Monday, May 29, 2006

this week's netflix - part one

The title of this series is growing faintly ridiculous since I haven't posted an entry for over two months. In fact, I'll need to split the films up into two separate posts. Here's the first:

A History of Violence: I've seen a number of films directed by David Cronenberg, and this is by far one of his most subtle. The pacing of this tale of a man's violent past coming back to haunt him made it seem more like a short story come to life than a film based on a graphic novel. Cronenberg, possibly because he's always worked outside the mainstream, was able to refrain from the need for a clean, happy ending, which made the film more satisfying. Plus, there are two words that alone recommend this film: Viggo Mortenson.

Pride and Prejudice:
Yawn. This film managed to suck the life out of the Jane Austen novel on which it's based. Keira Knightly was fine, I suppose, but her performance did not scream Oscar nomination. Aside from the lackluster screenplay and the hackneyed art direction, the worst offense was Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy. There was so little appeal to him that Elizabeth Bennett just seemed like a ninny to care for him.

Everything Is Illuminated:
I really enjoyed this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel. As I've mentioned before, this is the only book during which I simultaneously could not stop crying and could not stop reading. One criticism of the film is that it cut the scene which caused this experience for me, but the other choices made by director Liev Schreiber were successful and moving. From the soundtrack to the casting to the art direction, this film got it right.

Good Night, and Good Luck:
George Clooney also was quite successful with this film. The tension of good men trying to do right in the face of tyranny was timely and portrayed without undue melodrama. David Strathairn was excellent as Edward R. Murrow facing off with Senator McCarthy, and the choice to film in black and white allowed the viewer to feel transported. Small details really stuck, like the portrayal of a time when news anchors smoked on-air!

The Squid and the Whale:
I feel as if I should have liked this film more than I did. Watching the children of two divorcing writers struggle to take sides and grow up while they're at it was painful. Unfortunately, there was a sense that, like the child who views the squid and the whale from the other side of the glass aquarium, the viewer was not asked to understand or sympathize, just observe.

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