Archive for March, 2010

Some of my friends like to tease me about watching BBC miniseries, but I still have no shame in admiting I like them, especially if the screenplay was written by Andrew Davies.

I just finished watching He Knew He Was Right, a miniseries based on Anthony Trollope’s book of the same title.  (I read the novel before I watched the show.)  While the title sounds terrible Victorian and chauvinistic, it’s more of an exploration of what can happen in a marriage (or any relationship, for that matter) if the people involved are too proud to admit they might be wrong about something.

The main couple start out very much in love, but it all ends in tears.  At first she’s the more willfully pigheaded of the two, but when she’s about ready to accept she might be wrong, he’s so far off his rocker that it’s too late.

Without the supporting charcters, the novel and the miniseries would be like reading Anna Karenina without the relief given by Kitty and Levin.  But there are other characters in this series.  There are several connected families and other couples that have issues of their own to work out, which they do.

An interesting note: Trollope apparently encountered and fell for an American girl, later in his life.  One of the characters in He Knew He Was Right ends up marrying an American girl, even though she is somewhat of a suffragette and he is of the British aristocracy.  Interesting use of personal experience to help shape fiction.

Men behaving strangely

Hollywood keeps churning out war-related movies, even though audiences seem to be tired of them (note the lackluster results for Green Zone).  However, there are exceptions.  The Men Who Stare at Goats is one such exception.  Although it’s hard to tell what the movie is actually about, it is worth watching for the exploration of the bizarre.

It’s another movie where a reporter decides to go to Iraq to find out the truth for himself.  He gets more than he bargains for when he bumps into a man claiming to be a former member of an Army paranormal group. Although skeptical, the reporter ends up going with the man into the desert.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is essentially about peace, love, and intrigue.  Even though the plot is random and full of holes, it is a highly amusing movie; if only for the pleasure of seeing famous actors acting strangely.

The Blind Side could open some eyes

Remember the Titans seemed to start a modern trend of sports-related movies, although they’ve always been popular. The Blind Side follows in this tradition, but it is about much more than sports. Basically, the movie is about an affluent white family, the Touhys, who takes in a homeless black teenager, Michael Oher.
The Touhys are able to help Michael stay in a good school and pass his classes. Michael becomes part of the family, even though they all have to deal with people on the outside commenting on the situation and passing judgment. Like a real family, they all help each other through difficult times and enjoy good times together.
This might sound a little lame or cliche, but the story is well-told and convincing. The fact that it is based on a true story probably helps. But the acting also helps. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Touhy and Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher make the movie.  She injects into the movie her usual charm, spirit, and talent, while he conveys emotion with a dearth of words.  Another nice touch about The Blind Side are the real photos and video footage at the end. It was a good way to tie the story together, and should leave viewers with a sense of completion.
The Blind Side is an all-around good movie, one that I would recommend. And Sandra certainly deserved her Best Actress oscar for her role. 

I don’t watch shows when they are aired on TV because I can’t stand commercials.  If I want to watch a particular show, I get it on DVD so I can watch it, commercial-free, when I have time.

I recently watched the first set of the "Benny Hill Show."  They do not make comedy TV shows like this any more.  Of course, one couldn’t today do many of the things that Benny Hill does–it would be seen as "politically incorrect."  In fact, some people consider him to be sexist, at the least.  However, they are failing to see that the joke is always on him.

Benny Hill was obviously a comic genuis.  He was chameleon-like in his ability to change his appearance to play different characters.  He wrote all the skits and the original songs, which he also sang.

The "Benny Hill Show" probably spawned shows like "Monty Python’s Flying Circus" and even "Saturday Night Live."  If you like either of those shows, I would recommend you check out Benny Hill.  He’s even funnier.

Whip it!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I rented Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Whip It. I was ready for anything, considering that Barrymore tends toward eccentric both in real life and many of the characters she plays. Whip It, however, is a pleasant movie that tells a nice story without trying to be too ‘profound.’  It could, in fact, be considered a common story. It’s about a girl who doesn’t want to do what her parents–particularly her mother–want her to do. She ends up lying to them and joining a roller-derby team.
Whip It is not a movie that tries to spring surprises on the audience. Instead, Barrymore seems to have focused on making a strange group of people believable and likable.

The acting is good, the casting is good, and the story is good. I would recommend this movie.

When it comes to movies that are labeled as "indy" movies, one sometimes has to be careful. Yes, they often show a unique perspective or tackle an unpopular idea. Sometimes, though, they are tedious and preachy. (The Constant Gardener comes to mind.) Then there are some that are gems. Sunshine Cleaning is one of these. It’s the story of Rose Lorkowski, played by Amy Adams, who needs to raise money to send her son to a private school, so she starts a crime-scene cleaning business with her sister, Norah, played by Emily Blunt.
Both of the girls are initially clueless about what’s involved in cleaning crime scenes. They make quite a few mistakes, and do some things that are plain grotesque. Yet it brings them together. Their father gets involved, mostly as a baby-sitter for Rose’s son. Sunshine Cleaning really is about family, and how they deal with each other while trying to handle problems in their own lives.
Amy Adams does an excellent job of playing a single mother–gone is the wide-eyed naivete that she shows in Enchanted and the effervescent selfishness in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Here she is harassed, embarrassed by her own life, courageous, and sympathetic. Emily Blunt is also excellent as Norah, the younger sister who is always screwing up. She conveys depth and vulnerability without saying much.
I would recommend Sunshine Cleaning to anyone who wants to watch a movie about family and false friends, honesty and courage, and life and death. It is a well-done, enjoyable movie. In fact, I think I’m going to buy it when I get a chance.