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Pretentious Movie Alert: Weddings and Dairy Products

2008 is just about over, and we at the Blogulator have gotten our pretentious, hopefully turkey-stuffed selves, after a short holiday break, into the month of December. It's a hotbed of film much like July is, but with more slow-motions and fewer robots blowing stuff up. I'm only about 1/4 through the list of films I want to see before the end of the year, so I look to spend a lot of time at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis and/or reshuffling my Nerdflix queue for maximum pretentious film time. I did, though, see a couple of great, great films in the past couple of weeks that will mos def make it to the top of my personal Top 10 Films of 2008 list (and you know I'll be lobbying heavily with my Blogulator brethren to get them to the top of the Blogulator's official list!)

Rachel Getting Married
Going into this film, I was expecting a shaky-camera film with a bravado performance by Anne Hathaway, some good supporting roles, and some rich people whining about their problems. What I didn't expect, though, were a few things that completely floored me. When Kym (Anne Hathaway) sneaks away from her family's busy pre-wedding house to go to an AA meeting, and the environment shifts totally from fun-time-nervous pre-wedding business to The Wire-like gritty drug addiction realism...I was floored. I was sure that I had the film figured out until that total tonal shift. Then, the scene where the many friends and family of the engaged couple Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Sidney (TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe) give speeches at the rehersal dinner, then Kym comes in and gives a perhaps-well-meaning-but-maybe-vindictive speech herself. The reason this scene made my jaw drop was because it completely humanized all of the characters in the entire film. Jenny Lumet's screenplay is masterful in the way it leaves no character either a hero or a villian. Like any family gathering, an outsider could probably see how a given family's dynamics work and see the good and not-so-good in all of us. By the time the wedding comes around, and Jonathan Demme's naturalistic directing comes into play, we as viewers can't help but feel the same way the characters do -- happy, wistful, and bittersweet, much like the embrace the characters shared in the picture below.
(p.s. Not only can Tunde Adebimpe act, did you know he's been in other movies, too? Saw a little bit of Jump Tomorrow on the Sundance Channel and was floored that he is a somewhat long-time actor.)
Much like the aforementioned film, I expected a few things from Gus Van Sant's second great film of the year, Milk. I expected a great, if a little showy, performance by Sean Penn, some LOL-for-the-masses awkward comedy, and, most definitely, some tears. While the tears part was definitely accurate (you're talking about a movie reviewer who's become such a sissy that he tears up at the end of Wall-E), I underestimated how good Sean Penn really can be, and how Gus Van Sant can make any film seem more like poetry than celluloid. Sean Penn wisely didn't overplay any scenes, portraying the real-life Harvey Milk as an enthusiastic yet thoughtful leader of the gay community in San Francisco. Van Sant turns Big Love writer Dustin Lance Black's screenplay into film poetry by employing some of the avant-garde techniques he used in the independent films he made earlier this decade. Van Sant depolys his now signature slow-motion technique, along with a few other jaw-dropping moments in the film's final fifteen minutes that I won't reveal here. Needless to say, Van Sant has now released two great films this year (the other being Paranoid Park) and is setting himself up well to be this reviewer's favorite director of the year.

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  1. Blogger chris | 3:09 PM |  

    Can't wait to see Milk. It's the perfect role for Penn, who I usually hate. It's showy and spotlight-stealing, but not melodramatic or gimmicky.

    Saw Rachel Getting Married this weekend. Definitely my favorite movie of the year so far. LOVED THE MUSIC. Not just the music itself, but how it was intertwined so effortlessly. LOVE LOVE LOVED. And Bill Irwin is even more amazing than Hathaway I think. I hope he gets nominated.

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