Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25- We're All in the Gutter, But Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars

Tonight I went to see The Soloist with me lovely father, hoping for something intriguing and hopeful...

This film was so much more. I will just start by saying that this is what a film should be.

Joe Wright, the director of The Soloist, has long been an inspiration of mine, and he always seems to capture emotion stunningly. I have watched his flawless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice over 30 time (seriously), and I never get bored with it. I still gasp and giggle in the heated moments between Elizabeth and Darcy, and I cry EVERY TIME when Mr. Bennett, played by Don Sutherland, gets emotional in the next to last scene. Atonement also took my breath away, especially the beautiful, lengthy pan of shores of France during war time. After seeing those two films and appreciating them so hugely, I should have known that The Soloist could only be better.

For a very quick synopsis: The Soloist is the true story of the LA Times reporter,  Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), and a homeless musical genius, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. (Jamie Foxx). Lopez, gritty and irritable, is always hunting for a story, and bumping into Ayers gives him a new scent. After discovering that Ayers is a Juilliard drop-out, the tale is too intriguing to let go. However predictable and simple this story line seems, it is layered with intense complication. In true Wright style, we see that no tale of human interaction can be the least bit simple. 

From then on, the path of the film takes twists and turns and never stops surprising. Many scenes are genuinely frightening. Wright, and his character of Lopez, have no fear of entering the world of the mentally ill, homeless, and addicted. Or, if they do, they battle it fiercely. But for as many moments that terrify, inhabiting the mind of Ayers, there are just as many moments that are filled with immense beauty. More than once I had to stop eating my popcorn mid-bite and stare, my breath stopped. I even cried more than once, and I NEVER cry in movies. One incredibly beautiful scene takes place in the Disney Music Hall where Ayers listens to an orchestra perform the music of his favorite composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven. For a good three minutes, all that is displayed on screen in accompaniment with the music is a beautiful light show, reminiscent of Fantasia, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is so emotional and spot-on, it retreats inside the human sub conscience. Afterwards, Ayers says, "I can feel him. He's in the room.", to which Lopez replies, "Who?". Ayers replies, "Beethoven." Usually I would roll my eyes at a moment like this, but for some reason it all feels so surprisingly real.

To me, what marks a great actor is the ability to retreat so willingly and deeply  into a character that the audience forgets who you are in "real life" for two hours. Marion Cotillard accomplished this in La Vie En Rose, and Jamie Foxx accomplished this in The Soloist. Foxx lets go of all inhibitions, all glamour and celebrity pretense, and launches himself into the body and mind of Ayers. It is truly a performance to commend. 

The Soloist feels full and round in a way that few movies do today. Lopez doesn't solve all the problems he would like to, but in other ways, he solves all the ones he can. The film feels realistic, but Wright does not forget his duty to transport and carry the audience, giving refuge sometimes, and sometimes holding it back. I am very VERY critical of films, and I rarely walk away feeling particularly enriched, but once in awhile, a film comes along like The Soloist. And on a last note: keep a look-out for Joe Wright. He is may just be the best director of a generation.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 5- Wait! I Thought It Was A Comedy...

You may have heard this very phrase, and other similar ones, come from the mouths of many theatergoers stepping out of the movie "Adventureland", from the makers of the cult classic, "Superbad".  Probably the biggest mistake made by advertisers promoting this film, besides the misleading commercials, was to tag it with "Superbad".  I must admit that personally, when I saw "Superbad" (starring Michael Cera and Jonah Hill), I thought it was vulgar and pretty "unfunny". However, I must also say that to this day, after watching the movie over 20 times, it is one of my favorites. I cannot give the same hope of future redeem-ability to "Adventureland". This new film is far too dark and layered with the sexual frustration, weed and alcohol abuse, and the tunes of Lou Reed to come anywhere near the type of comedy "Superbad" was. 

Seeing as the day before viewing "Adventureland" was my 17th birthday, I wanted to buy my first R movie ticket as a legal 17 year old for a movie I looked forward to seeing. I wouldn't say that I didn't enjoy the movie, that I didn't laugh, or that I wasted 10 bucks, but it definitely wasn't the movie I bargained for. 

The film is set in 1987 and centers on James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), "James" to some, "Brennan" to others. We'll call him James. James has just graduated from college and is about to got backpacking across Europe with his rich best friend, planning to spend the next year of his life attending graduate school at Columbia. Sounds awesome, right? But not for long. James' mom drops the bomb that his father has been transferred to a lower-paying job and instead of Europe and Columbia, James can find a crap job and attempt to pay for grad school himself. Crap. James lands on a job at Adventureland, a summer-long run theme park that locates itself somewhere in the dreary wasteland of Upstate New York (or is it Jersey?) James falls in love with Em (Kristen Stewart), and from then on any vivaciousness in the environment is sucked out by Stewart's darkness... 

Aventureland is populated with some great characters, like Joel (Martin Starr) who not only plays the sweet Jewish nerd, but also brings nostalgia for Starr's character of Bill on the prematurely cancelled "Freaks and Geeks". There's also the park managers, played by Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig , who share hilarious chemistry. But these characters are not developed very well. The main plot line becomes so over-focussed that it's just...boring. 

James is pining over Em, who is sleeping with Adventureland's badass (Ryan Reynolds), who, incidentally, is a married man. Also, Em's mother has recently died of cancer and her stepmother is evil. Basically, she is really messed up. Even thought Kirsten Stewart does not spur one single laugh throughout the course of the film, and even though Jesse Eisenberg holds no charm, but only pity from the audience, somehow we are supposed to be rooting for their relationship. Not here. The chemistry was dead, the situation over-strained, the conclusion depressing, and the entire project unfruitful.

But, if you're into depressing movies about virginal failures attempting to get laid while in love with pits of despair, complete with retro costumes and a Lou Reed soundtrack, then be my guest! "Adventureland" is just for you.

April 5-17 and Feelin' Fine!

buenos dias mi amigos!

Well, on April 2, 2009 I officially turned the ripe old age of 17. Somehow the shift from 16 to  17 feels more major than I thought it would... It feels like when you're 16 you can still be Little Ms. Princess, but by 17 you're Little Miss  College Applications. My mom seemed to have a harder time than usual, but that's expected. I went through a lot of changes while 16. I traveled alone for the first time, making the epic cross-country plane flight to visit my cousin in Los Angeles. I found that I actually enjoy flying alone a lot. I've had to deal with some important issues, mainly in the lives of my friends. I have one friend who is very dear to me who is experiencing just about the roughest adolescence possible. I'm there for her whenever she needs me. Mostly, I simply feel like I'm comfortable in my skin. I feel wise and I feel confident that I can take on almost any situation. I guess I feel kind of invincible, but I wouldn't say that's a bad thing. I would say that I am pragmatic but I still allow myself to have an overgrown imagination. I have never allowed myself to narrow my hopes of the future, and I hope I never will.

But to lighten up on the gravity, let me just say that I had the best birthday of all time! 

First of all, my marvelous friends threw me a surprise party at school. They ambushed me in my high school's parking lot and took me for breakfast, which that in itself I found incredibly sweet. Then they took me down to the locker hall and the lights were off and a bunch of my buddies yelled "SURPRISE!" It made me feel so warm and fuzzy. That evening I took two of my friends out for $15 sushi and to see The Ting Tings at Workplay in Downtown Birmingham (AL). 

I gotta admit. As far as birthdays go, in my book, it doesn't get much better than that!