Having worked at an amusement park as a youngster, this stirred up sense memories for me that I am not sure it will for others. Still, this is a great little movie, emphasis on little. More smiles than big laughs, it just about perfectly nails what its like to work at one of these places. It gets the “nightlife,” as it were, especially right. Adventureland takes place in 1987 but doesn’t hit you over the head with that fact; instead, it takes a Dazed and Confused approach to the era’s music and fashion.
Pretty good as a story, but I doubt anyone would see this if it weren’t for the much- ballyhooed performance by Melissa Leo. Yeah, what you get here is an Oscar-nominated tour de force in a movie about smuggling illegal aliens across, well, a frozen river dividing New York and Canada. Leo is actually great, in one of those “I’m Now Wearing Any Makeup!” performances that always seem to get the nod from the Academy. You could do worse than seeing this one.
For someone who can sometimes barely tolerate Bill Maher’s smugness, this was one I wasn’t sure about. You gotta give him credit, though- Maher has done his homework. He spars with pretty much every religion, questioning why people do bad things in the name of God. But I kinda already knew all this stuff, and I’ll bet you do too. It doesn’t make it any less entertaining to watch Maher bust some religious balls, though.
Synechdoche, New York:
Still processing this one. I’ll bet a lot of people hate this- it is confusing, disjointed, vague while asking questions about nothing less than Life Itself. Too big to understand in one viewing, I would like to see this again at some time. I would love it if someone else would see it, though, if for no other reason than to argue, discuss, philosophize about the meaning behind it. It is definitely one of the more thought-provoking movies I have seen in a long time.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer:
Jesus! Is there a more disturbing, creepy, flesh-crawling movie out there? Thank God Michael Rooker went on do other movies; otherwise, this would look exactly like a home video snuff project. With no real soundtrack or “movie” conventions to comfort you, this is ugly, messy, and disquieting. But in all the right ways. This is pretty much the actual definition of “horror.”
In a previous entry, I talked about how comedy has a short lifespan. I don’t know… I’ve now seen two Chaplin movies (the other being City Lights), and… they’re fine. I can appreciate the technique and style of Chaplin. I get it… I just don’t particularly love it.
I’ve watched a couple of Hitchcock movies recently as well. Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors- I find him to be one of the most stylish, visually inventive artists of all time. Psycho, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest, Notorious, Vertigo… he has a track record that is pretty jaw-dropping.
But he’s not perfect. I thought that two of the one’s I saw recently were sub-par, those two being The Man Who Knew Too Much and Marnie. The Man Who Knew Too Much has Doris Day singing “Que Sara”, and a 12-minute dialogue-free sequence at the Royal Albert Hall, but I just couldn’t get behind the MacGuffin this time. The stakes never seemed all that high, despite it being about an attempted assassination and the kidnapping of a child.
Marnie, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, reminded me a lot of Spellbound, an earlier Hitchcock. While I didn’t love that one either, it was better than Marnie. Sean Connery, for no reason I can tell, decides to take a thieving head-case on as his wife. I kept waiting for him to reveal his true reason for taking such an interest in such an obviously disturbed person, but he never did. He just loved her, actually loved her. And if you ever see the movie, you’ll wonder (as I did)… why?