12 Months of Movies 2007: November

I’m not sure if I’ve got all of my tickets from November, but it turned out pretty well. Let’s look at it, but not the Japanese Film Festival. That exists in an alternate universe that may some day collide with this one.

Waitress
Sunday, November 4, 10:10, Hoyts Broadway, Cinema 12

Waitress is my favourite kind of comedy: the kind that makes me cry. Damn you, Andy Griffith! On the other hand, there’s a whole other degree to Waitress that makes it a ridiculously depressing movie: I don’t think that, if you’re only forty, the movie that you have directed should be dedicated to your memory. Before Waitress achieved wide release, writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly was murdered in her apartment. It’s difficult to watch it without thinking about that, which is a terrible shame because this is a perfect little movie.
Keri Russell demonstrates that she is a great actress, and she carries the movie with the letters that she writes to her unborn baby, and with the various relationships that she forms. This is actually one of the stronger performances I saw last year and I personally believe that Keri Russell could easily have been nominated for best actress over Ellen Page. Then, I’m not the Academy. The point is this: being trapped in a dead end job and married to an emotionally, if not physically, abusive husband, might naturally make you want to look for something better – but the first something better that you find might not necessarily be the best for you. Funny, moving and metatextually tragic, Waitress was easily one of my favourite movies of 2007.

Death at a Funeral
Friday, November 11, 6:30, Hoyts Broadway, 6:30

“Are you saying that your dad was a gay?”
Do I need to say much more about Death at a Funeral? Featuring Alan Tudyk as the drugged up naked guy, it’s like this was Firefly week! (Alan Tudyk is everywhere!) This was a pretty funny movie that managed to send me insane because I kept on wondering who Rupert Graves was (he is, of course, the assistant to Stephen Rhea in V For Vendetta. Beyond that, it’s a pretty funny movie in the “excruciating situations” mould. Frank Oz piles awful situations on top of each other until they hit a massive crescendo. This was a surprise hit in Australia, and I spoke to many people who had seen it who I generally wouldn’t have picked – especially as it wasn’t playing at the more suburban complexes. Death at a Funeral was far from perfect, but I don’t go to see a lot of comedies that aren’t made by Judd Apatow, and this had far more laughs than your average piece of work. A grand example of a more than workable British comedy.

The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford
Monday, November 12, 2:10, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 10

How I managed to buy a ticket to this movie, I’m not quite certain. Have you got a load of that name? Well, the movie’s just about as long. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but this is more documentary than movie, with Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell and Brad Pitt acting a scene out, then the narrator speaking over town scenes, which jump us ahead in time, then further scenes, and lots of shots of clouds, until the whole thing is done with. A lot of people probably wouldn’t have the patience to watch the whole thing (and indeed, two people walked out of the cinema about two hours in), but this film is not without its rewards. For one thing, it’s splendidly acted, with Casey Affleck proving himself once more as the super-talented of the Afflecks. Why he’s nominated for supporting I’m not sure I’ll ever understand, because he’s in pretty much every scene – but again, I’m not the Academy. The bottom line on this movie is that it’s a nice character piece that paints its lead into a corner, shows him making some mistakes, and proves that America, for whatever reason, needs its legends and heroes, even if they are outlaws. It loses points for featuring Zooey Deschanel’s name on the poster, then not showing her in the movie until a scant seven minutes remained. You’re damn right I timed that.

Blade Runner – Final Cut
Monday, November 12, 6:30, Cremorne Orpheum, Cinema 4 – Popcorn Taxi

The best movie ever just got better! Blade Runner isn’t strictly in the running for 2007, but it holds up so damned well that I have to salute it. It was something special to watch this in a cinema packed with people who were totally into it. I don’t know many people who like Blade Runner – it’s hard to find people who like what was a proscribed text for them in High School English – so it was like a meeting of the minds for an epic event. You know what a turtle is? It’s the same thing.
Less special was receiving the question “What’s a replicant?” from my friend Raymond after the movie, but then again what isn’t?

Across The Universe
Tuesday, November 13, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 11

This is one of the few movies that my mother saw last year, and with me, no less. It’s even stranger considering that I barely know any Beatles songs, and that she was never a fan of the Beatles. Part of the revelation of watching a jukebox musical based on the works of The Beatles is realising how many of the songs you know, but didn’t know were theirs originally – and part of the depression is realising just how many of the damned things are used to advertise stuff.
Anyway, Across the Universe is about living in the sixties, from the perspective of several people, including a lesbian Chinese teenager from Ohio (yeah, that must have been a tough life). Interspersed with the story, and telling large chunks of it fairly well, are songs by the Beatles, performed by the cast. It’s always visually interesting, as you’re apparently supposed to expect from July Taymor (she of The Lion King stage fame), and the story works as more than just a skeleton to throw songs at.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is that “Hey Jude” is sung, and all the way through I’m thinking “They’re not going to have everyone in England follow behind Jude and sing the ‘na na na na na na nas’, are they?” and they did … and I accepted it. That must mean there’s something special about Across the Universe. It’s also worth noting that this movie has become something to hate because “hipsters”, whoever they are, are big into it. Eh, screw that, it’s pretty dang cool.

Rescue Dawn
Friday, November 23, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 3

Christian Bale versus Vietnam! Werner Herzog strikes me as a strange man, who doesn’t make movies like other people make movies. Rescue Dawn does not feel like it was shot in the sixties in Vietnam, but it doesn’t exactly feel like it was shot in this world. This is the sort of low promo film that sneaks up on you and can make you question its existence. You get a few of those a year, but of course you can’t always know it. Christian Bale and Steve Zahn put in great performances as Prisoners of War in a movie that comes dangerously close to becoming yet another piece of “whoooo America!” ultra-patriotism, but is saved by its epilogue. It ends on a freeze frame, but I’ll forgive it. The fact of its director and of its star will mean that, in time, this movie will get more attention – but I can never see it being a huge piece.

The rest of the month was the Japanese Film Festival. It was pretty good but not super special.

Pick of the Month: Waitress

This was a grand movie indeed, I almost don’t want to see it again because it represents one of those great days for me – cinema I rarely visit, the accompaniment of Liz, and the relatively foreign experience of a Sunday morning (I barely know those exist!). There’s a certain issue that I didn’t cover, but that can wait for the … Arbitrary Rewards. They will happen!

Post script of additional research: Urgh, now there’s another offensive sentiment I’ll have to address, too.

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