So, realistically, I don't have the time to write extensively about every movie I see. However, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on a few things I've watched recently (for the first time, or just my latest viewing of it) that struck me as interesting or pleased me in some way.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE
This amazing crime story from the 1970s sports an amazing performance from perennial hang-dog Walter Matthau, whose face is as distinctive as his performance style - a mix between melancholy and ironic wit that sparkles with an active imagination. Telling the story of a gang of criminals who take a subway train hostage, the film is even more amazing the second time through, knowing all the twists, and focusing on its mechanics, the performances, and just falling completely in love with it. The best “moment” of the film for me is when Matthau gives a group of visiting Tokyo police a tour of the NY Transportation police office, saying outrageous things (and with a bit of a back-and-forth with co-sourpuss Jerry Stiller), only to realize they speak and understand English perfectly well. And, when the movie ends, and the final crook is caught, Matthau’s “gesundheit” and freeze frame say it all.
Tina Fey’s latest outing on the big screen isn’t nearly as successful as her first (the amazingly hilarious MEAN GIRLS), but that doesn’t mean BABY MAMA doesn’t have some laugh-out-loud moments. The always-worth-watching Amy Poehler plays an opportunist willing to have someone else’s embryo implanted in her, while Fey plays said embryo-giver. The chemistry between the two is obvious, as it always has been, but it may be the weakest link here. In an effort to play off of Poehler, Fey misses her opportunity to shine, relegating herself to some rather dry delivery, content to coast by on their chemistry alone. A far cry from her own consistently brilliant show 30 ROCK, or Poehler’s own part in the underappreciated UPRIGHT CITIZEN’S BRIGADE, though she does get the best line ever uttered about birthing pains (“It feels like I’m shitting a knife!”) Worth seeing, and I found it pretty funny, but ultimately it’s fairly forgettable.
NIGHT AND FOG
I first saw this about six years ago when I got it out of the library. Alain Resnais’ NIGHT AND FOG is the most poetic film ever made about the Holocaust, and at a total running time of about half an hour, it achieves this despite the length and in-depth nature of something like the 9+ hour SHOA (also worth watching.) With a script written by poet Jean Cayrol, and an amazing modernist score by Hanns Eisler, the film is a real horror movie, made bearable to watch only because of the pensive nature of the film’s proceedings. This may be the first “essay” film, as it’s not really a traditional documentary. In any case, there’s no denying the power of it. For an even more haunting experience, try picking up the Criterion Collection’s DVD and watching the film with the isolated musical track.