“There Will Be Blood” at the Arclight
Great movie. I enjoyed seeing Paul Thomas Anderson work in a period setting, which he combined with a very contemporary sensibility, especially as embodied by Daniel Day-Lewis’s character’s passionately secular outlook on life. And especially in the final scene in the bowling alley, where it just went completely off the rails of reality into this brutal, allegorical netherworld, not unlike the ending of “Magnolia.” The movie ultimately seemed to be an allegory about America, Day-Lewis’s character embodying its economic opportunity, Paul Dano’s embodying religious opportunity, with each referencing the corruption in each arena.
“After the Wedding” on DVD
This was a fantastic Danish movie about the head of an orphanage in India who returns to his native Denmark to ask a billionaire for funding, and gets roped into attending the guy’s wedding, where he makes a life-changing discovery. The film feels like a modern fable, timeless, with dialogue that is perfectly calibrated to bring out the exact right emotions in every scene without seeming on-the-nose, and a completely convincing lesson: towards the end of the film, when the billionaire tells you that family and friends, are the most important thing in life, it feels like a revelation, and you believe him without question.
The film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award, but I was disappointed to see all the reviews refer to it as melodrama, which felt unnecessarily dismissive. “Friday Night Lights” is technically a melodrama, and who cares? And what does “melodrama” mean, anyway? Wikipedia’s definition talks about a hero, villains, and a focus on plot over character, but basically any piece of popular entertainment could be construed to apply to that definition, and if “After the Wedding” doesn’t have enough character for you, I don’t know what does. I know melodrama isn’t always intended to have negative connotations, it’s a clinical diagnosis of a story, but that’s just it, it’s clinical. I’ve realized that film reviews — reviews of all sorts, in fact — have this unnecessarily calculated tone. Where’s the passion, when you really like something? Didn’t anyone react to this movie the way I did? Can’t reviews have feeling as well as thinking?
“High Noon” on Turner Classic Movies via DVR
I’m not sure why anyone who just got married to Grace Kelly and was on his way to his wedding bed would care about anything else. Especially when she looks 20 and you look 60 and it’s the old West, where you’d have to travel three states to even find a single woman who’s half as pretty as Grace Kelly. You should thank your lucky stars, move to Mexico or Paris or Antarctica and just hope Frank Miller gets killed or put in jail again before he finds you, which is more than likely what would have happened. All half-kidding aside, I liked the real time conceit and enjoyed it for a Western, which isn’t my genre. And I like old movies in which the theme songs have lyrics. No one does that any more.
“The Colbert Report” on Jan. 22
The show felt like a mini political late-night talk show version of the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, or that Andy Kaufman performance I saw in “Man on the Moon” where he just put fun stuff on stage and took everyone out for cookies. Plus, common themes stretched through each section of the show, giving it the resonance of a great novel or play. You might think it impossible for a parody of a conservative talk show host to create a moving MLK Birthday-themed show, but Colbert pulled it off, and then some. First he interviewed Malcolm Gladwell about his article on the illegitimacy of IQ tests, and Gladwell argued that Abe Lincoln took an IQ test today, he would be classified as retarded. Then Colbert showed a brief documentary about a famous hospital workers strike in South Carolina that was a major moment in the civil rights movement and was eventually settled after negotiations that included Reverend Andrew Young on the workers’ side, and a hospital administrator, James Colbert, Stephen’s father. Colbert then conducted a substantive and occasionally moving interview with Young, sometimes drawing parallels between the hospital strike and the writers’ strike. At the end, Colbert brought on the Harlem Gospel Choir and everyone sang “Let My People Go” in a tribute to the show’s writers, as their photos flashed across the screen. When the camera cut to Gladwell contributing the lyric “Let my people go,” it tied the show together not only in a kooky, “Build Me Up, Buttercup” at the end of “There’s Something About Mary” sort of way, but also in a thematic way, as Gladwell himself is half-black, half-white.
Jackie Mason, Live at the London Palladium
I had never really heard an entire Jackie Mason show until I listened to this CD, from the library, and it’s surprising that such an old comic could relate to me as well as people a third his age. I’m fascinated by the ways cultures are different from each other, and this is what Mason is all about, telling us how different Jews are from everyone else. But when he says “Jews,” he often means Jews his age, my grandparents’ age, so it was a fascinating insight into them, their peers, and the general point of view and sensibilities of the their generation. I was fascinated especially by observations such as how Jews can’t stand going into a busy restaurant because they’re jealous of how much “business” it’s doing. I also loved his routines about status symbols, and how people go to the ballet and the opera just so they say they went, even if they don’t actually like it. It sounds like such a simple observation, but Mason takes it to ridiculous lengths.