Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Painted Veil, the movie reviewed


It has been a while since I have been moved enough by a movie to want to write about it. This movie certainly did it for me, in spades. Interestingly, this is the second time I've seen it. When I saw it was playing on HBO, I remembered that it was very good and gave it a second look.

This is a truly adult movie, with some  real culture and restraint, the kind of thing you would more likely see on PBS than coming from Hollywood.  Based upon the novel by Somerset Maugham, it takes place in the 20s, and is set in real historical time. The main characters are British, and they are coming from that time when restraint of the emotions was the order of the day. This makes for some wonderful opportunities for these  great actors to show their chops, and they do not disappoint.

The leads are played splendidly by Ed Norton and Naomi Watts. Diane Riggs is also notable as a Mother Superior.  Ed plays a doctor and Naomi his spoiled wife. The action starts out in England but moves to China where the Norton character goes to first live in Hong Kong then later gets called to combat a cholera epidemic in the interior.

I found this film gripping from first frame to last. Everything about it was well done. Beautiful cinematography, great script, great direction, etc.


The movie displays how life can mature us and teach us and open us to a greater vision. All the major characters go through real transformations under very difficult conditions.

There was so much that was memorable for me about this film. To just pick out one thing, Diane Rigg beautifully plays a Nun running a poor orphanage in China who has devoted her life to service to God.  In talking to the Naomi Watts character who starts out vain and self centered, The Mother Superior describes how she too fell in love when she was seventeen; She fell in love with God.

Then she goes on to describe how her relationship with God has changed over the decades. Anyone who has been involved in the spiritual life for decades will appreciate that speech.

There is so much to recommend in this film. If you want to watch a great adult entertainment, this one has my highest recommendation. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Liberal Arts, the movie reviewed



I don't often find myself watching movies a second time. But, while casting about on Netflix to find something to see, I impulsively clicked on Liberal Arts for a second watch.

It was an easy choice, something predictably feel-good. And since it held up very well through a second watch, it was also an obvious choice for a review.

I had a wonderful liberal arts education myself at a small “community of scholars”, Shimer college. I mourn the dumbing down of America which has been very real and sad to experience. So seeing a celebration of good education, smiling over literary references and generally relishing the life of the mind as this movie does is reassuring for me. There are still plenty of folks out there with those values.

Josh Radner does a good job playing the lead character who is a 35 year old alum of a college that gets invited back and gets involved with a 19 year old student. Richard Jenkins does great support as a retiring professor, full of doubt and apprehension at leaving the prison/oasis of academia after oh so many years.

The inimitable Allison Janney plays a cynical Romantics Professor. She is never less than delightful to watch and she does not disappoint for this outing.

Elizabeth Olsen plays the young co-ed brilliantly, just delicious with nary a false note.


Altogether it is a sweet comfort food of a movie, especially if you have a liberal arts education. Recommended.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Her, the movie reviewed


Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead in this very 21st Century romantic comedy which won an Oscar for best screenplay by Spike Jonze. The story takes place sometime in the near future. In the unlikely event you haven't heard about the story, what essentially happens is that the lead male character who is called Theodore falls in love with his computer's new operating system, who names herself Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Casting Johansson whose only presence in the movie is as a voice was a bit of genius. She is one of the most fetchingly attractive women currently acting and this all resonates in her voice. So if it is possible for some man to fall in love with a voice, this would be the one that can do it.

The movie is a brilliant commentary on the current state of things, where everyone is walking around with their attention on their iPhones and various other electronic gadgets instead of each other or what beauty might be in their surroundings.

There is an atmosphere of melancholy that pervades the movie, as alienation is the norm. This film deserved its Oscar; it's a haunting script. There is an ongoing sense of intimacy because so much of the time is spent in whispered conversations. At the same time it is all very sad.

What we have here is a very sobering contemplation on the current and future state of society and its preoccupation with artificial intelligence and its attendant costs. Recommended!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue Jasmine, the movie reviewed


Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen's latest Opus. It has all the elements of all Woody Allen movies, and this one is filmed right on his home turf of NYC. So we get to be entertained by the neuroses and other emotional storms of stressed out city dwellers.

That is if you are still entertained by this sort of thing. For me it has gotten a bit old. Curiously too, even though there is a solid cast of actors assembled with a really virtuoso performance by Cate Blanchett, the lead, for me a lot of the dialogue sounded stilted and formal. It is as if Allen has created his own form of communication, and all the players respect his writing too much to really lose themselves in their roles.

Of course there are exceptions, notably Blanchett who does an amazing job of portraying a woman who works on maintaining her illusions until her connection with consensual reality becomes tenuous at best. It's Tennessee Williamsesque; and Blanchett is often reminiscent of Blanche DuBois.

The human state of consciousness rules all here, and moments of transcendence are notable by their absence. So for those of us who live to be refreshed by higher states of consciousness, they are not to be found in this film. It feels a bit like reliving places we have outgrown and/or left behind.

Quite evident too, is Allen's narcissistic projecting of his own issues for our entertainment. Like I said, sorry Woody but we are not amused. His solipsism is wearing thin.

Different strokes though. If you still get a vicarious thrill out of watching the machinations of the upper middle class, then go for it. I have better things to do, thanks.