CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Movie Review: MAN ON WIRE (2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • August 13, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Watch His Step!

Watching a great movie that clicks in all of the right places assures me that there is harmony in the universe. It is like marveling at a perfectly symmetrical design like the Eiffel Tower or a spider web. Life is really random chaos with no point. It is a relief that our human intellect stubbornly seeks and finds safety, reason and occasional serendipity in the face of an abyss. Without a sound mind, sanity is lost. To perform well, the struggle between genius and madness is universal. The endeavor of Philippe Petit is one of the most memorable…and balanced.

The documentary Man on Wire recounts a French tightrope walker’s obsession to tread while suspended between the void of the World Trade Center Towers 1,368 feet from the ground. That’s the height of 228 six-foot men. Having trained for most of his life to perform this feat, he masterminded a plot with an adventurous team of experts and thrill-seekers to infiltrate the towers’ rooftops to get the wire across them. The illegal operation was as dangerous and complex as a robbing a heavily guarded infrastructure like in Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1954) or, if you haven’t seen that one, Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven. My only complaint about the break-in was that they didn’t pack a video camera to film the spectacle from such an awesome perspective view.

The scenes of the controversial incursion are narrated by the present interviewees while documented footage and dramatically staged footage bring us intimately to experience it. The black-and-white footage (always timeless) is integrated so well that documentary and the fictional realization become seamless. The director James Marsh has made an exceptional thriller and a visual poem about great dreamers whose vision threaten to capsize them unless they rise to act upon their desires.

This is a superb follow-up to Marsh’s 2006 directorial debut titled The King, a chilling docudrama about an estranged son (Gael Garcí­a Bernal) who goes to depraved lengths to integrate himself into the new family of his born-again father (William Hurt – “How does that feel?”). The King was between Julia Kwan’s Eve and the Firehorse and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition on my Best Films of 2006 list. This year, Marsh is almost neck-to-neck with magician/filmmaker Errol Morris who too has made another invaluable documentary called Standard Operating Procedure. CONTINUE READING ►

New Trailers for “W” and “Happy-Go-Lucky”

Written by Christopher Beaubien • August 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

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Poor, poor Dubya. With only half-a-year of his presidency left, Oliver Stone has him in the cross hairs and is ready to fire October 29th.

Two months since we have gotten the all-type Bushism poster, now here is the trailers that have official hit.

“W” Trailer #1:

“W” Trailer #2:

Looks like we’re going to see Dubya as all too human here. Much like how Stone saw Nixon in his excellent 1995 feature as a tragic figure worthy of Hamlet.

Hamlet
A man may fish with the Bush that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that Bush.

Just don’t skimp on the flaws, Oliver!

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Switching faces from tragedy to comedy, here is the new trailer for Mike Leigh’s upcoming Happy-Go-Lucky. This one is made for the North American audiences so be sure to take a shot of Insulin Glargine.

Now this trailer is just dying to make this bittersweet British comedy come across as a sweet-and-low Julia Roberts vehicle. A desperate attempt turning indie gold look like mainstream schmaltz. It has the banal Disneyesque-pop music cues, the kid-friendly editing wipes (swooshing sound effects are not optional), the garishly bubblegum-polished graphics, and the voice-over narration of Don LaFontaine in syrupy mode. Is Miramax really stooping this low for a Best Picture nom?

News Flash: a dozen years ago Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies (1996) got the coveted nomination, so have a little faith!

The international trailer that I wrote about 3 months ago is far superior and actually feels like it has the fingerprints of Mike Leigh on it.

The Real Happy-Go-Lucky Trailer

More about this movie

The sophisticated animated graphics with the cute and gritty edge – check! An editing aesthetic that does not condescend – check! The quirky yet somber soundtrack by Gary Yershon – check!

Question: Am I the only one waiting for the melancholy soundtracks of composer and Mike Leigh regular Andrew Dickson (High Hopes, 1988; Naked, 1993; All or Nothing, 2002; Vera Drake, 2004) to be released?

Happy-Go-Lucky will speak for itself (in limited release) on October 10th.

Movie Review: XXY (2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • August 08, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

What Is There Between Him and Her and/or Him?

Adolescence is a trial no matter what gender one is. The conflict can be so crippling that it damages and ultimately defines one as an adult. There have been many films, some good, about experiencing teenage angst and the need to break free or remain grounded. Either way can produce regret later in life. This film XXY has tread new ground by presenting a teenager whose entire identity, both internally and anatomically, is unusual to a majority of people. Funnily enough, the uniqueness of this case makes the experience all the more universal. The teenager is named Alex and is fifteen years old. Alex has a choice this summer that boggles one’s mind toward fantasy. The choice is whether Alex should resume the rest of life as male or female.

Alex is a hermaphrodite. Alex looks like a teenage girl but possesses the make-up of a boy that he/she has deluded with pills of estrogen. Alex is cared for by her parents Kraken (brilliantly played by Ricardo Darí­­n) and Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli) who live, for their child’s sake, in a wooden turquoise cabin near the seaside in Uruguay after moving from Argentina. Her father works as an oceanographer who possesses a protectiveness, even for the wounded sea turtles he studies. The key for observing this challenging and brave film is by possessing the empathy that Kraken has. He is quiet, smart, unobtrusive, and lashes out only when someone endangers his child. Rarely has a father been portrayed on film with such loveliness.

There is an astonishing sequence late at night where Kraken seeks out a frank older man who presents pictures of himself as a child — pictures of girl! Kraken listens calmly and curiously to the difficult experiences of this struggling hermaphrodite. He is so involved with understanding his “daughter” that he is simply removed from prejudice: “Making her afraid of her body is the worst thing you can do to a child”. This character was so easy for me to gravitate towards. CONTINUE READING ►

Movie Review: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • July 22, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

Gotham’s Finest! Consequently, also its bleakest.

I wept throughout the last two minutes of The Dark Knight and applauded rapturously throughout the end credits. This is the Batman movie I have been waited for ever since I discovered the Batman comics at the age of five. It is unrelentingly grim; however, it is also very optimistic because the power of good, slight as it is, glows against the darkness. When hopelessness engulfs its victims, true heroism at its most intangible and mysterious can shine in the corridors of the heart. Here, sacrifice is the key to combat such harrowing evil. I love exhilarating tragedies. This film has a prominent place on my list of the best films of the decade alongside the Dardenne Brother’s Le Fils (2003), Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), Nicole Holofcener’s Lovely and Amazing (2002), Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Mike Nicols’ Wit (2001). I love this movie so much that, despite the obvious legalities attached to this proposition, I want to ask Christopher Nolan’s permission to marry his movie.

In terms of on-screen performances, I’d like to do something rather radical, and focus on the work of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent first. My first confrontation with Eckart was as Chad, the all-too-credible venomous charmer in Neil Labute’s In The Company of Men (1997). In that film, Chad persuades his pal Howard (Matt Malloy), an earnest lemming, while on their business venture out of town to play a cruel joke on a pretty, deaf woman (Stacy Edwards). It was a small masterpiece about how a sterile, corporate environment breeds nihilistic alpha males, nebbishes and their victims. Eckhart’s work was phenomenal in depicting misanthropy with such unnerving — in the worst sense of the word — humanity. This was a character actor to watch out for.

Throughout the last ten years, I’ve seen him shine in the corners of Your Friends and Neighbors (1998), Nurse Betty (2000), The Pledge (2001), and Conversations with Other Women (2005). Finally, Jason Reitman cast Eckhart as an earnest tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking (2005), which launched him into the mainstream as a leading man who could dive in the taboo stream (“It is in our best interest to keep Robin (Cancer Boy) alive and smoking!”) and retain his likability – he could smile his way through manslaughter if he wanted.

As Gotham City’s new White Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent, Eckhart has finally delivered an astonishing performance in a mainstream blockbuster. Eckhart is so good that he deserves nomination talk along with Heath Ledger, who I will write about later. Throughout the first half of the picture, Eckhart is perfect as the passionate, though moody D.A. with his brooding forehead and easy smile. So eager to hang up the cape, Batman (Christian Bale) looks to Dent as a fearless crusader, his equal minus the mask, who could take down the mob and return Gotham to form. They both give one another strength like yin and yang: “You can’t quit!” Dent is a man who would rather face on powerful criminals in court (“I haven’t finished question him, your honor!”) than hobnob alone with stuck-up socialites at his re-election fund raiser. He simply prefers to make his own fate.

CONTINUE READING ►

The Latest DARK KNIGHT Poster

Written by Christopher Beaubien • July 08, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Only eleven more days left…

“Normal criminals usually have logical motives, but the Joker’s insane schemes make sense to him alone.”
—Batman in The Laughing Fish by Paul Dini.

FUN FACT:

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The Joker was inspired by Gwynplaine, the title character with the deformed grin, in The Man Who Laughs, who was played by Conrad Veidt.

Smile everyone!