The Sugarland Express (1974)
The Sugarland Express represented the final film from Steven Spielberg I hadn’t seen yet, so watching it gave me the sense of finality that I’ve now managed to see all of Spielberg’s films, but it was also bittersweet in that there are now no more films of his for me to watch (other than new ones, and I’m definitely looking forward to Indiana Jones 4 this summer). The film was surprisingly funny, and the chase across Texas, with a continually increasing number of police cars involved, is a sight to behold.
(Yes, I wrote this a couple months ago.)
March of the Penguins (2005)
I’m sure the Antarctic vistas would be much more spectacular when blown up to I-Max proportions, but watching it on my small screen at home, all I got out of it was a fun, entertaining, and informative documentary that never quite rises above the rest of the nature documentary crowd.
Michael Clayton (2007)
I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this legal thriller that has very much in common with standard John Grisham fare. George Clooney puts in an excellent performance as a lawyer whose job it is to clean up his colleagues’ legal messes. The cause of this particular mess is Tom Wilkinson, a defense attorney who, after going off his medications, starts saying things he shouldn’t be saying, and is a wonderful performance as well. The ending took me by surprise, and yet was completely believable given the characters and motivations.
La Vie en rose (2007)
I watched this film knowing nothing about French singer Edith Piaf, and one the film was over, all I knew was she had a big voice, liked to drink, and loved a married boxer. The story is annoyingly told out of chronological order, so there is no sense of when anything is happening and what has already happened. People pop in and out of Edith’s life with no explanation as to where they went or how they came back. Just when things start to get interesting, the film jumps to a completely different time period with no common thread to tie the scenes together. It is as if the editor misread the slates, and when they said "Day 1" he thought they meant "Scene 1," so edited the film in the order in which it was shot. And to make matters worse, half the film is woefully underlit. Granted, I watched the film on my computer screen which is already dark, but when half the scenes are at night (for no apparent reason) or in dimly lit interiors, the fault is not solely in my computer hardware.
After watching the trailer for this film, I got the idea that 13 year old Briony makes up an indicting story about her adult sister and a young man as an act of revenge for him not returning her affections, and this untrue tale messes up everyone’s life. This made me think it was about a group of unhappy people making each others’ lives miserable, which made me not want to see it. So when I actually did see it (mostly so I could round out all five of the best picture Oscar nominees) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Instead of being a story about anger and spiteful actions, it tells how Briony witnesses a series of events that she misunderstands, which lead to a fateful accusation that is actually believable, given her limited information and understanding. This added innocence to the story which made it much more palpable for me to watch. The story is excellently told, always making the audience ask "What’s going to happen next?" The score is a lot of fun as well, cleverly using the sound of typewriters as percussion instruments; very fitting since Briony is a writer. I have mixed feelings about the ending. In regards to the young lovers played by Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, I felt as if the filmmakers were trying to have their cake and eat it too, giving them both a tragic and a happy ending. On the other hand it provides a wonderful conclusion for Briony.
Coming up next: candidates for both my top and bottom 10 of the year.