Friday

Adjusted Truths


Very brief notes, very good movies. Alas, too little time to string together as many words as they warrant.

In Between Days After nine months north of the border, I can say with some small authority that this feels entirely authentic as a slice of contemporary Canadian life. And while my immigrant's experience hasn't necessarily been the same as that of the film's Korean-Canadian Torontonians, it's certainly telling that, aside from a scene or two, you'd hardly know which hemisphere the story was set in. Not that it matters all that much to our heroine, Aimie, who might just as well be wandering around the surface of the moon, bundled up in layers from head to toe and seemingly perpetually lost in thought. This is a coming-of-age narrative first, a coming-to-(North)-America narrative second, and a thoughtful, sensitive success on both fronts for neophyte helmer So Yong Kim and her mostly non-professional, uniformly fine cast.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Sure, there's slow stretches. The damned thing runs 160 minutes while totally, admirably eschewing both biopic conventions and heist-flick mechanics. Like so many of my favorite films--say, The Magnificent Ambersons or Barry Lyndon or The Piano and it's legitmately deserved though probably unnecessary to name-check Malick here--it's luxuriously long: epically intimate, seductive in its rhythms, and painterly-gorgeous from frame one on. In a banner year for new American cinema (and, specifically, for variations on the post-Western template), this one ranks near the top of the heap, better than the Coen brothers' big Oscar winner and almost as strong as P.T. Anderson's superior also-ran. Granted, Brad Pitt is no Daniel Day-Lewis, and won't ever be, but he's getting better all the time at being Brad Pitt. Here he's at his best yet, even if Casey Affleck steals every scene they share.

Enchanted One could make a fairly compelling case against this New York-set fairly tale as the logical end-point of the Disneyification of Times Square and, by extension, Manhattan--a victory lap of sorts, around Columbus Circle, across Central Park, then back through the looking glass. Such an argument wouldn't even require more than a passing familiarity with recent NYC history and geography and a hipster's disdain for all things Disney. I'm not going to bother with it, though. This comes off much fresher and funnier than it sounds on paper, it's thankfully breezy and sweet-natured, and, hell, Amy Adams could steer a Pol Pot biopic into surefire charmer territory through sheer force of infectious ebullience.

Ploy Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang specializes in dreamy, sensually charged narratives that gain resonance upon reflection--it's something of a unique trick, really, which I dug in 6ixty9, admired more in Last Life in the Universe, and which he more or less perfects with his latest effort. This one's about a Thai-American couple who take a trip back to Bangkok and butt heads over a precocious quasi-orphan named--right--Ploy. He says he just wants to help her out, she thinks he really wants to--yeah yeah, you know. Meanwhile, their younger, sexier foils fuck like jack rabbits in the hotel room next door.

Lady Chatterley Speaking of s.e.x., Pascal Ferran's take on D.H. Lawrence's once-controversial classic is very nearly as exquisitely realized as its reviews would suggest. While I have a certain soft-spot for Ken Russell's Lawrence filmizations, their sexual politics feel, ironically, more dated than those found in The Rainbow and Women in Love. Ferran comes closer to matching the frank, quotidian eroticism that marks Lawrence's sex scenes, which makes for a beautiful, engrossing, decidedly non-dated Lady Chatterley. The final scene's a heartbreaker, as, of course, it should be.

Them While, as with Cloverfield, a shrewd preference for the suspense generated by suggestion provokes Blair Witch comparisons, the sources of horror in this French horror movie are located somewhere between Haneke's Funny Games and van Sant's Elephant. Which probably qualifies as a spoiler, but the kicker here is that it'll scare the shit out of you either way.

Michael Clayton George Clooney has gone from effortlessly oozing charisma to effortlessly oozing integrity (while still effortlessly oozing charisma, natch), which is only remarkable per se when you spot him in Roseanne re-runs or in basic cable airings of '90's throwaways like One Fine Day or The Peacemaker. Where he's progressively come to signify a sort of modern cross between Cary Grant and Henry Fonda, he used to just be that guy off E.R. who wasnt Noah Wyle or Eriq La Salle. Now, dude's like the white Barack Obama--or at least Bono minus the smug vibe and dumb sunglasses.

Thursday

No, the list blog isn't dead.

(It was only sleeping.)

Monday

Presenting...the JLT/JLT Ballot '07

AKA, our consensus picks for the best in film for the past year. Enjoy.

FILM

Black Book
Bug
The Man from London
Redacted
Still Life

DIRECTOR


Brian De Palma - Redacted
Jia Zhang-ke - Still Life
Guy Maddin - My Winnipeg
Bela Tarr - The Man from London
Paul Verhoeven - Black Book

ACTRESS

Marina Hands - Lady Chatterley
Ashley Judd - Bug
Lalita Panyopas - Ploy
Tang Wei - Lust, Caution
Carice van Houten - Black Book

ACTOR

Samuel L. Jackson - Black Snake Moan
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Seth Rogen - Knocked Up
Koji Yakusho - Retribution

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Talat Bulut - Bliss
Albert Finney - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Kene Holliday - Great World of Sound
Tommy Lee Jones - No Country for Old Men
Christopher Mintz-Plasse - Superbad

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Zoe Bell - Death Proof
Jennifer Garner - Juno
Ann Savage - My Winnipeg
Tabu - The Namesake
Zhao Tao - Still Life

SCREENPLAY

Tracy Letts - Bug
Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent & Jaques Rivette - The Duchess of Langeais
Judd Apatow - Knocked Up
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Seishi Minakami & Satoshi Kon - Paprika

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Norman Cohn - The Journals of Knud Rasmussen
Fred Kelemen - The Man from London
Chankit Chamnivikaipong - Ploy
Nelson Yu Lik-wai - Still Life
Robert Elswitt - There Will Be Blood