I’ve seen a lot of movies lately. Lots. More during the past month than I’ve seen in the three months before that. But I have’t written much about the movies I’ve seen — mainly because most are so lousy that reliving them while writing their synopsis would be to painful. Sado-masochistic painful. Some were okay, not fantastically so but entertaining enough. A few, worth more than a paragraph or two. These are the ones I liked and why.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I normally wouldn’t watch a film about the “twilight years” (I skipped On Golden Pond, thank you, and I continue to skip it) but there were two things about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I found irresistible — Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.
Seven senior citizens travel to India for a variety of reasons. All have reservations in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which, a retirement hotel advertised as nothing short of paradise. When they reach the hotel, they find a dilapidated structure with no telephone service, bad plumbing and dubious sanitation.
The film is enjoyable for three reasons: First, a fantastic cast of really good actors. In addition to Smith and Dench, there’s Ton Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame. For fans of Downton Abbey, Penelope Wilton who plays the irritating Isobel Crawley in the series is just as annoying in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Second, it succeeds in relaying to the younger generations that senior citizens are not to be pitied nor to be treated as invalids simply because they have reached a certain age. Third, it proves that top-of-the-art computerized visual effects are not necessary to create a visually arresting film.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, an unemployed straight-laced nanny (Frances McDormand) becomes the “social secretary” of club singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). The story is played out over a twenty-four period during which Miss Pettigrew discovers that her new employer is an ambitious woman who uses men to further her singing and, hopefully, acting career. Embarrassed by Miss Pettigrew’s dowdy appearance, Delysia takes her shopping for clothes and has her primped in a salon, transforming the country mouse into an attractive middle-aged woman who catches the eye of a wealthy lingerie designer.
Great acting. Fantastic production design that recreates pre-World War II London.
Killing Them Softly
I watched this film for one reason and one reason only — Brad Pitt. Although I dozed off in some parts (some scenes were overly long), Killing Them Softly proved to be an interesting commentary on American capitalism. A story about small time gangsters, thieves and the hitman (Pitt) hired to sort out the mess, Killing Them Softly is most memorable for the juxtaposition of real-life political speeches (played in the background as audio or as telecasts) that are too much at odds with the reality of life in the streets of America. Violent bloody film. And bloody good too.
To Rome With Love
As with Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love has elements of magical realism. Often funny, sometimes introspective, sometimes sad and at times maddening (note Ellen Page’s character, Monica, which the actress played with such panache), the film is entertaining enough although it really offers nothing new except, perhaps, for the shower-opera sequences (you’ll have to see it to understand). Almost half of the dialogue is in Italian (don’t worry, there are subtitles).
To be honest, I was no Tarantino fan until Kill Bill came out. Although Pulp Fiction has achieved cult status long before that, I didn’t get to see it in full until long after Kill Bill. By the time Inglourious Basterds hit the movie houses, I was an avowed Tarantino fan.
I had high expectations of Django Unchained and I was not disappointed. Although Django (Jamie Foxx) is the lead character, the character and the actor were overshadowed by Christoph Waltz’s Dr. King Schultz, the dentist-bounty hunter who is alternately a mentor, father-figure, slick talker and master strategist. Waltz really deserves the Oscar. The film is masterfully made but even if you’re not into the aesthetics of filmmaking, Django Unchained is worth seeing if only to revel in Waltz’s performance.
One word. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Until the final credits roll, this one will have you guessing whether the whole story is a dream sequence, a hallucination or a reality that is simply hard to explain.