23 December 2006

Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Genre: Comedy

Little Miss Sunshine is above all a simple film; in all its aspects it never once strives to accomplish what may be considered risky or ambitious, preferring instead to maintain a strong tone of artlessness and quotidianism that surely comes across to the viewer very clearly. Though that statement was not meant as a critique, doubtless is that some will have interpreted it that way, the very same way in fact in which one can misinterpret the film as an important or eminent one. (That indeed was meant as a critique, though not of the film but rather of its fawning critical audience.) For, Little Miss Sunshine lacks both the pretense and the ambition to be great, al be these qualities pedestalled by the film's characters. Primarily, the screenplay, though showing definite potential throughout the first half, fails unbelievably into the emotional shoulder of its main course during the second half, after the point at which the grandfather, by the way wonderfully played by Alan Arkin, dies. After then, it retreats from its bold and iconic/laconic disposition into cinematic regularity, the dreadful in memoriam of the predecessing, lest (dear me!) they be forgotten, their legacies unfulfilled. A film built on such a decomposition cannot well stand up, even if varying toadies ushered props in the form of high praise in, to elevate it. The only outstanding parts of the production were its cinematography, the camera beautfully held in a way from holding in which Marie Antoinette surely could have benefitted; its art direction that, unlike its decorated subject, never puts aside its passionate and determined quirkiness; and its ensemble acting performance, much due to the excellence of Mr. Arkin and the delight of the capable Toni Collette and relatively new Paul Dano. The direction was also noteworthy.
Yet, one must remember, this critique is not a bad thing, nor does it seek to make the film out to be a bad thing, in the least! Above all, Little Miss Sunshine is undoubtedly an enjoyable film. It is also, however, undoubtedly an unimportant film and those people who seek to make it important are those doing the injustice, not the filmmakers. It is useless to try dolling an entity up, in order that it may be a thing that is clearly never has been, was intended to be, or ought to be, much as useless is dolling up little children for parade in sexually frustrated and confusing beauty pageants. So, I only critique the critics, whom I recommend should learn to distinguish fun fare from important film and should desist from unwisely and unduly bolstering the former.
I recommend the film highly, to and for anyone interested in having an insouciant time.

Grade: B

Review: Little Children

Genre: Drama

Anyone who bemoan the utter lack of excellent films this year I urge to see director's and co-writer's, Todd Field's, masterpiece Little Children. Subtly sublime in almost all its ways, the film has truly topped the heap in this year's film frenzy, it easily beating out even its most formidable competitor, Stephen Frears' The Queen. Noteworthy are all its actors, especialy leaders Ms. Winslet who delivers yet another dazzlingly intricate performance and Mr. Wilson whose capabilities, though perhaps not as flawless as Ms. Winslet's, are still gloriously and surprisingly strong here; its score which enthralls, as is Mr. Newman's usual tact, but does so in a way new for him and his style (i. e., the usage of the train's horn and of the violins were particularly encouraging); its art direction; its cinematography which astounds at points for its beauty and eloquence; its direction, as Mr. Field proves himself a far more intelligent director than was even suspected upon the presentation of his last In the Bedroom; and its writing which geniusly utilizes a narrative voice-over to seal in the rougher for their quietness edges. A spectacular work of cinema, the film only hesitates from staggering greatness once, in its very last moments, and stemming from the delivery of a single line; but such a minute fluttering is relatively inconsequential when compared with the magnitude of its sustained accomplishments. It truly does what film, as art, ought do: it through narrative asks questions, questions not just interpersonal but even intrapersonal, sexual, psychological, anthropologkcal, sociological, and metaphysical; it becomes a well guided exploration of the person, always unfettered by place, whether literal or figurative, or time, epochal or individual. I have nothing more to add but that this film is certainly the best film I've seen yet this year and may expect to have seen still.

Grade: A

03 December 2006

What is happening?

In a year replete of disappointments and flimsy attempts at film, a year in which there seems to be no fierce race for the top honor of any of the main 7 categories (i. e., the four acting awards, directing, writing, film) - with the possible exception of Leading Actress (i. e., between Helen Mirren and either Kate Winslet or Penelope Cruz, depending from whom you ask), what are to be considered the best marks in the medium? Can we expect nominations and other such acclaim for Sacha Baron Cohen, for his portrayal of the farcical Borat - which would not necessarily be a bad thing but rather very unlikely award-garnering fare? Will a foreign language film, namely Volver, sneak into the a Best Film nomination, in the footsteps of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though the latter was inarguably a better film? Will the potential best truly be at the level of the potential bests of years past? Will some of our potential bests even be good? Looking out at the options, which so slim in number seem to force the awards upon a meager few (not wholly undeserving) by default, I am forced to wonder these things. Certainly this year is not like last (though it is oddly coincidental that it is so much last years' counterpart, in that all its races, excepting that for Leading Actress, are as noncompetitive as were all last year's races, excepting again that for Leading Actress, competitive).