyed Bible salesman), it could really only be said to be based on The Odyssey in the same way that The Lion King was based on Hamlet. The humor ranged from wickedly clever to plain stupid, but overall, it was a very enjoyable comedy. And it had a happy ending, which was a plus after Bonnie and Clyde.

The third DVD I watched was something completely different, a film I'd never heard of before, Billy Elliot (2000). The youngest son of a coal mining family goes to boxing lessons, with gloves that had been his father's and grandfather's before him. Unfortunately, he's absolutely terrible at boxing. He is left alone to practice with the punching bag until he gets it right. When he goes to drop off the building keys with the ballet instructor in the other room, she dares him to try ballet. He does, and he likes it. While pretending to attend boxing lessons, he secretly goes to ballet class instead. Eventually, his father finds out, and is not pleased. Then Billy has to make a hard choice, but his father also has to make a hard choice. This film is both funny and beautiful. And music is used very effectively throughout the film--both classical and rock music, for the different parts of Billy's life. Every song choice was perfectly suited to the scene. I can find nothing negative to say about this movie; it was superb.

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