A Single Man – Available on DVD

Tom Ford’s debut film A Single Man (not to be confused with the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man released around the same time) is truly a stunning piece of work and totally worth a second viewing on DVD.  The art direction and costume design is nothing short of inspired, and is really no surprise given the fashion background of Ford.

Co-written and directed by Tom Ford the film tells the story of George (brilliantly played by Colin Firth) who has recently lost his partner of 16 years.  The film is so incredibly honest and authentic and Firth’s performance is so genuine, that you instantly route for George. You want him to rediscover a way to be happy. You want him to overcome his grief. You want him to find love. You want him to live.

The depth of Firth’s performance is so powerful, it is a damn shame he lost the best actor award to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.  Firth relays an array of emotions in  a matter of seconds, reeling you in to his deepest pain.  Told through just the right amount of flashbacks, George’s story becomes something beyond losing a lover. It’s beyond gay or straight. It’s about survival and believing in the possibility that after a tragic event your heart can recover and you can dare to try to be happy. Damn…that’s deep.

I can’t wait to see what Tom Ford does next!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – On Board the Millenium Train

Funny things happen when the electricity goes out. A quiet takes over. Things that make a natural noise are louder. There’s no TV. No lights. The air seems so still that at first it’s a shock to figure out something to do. But after digging in a drawer to find my flashlight, I settled in the corner of my couch and cracked open Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I heard a lot about this book – from the untimely death of its author to the buzz now in Hollywood about the American film version (Daniel Craig has just been announced to play the male protagonist Mikael Blomkvist). But all the news didn’t do much to put this book on the top of my list. In fact, I waited a long time to finally dive into it. Honestly, I can blame the power outage for my motivation.

The book is interesting for sure. For the two people who read this blog that might not know already, it takes place in Sweden and there is a definite rhythm to the language. Larsson doesn’t spend a lot of time in descriptive narrative. The exposition is not obvious, which is difficult to achieve, but there is a large amount of info to keep straight, making it a bit cerebral. Also, there is very little characterization. It’s extremely hard to determine who to care for or if you should even bother.

This is not a happy book. It’s dark. Gloomy. There are some ugly twists and turns in the plot and the pacing. Reading it in the dark probably didn’t help.  But I’ve added the Swedish film version to my Netflix queue and am anxious to see the adaptation.

The Kids are All Right – A Must See

I heard all the good buzz about The Kids are All Right from Sundance to Berlin, and all I can say is…believe it. Finally a character-driven movie that incorporates a story so honest and authentic in its telling that it makes going to the movies something to look forward to. The script is so good, I’m jealous I didn’t write it and is totally inspiring to those who write funny, smart, character-driven scripts. Thank you screenwriters Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg.  Also directed by Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon) and starring Annette Bening (in her best role since American Beauty), Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, The Kids is about a married lesbian couple living in present day Southern California – and so much more. There’s no hidden message, liberal lecturing or sneaky plugging of alternative lifestyles.  The movie is a truly honest portrayal of parents and kids and marriage and what it all means. Centering around the kids finding their “donor” dad – Josh Hutcherson’s (Bridge to Teribethia) portrayal of a son without a father figure is refreshing brilliant – the movie intelligently becomes a journey to the core of the humanity of a family dynamic. Unfortunately the film’s crappy release time might get in the way come award season, but hopefully the momentum can carry through the summer and fall, and this Indie wonder can get the accolades it deserves.

Oh, and Mark Ruffalo has never been cuter.

Work of Art – Who Says?

WORK OF ART – THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST is yet another reality competition show on Bravo. The apparent brainchild of Sara Jessica Parker (her LOVE of art evidentially is so strong she wanted make a show about it )WORK OF ART is produced by her production company Pretty Matches in partnership with Magical Elves (the original producers of PROJECT RUNWAY before it went to Lifetime).  Like other shows, there is a big cash prize for the winner and the next great artist receives a private show at the Brooklyn Museum.

Casting has done a good job of gathering together a madcap group of artists, some who have been in the art world for many years and some newbies. The show’s host is the very cute China Chow – best remembered for her pixie-like lesbian character in the movie Head Over Heels. Apparently she comes from a family of art collectors, which is seems to be a strong enough skill set to make her a judge as well as a host. Unfortunately the pixie brightness she brought to the movie screen doesn’t carry over to the smaller one.  Too bad. Her lack of expression and monotone critiques make her come off as if she’d rather be sipping a cocktail at the bar at the MOMA.

I have to admit I’ve never heard of the judges – Bill Powers, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and the Tim Gunn-like mentor Simon de Pury. But outside the Parsons world, who ever heard of Tim Gunn before he made a splash on PROJECT RUNWAY? But I don’t think my questioning is due to the lack of familiarity with the fixtures in the contemporary art world. I think it comes down to the parameters of the judging.

In PROJECT RUNWAY, there are guidelines in judging a garment – construction, execution, fit, fabric choice color, etc. Books, screenplays and stage plays are critiqued on structure, conflict, characterization and plot. These things are tangible parameters, although still subjective. But when you remove those parameters and replace them with feelings, then I think the judging is skewed.

The thing I question about WORK OF ART is – Just because someone tells you that your creation is not art, does that mean you’re not making art? In grad school I had a professor ask, “Does it move you?” Good or bad, does it move you? And the show reiterates that art is not only what you make, but how it makes you feel. So, just because these three people in charge don’t feel anything that means that art is not present? I know…I know it’s subjective, but that is what makes this show different from other competition shows. It lacks the strong parameters involved in judging that a show like PROJECT RUNWAY possesses.

I guess it just comes down to what Sondheim says, “Art isn’t easy.”

Inception – Too Much Show, Not Enough Story

I reluctantly did see Inception. My reluctance has nothing to do with Chris Nolan. I really like Memento and Insomnia. But my reluctance centers around the film’s star – Leonardo DiCaprio. I don’t care for the actor. Not even in Gilbert Grape. I once saw an interview where he said,  “…an actor better try his hardest to be believable in the role, otherwise people won’t care.”  I think that’s his problem. He tries too hard (The Aviator) and then misses the mark (Gangs of New York). It’s a shame, because he is the catalyst for a lot of movies getting made, particularly with his newfound partner in Martin Scorsese…but this isn’t about Mr. DiCaprio. Well…maybe it is, but let’s get to the story.

A lot of people will disagree with me – well, the two people that read this blog and that’s not counting my mother – but there are some problems with Inception, mainly the exposition that poor Ellen Page is in charge of dishing out. It is a complicated theory to explain and because of that there is little emotional connection to the concept. The script really doesn’t trust the audience to “get it” and the film suffered for it. Perhaps, the story has a better arc on paper, but just doesn’t translate to film. Although visually stunning, the movie relies too much on the “special effects” and very little on characters, making it hard to buy-in to the whole situation. And for whatever reason I get the feeling that I have seen all this fancy CGI before. It just reminds me of the Verizon Towers commercial mixed with a little Transformers and throw in some Matrix.

Also the puss face that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears the entire time is really annoying. It’s charming in 500 Days of Summer, but not so much in this movie. A friend of mine points out that if you close your eyes, you’d be listening to Keanu Reeves. Try it!