12 Months of Movies 2007: February

Around this time you, and by you I mean me, start to realise that a lot of the highlights of my year in film were actually made in 2006. I’m not sure if I said it last year, but the “Twelve Months of Movies” feature is about my twelve months of movies, so that’s my work around, my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. So February had some grand stuff in it, refugees though they may have been.

Stranger than Fiction
Friday, February 2, 7:00, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 8
and
Sunday, February 4, 1:30, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 4

“When I was a young boy, my mother said to me, ‘there’s only one girl in this world for you, and she probably lives in Tahiti’…”
It’s hard not to love Stranger Than Fiction, which boils down to a shout out to loving existence while you still cling to it. I believe that this movie is perfectly realised but, as with many movies, part of that is dependent on the audience with which you watch it. The first time I saw Stranger Than Fiction I was in a death grip of panic: I needed to know what was going to happen. The funny thing is that Stranger Than Fiction has the only ending that it can have, while also subverting it. Atop that, I had the same feeling of dread and same reaction when I saw the movie again a scant two days after. I love Stranger Than Fiction like a rock or something. It was a hard act to follow and, quite frankly, it wasn’t.

Pan’s Labyrinth
Tuesday, February 6, 6:40, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 2

One of those wiley movies where you notice different aspects on different viewings. It benefits from you not having to figure out or worry about the conception of reality and just accept events at face value. Dang this is a brutal movie.

Little Children
Monday, February 12, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 9

I’m surprised that I actually managed to see this. It only survived a short amount of time at George Street – and quite frankly I’m generally too lazy to go further afield unless it’s for Popcorn Taxi. Little Children is just over two hours long, but it feels like it goes forever. Strangely enough, I don’t mean that as a negative criticism, because I think this is a very good film indeed. It has an aura totally alone. The narration is like watching a book, somehow, which can be quite disconcerting. The narrator does the work that the camera normally does – even as the camera is doing it.
Anyway, Kate Winslett and Patrick Wilson are both great in their roles as despairing housebound spouses and their meandering story resolves itself well. Running counter to that is Jackie Earle Haley’s incredibly difficult story about a man with an unfortunate sexual attraction to children, which refreshingly does not portray him as a horrid monster, but a deeply unhappy man consumed by a totally understandable self loathing. The way everything resolves itself, and quite unexpectedly so, makes this a perhaps uncomfortable but definitely worthwhile film. Winslett’s husband is probably beyond redemption, but Jennifer Connelly is definitely worth the time. If you haven’t heard of Little Children – and yeah, the name might put you off – it’s worth checking out.

Notes On A Scandal
Monday, February 19, 4:55 Greater Union George Street, Cinema 2

Oh yes indeed. Notes on a Scandal contains two of the greatest powerhouse performances I’ve ever witnessed. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen where the actresses have been able to make me shiver from the simple magic of what they have brought to the screen. One weighs Dame Judi Dench’s reserved and sadly unadmitted obsession against Cate Blanchett’s gradual spiral out of control, and finds neither lacking.
This is a movie that loses its subtlety as it goes along, but I think that this is because the subject matter is peculiar to England, which I have in the past labelled as a magnet for tack and sensationalism. I know that everywhere does it, but the British seem to have raised media circuses to a high art. It’s how Ben Elton still gets work writing about his home country. It’s difficult to feel much sympathy for Dench’s character, but Blanchett is hardly beyond reproach either. By degrees they have brought their disasters upon themselves, and this is truly a gold star effort.

The Dying Gaul
Tuesday, February 20, 7:30 Palace Twin, Cinema 1 – Mardi Gras Film Festival

Yeah, this movie is actually pretty old, and also pretty horrid in reality. Casting stellar actors in a thoroughly unpleasant scenario that can intrigue while it lasts but then literally smashes into a brick wall at the end … yeah. Can’t think of much else to say. This was a “reunion” movie for me, at a strange point in my life, and, well … yeah, that’s no excuse for the quality of this movie.

Letters From Iwo Jima
Friday, Februay 23, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 17

Okay, so maybe this one took a bit too much artistic licence in regards to the treatment of historical artefacts (frankly, you don’t tip a newly unearthed bag of sixty year old letters onto the dirty ground), but Letters From Iwo Jima was a good movie. It’s the companion piece to Flags Of Our Fathers (which I actually watched the night before I saw this), but it’s quite a different movie indeed. More straightforward, with less meandering, this is the story of soldiers who can’t help but think “why should I die for my country when I could, you know, live?” Watanabe puts in yet another great performance, and this movie got a lot more attention than Flags ever did over here. I don’t remember this movie much apart from tunnels and terribly unpleasant explosions, but I know that this is another step towards not Japanese apologism, but to explaining that people are people, dangit.

Dreamgirls
Saturday, February 24, 3:50, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 18

Did you notice that, during their performance of “Dream Girls”, all of the people around Deena, Effie and Lorelle disappear and it looks like the group is singing surrounded by nothing but stars? Yeah, that’s simply amazing.

The Good Shepherd
Tuesday, February 27, 5:15, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 1

I must sleep, and I have no eyes. Robert De Niro has made a ponderous movie in The Good Shepherd. I could find very little to like about this work – Matt Damon plays a broken, soulless character who is not detestable, but more of a husk than anything. It’s impossible to get into what’s happening because there’s nothing to latch onto. Michael Gambon plays the film’s only intriguing character, and he gets killed off pretty early for unfortunate reasons. I endured The Good Shepherd. I demand a medal.

Pick of the Month: Stranger Than Fiction

I couldn’t exactly call it the best movie ever without labelling pick of the month, could I? They even managed to make a relationship between Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal credible!

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