Hey, it's 2009!
Since it's been so long since I last posted, I have a lot to catch up on, so I guess I'll start with the movies. I saw a couple of foreign films:
In English, that's "A Christmas Tale". This film stars Catherine Deneuve as the matriarch of a pretty dysfunctional family. She has two sons and one daughter. The oldest son is played by Mathieu Amalric who starred in my favorite movie last year, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He again plays a man who is deeply flawed and selfish. His sister has cut him out of her life and effectively the family after he's nearly bankrupt their family. After the mother finds out she has cancer and needs a blood marrow donation, he joins the family for Christmas when it turns out he's a match and could donate to her. All of the old grudges come out and the family seems to feel free to say whatever pops into their heads. It's very smartly written and well-acted, but that kind of mean, dark humor never sits well with me, so I admired it more than I liked it.
If you're in on the vampire bandwagon, this one is worth checking out. This is a Swedish film about a 12-year-old boy who is picked on and lonely until he makes a new friend one night outside his apartment building. Turns out his new friend is a vampire. It's a good mix of drama and "horror", though I think if you're a horror film nut, this isn't going to be scary enough for you. A lot of the film takes place at night (the vampire can't just walk around in the daylight, of course) and the snowy landscape, so it's really beautifully shot. There is a lot of suspense and some gruesome scenes, but it's not overly gorey.
I saw a few English-language movies, too:
This one is getting a lot of Oscar talk, but it's another film that I admired more than I liked. Kate Winslet plays a 40ish woman who has a summer-long affair with a 15 year old boy in the late 1950s Germany. Years later, the boy is a law student and is surprised to see his ex-lover is a defendant in a Nazi war criminal trial. Ralph Fiennes plays the grown up boy, struggling with his feelings about this relationship and how it has affected the rest of his relationships. The film also is showing three periods in German history - the post war period, the late 60s and the 90s. The film explores a lot of themes of guilt, too - personal guilt, community guilt. The cast does a wonderful job, especially Winslet with a character who could be very unsympathetic. I just didn't care about any of the characters as much as I felt like I should have. Also, I really wasn't comfortable with the way they portrayed the affair between Winslet and the teen boy. I guess it's my years as a Guardian ad Litem, but I just am not comfortable seeing that type of relationship as a plot device.
This was a film that I loved whole heartedly. Dustin Hoffman plays a guy who writes jingles, but he's quickly becoming irrelevant to his ad firm. His daughter is getting married in London, so he flies in for the wedding and meets Emma Thompson, a single woman who spends most of her time taking care of her mother. Both of them just perfectly capture the feelings of loneliness and isolation that you sometimes feel as an older single person. Yet somehow, miraculously, they find each other and spend an amazing day together. It's sort of a Before Sunrise movie for middle-aged people. Yeah, there's a lot of romantic comedy cliches, but there are also some real surprises. I would whole heartedly recommend this film for anyone that's been through a heartbreak or two.
I'm not quite as enthusiastic about Yes Man. I should caution that I'm not a huge fan of Jim Carrey. If you love his mad antics, I think you'll find this one quite satisfying. Carrey plays a guy who is still trying to get over his divorce and just barely makes through each day as a bank loan officer. His friends try to get him out and having fun, but he's resistent. Until he's talked into taking a self-improvement seminar and makes a commitment to say "Yes!" to everything life offers him. Because of his new optimism, he ends up meeting a charming young woman played by Zooey Deschanel. There are some funny parts, but in general I thought it was pretty predictable and bit too silly for me. I'm not sure what the line is between the silliness of Jim Carrey and the silliness of Will Ferrell, but for some reason Ferrell cracks me up and Carrey doesn't. I did really like Rhys Darby as Carrey's boss, though he's playing a character who is almost identical to Murray from Flight of the Conchords.
I'm sure you've heard plenty about this one. Brad Pitt plays Benjamin Button, a guy who is born as an elderly infant and ages backward throughout his life. Cate Blanchett plays his true love, who he meets in childhood, when he appears to be an old man. It could have been super creepy, but Pitt does such a great job of convincing you that this really is a young guy who just looks old, that you don't even think of it as an old man and young girl. The special effects that "age" Pitt in his younger years and make him look even younger as an older man are amazing. And he's ridiculously handsome when he actually looks his current age. It was a great, tragic love story. The special effects make the story believable but the acting makes it real.
There are a bunch more movies that I want to see still. I hate that it's always feast at this time of year and famine in spring. Next time, I'll update you on my knitting progress.