Friday, May 23, 2008

Movies and Holidays

We never seem to have enough time in our workaday existence to get through an entire movie. These past few months, we could barely manage 40 minutes for an old episode of West Wing or, if we were really lucky, an hour of Foyle's War. Two hours for a film was simply out of the question. Of course, the scarcity of time also has to do with interests outside our jobs. Rod would much rather sail, and I would much rather ride than sit in front of a television. We like entertaining on weekends. And given the choice, I'll take a live performance over a film--no contest there.

With great pleasure, then, we attacked a backlog of movies while on holiday. While I enjoyed the mere act of watching films, the results also reminded me why missing out on movies no longer seems like much of a sacrifice: quality, as many critics note, has declined sharply.

Out of seven films, only one, La Vie en Rose, was really good. Marion Cotillard fully deserved her Oscar for Best Actress: it was an amazing performance and a compassionate screenplay. We also liked Charlie Wilson's War, although the satire became tiresome. Elizabeth: The Golden Years was visually sumptuous, and Cate Blanchett was eminently watchable (as always). Seeing her storm around campily as Elizabeth I was fun, if not exactly convincing. Then again, I didn't have high expectations. The Savages and The Darjeeling Express reminded me why I suffer indie movie burnout these days: both featured talented actors giving their utmost but hamstrung by third-rate scripts and precious camera work. Most disappointing of all was Atonement, a creepy amalgamation of highly aestheticized gloss and blood-strewn battlefields. I also found the ending dubious if not downright specious. The doomed lovers, both of whom expire in especially ghastly manners, nonetheless get a consolation prize of literary immortality, courtesy of Briony's pen. The swelling music and slick flashback make it clear that we are supposed to dab our eyes in appreciation. I didn't read the novel, but I assume (and hope) that McEwan's narrative voice made for a more nuanced, ironic ending.

Even though it was pleasant to have the time this week to catch up on movies, I was saddened to see that I'm not missing very much. I'd rather go for a hack on my horse.

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