Roald Dahl became famous for his droll, macabre short stories, and children
Archive for October, 2004
Georgia Lass is dead
Now that ALF [aka Gordon Shumway] has his own talk show, perhaps it is time to take a look at his old show
“The Machinist” is a dark nightmarish film which is rather slow-going and a puzzle. If you are tired, this is not the movie to attend. You will hardly recognize the star, Christian Bale who lost over 50 pounds for the role and who turns in a riveting performance. Certainly not your average movie fare!
GRADE = “B”
“”Sideways”” can be watched on many levels. On the surface, it’s a road movie. Two Odd Couple style guys go out for a bachelor weekend, lie a lot, get into trouble, and come out better people. Dig deeper, and you find a movie that explores the consequences of action and inaction, that indecision is the toll that really kills us.
God bless Paul Giamatti. He’s made a career of reminding us why it is glorious to be the lonely guy, the ugly guy, the average guy. He may be the only man in Hollywood who does not wax his back for the camera. Mediocrities, he absolves you all!””Sideways”” gives us more of Giamatti’s melancholy, as he portrays Miles, a washed up middle-aged man contemplating his divorce, his almost-maybe published novel, and his inability to connect with another human being. Miles steals money from his mother, dials drunk with his ex-wife, and can’t get the nerve to kiss the girl at the right time. He’s a master at conveying the deep sadness and blase of being mediocre with his deep sighs and furrowed brows. Miles is taking his old friend Jack (Thomas Hayden Church – you saw him on “”Wings”” and “”Ned & Stacy””) on a weeklong trip to the wine country for his bachelor party. Miles’ one true pure love is the craft of winemaking, and his present to his friend is the nuances of tasting and understanding wine. Jack just wants to party.This is clearly not going to end well. Poor prissy Miles takes Jack to a day of sniffing, swirling, spluring, and spitting (we get a priceless scene of Paul Giamatti with his nose stuck in a wine glass), only to be confronted with Jack constantly trying to overfill his glass to get a buzz. Jack manages to pick up Stephanie, a pourer in a vineyard tasting room, and persuades Miles to go on a double date with Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress that Miles has known from his earlier trips to wine country.After a steamy evening, Stephanie falls hard for Jack; Jack questions his plans to get married. Miles woos Maya; she cautiously wants to like him. As everyone’s trust begins to gel in one way or another, Miles lets it slip that Jack is about to get married, and the trip goes “”sideways.””Alexander Payne’s screenplay asks us weighty questions about trust and integrity with “”Sideways.”” We know that Miles and Jack are liars – we see them making social lies about why they’re late, where they’re going, and who they were with from the moment that the film opened. But, we don’t judge them harshly – who hasn’t said that there was traffic when they overslept and were late? Is bad when you say that you’ve done something that you haven’t? Or when you don’t mention something at all?There is an entire metaphor for wine and life throughout “”Sideways.”” Wine can be viewed as almost living organism, that wouldn’t be the same at any other moment in time. The pinot noir grape is fascinating because it needs to have particular living conditions, and even then, it won’t flourish unless tended carefully. Any occaission that you have a ’61 is a special occaision. This should be tiresome, but Payne has used it elegantly, even to Henry Fonda’s voice speaking Tom Joad’s lines in “”The Grapes of Wrath.””This film is small, elegant, and beautiful. Like the pinot noir. Grade A
“Vera Drake” tells the story of an English woman who in 1950 was found guilty of performing abortions. This should have been an excellent film, but unfortunately, it is overlong, has too many unnecessary characters, has unneeded scenes, and is repetitive. The judicious editing of about 30 minutes would have made a big difference!
GRADES = “C” for result; “A-” for performance of title role by Imelda Staunton
It used to be that little boys would watch the Marlin Perkins series,
“Undertow” is a low budget thriller set in Georgia, assumedly based on actual events. It tells the story of two brothers, a ten-year-old and a teenager, who flee for their lives after their father is murdered. Most of the acting is good, but also be ready for some ‘cornball’. Overall, definitely a very mixed bag.
GRADE = “C+”