Friday, May 02, 2008

Five-Twelfths Of Oh-Eight Equals...?

Howdy, y'all. JA from MNPP here, contributing a lil' conversation to The Film Experience whilst Nat's off rubbing elbows and nobbing hobs with the Indianapolis elite.

So it's May 2nd, and with today's release of The "Robert Downey Jr. Is Really Worth The Insurance Costs, Guys" Movie, it marks Summer Movie Season. Cue shit blowed up real good. Not to knock The Cinema of Sweaty Season - did I mention I'm typing this from the spot I've been camped out at for three months waiting for Speed Racer to open next week? Christina Ricci is Trixie, yall! - but as I feel my gears snapping into place for "Must Try And Enjoy Mindless Entertainment For What It Is" Mode, I find myself having a realization - I haven't exactly been working on "Prove Those Debt Collectors Wrong About Your Film Studies Degree" Mode, meaning I haven't been seeing too much to be proud of so far here into 2008.

We're five months into the year! It's nearly halfway over, and looking at the list of new movies I've caught in the theater so far... it's a little on the dire side. I don't mean to call 2008 a wash quite yet but, if the Oscars were tomorrow, what would my Best Picture nominees be? Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Cloverfield? Blurgh. (mind you I liked both of those films)

I know, I could be better about seeking out the more obscure gems that get the raves. I do live in NYC after all, and have easy access to a constant stream of, let's say, the more intellectually alive sort of film-making I'm calling out 2008 for a supposed lack of. This is my own doing, this cage of popcorn hell I find myself ensconced in, staring at a Summer ahead of only more of the same.

But in order to be more positive (yay positive!), here are five things - in no specific order - that I have seen in theaters so far this year and have really fallen in love with. And I hope you'll share in the comments what you've enjoyed so far of this year's cinematic offerings to get me to shut up on a sorry state that really never was.

Colin Farrell in In Bruges and Cassandra's Dream - Farrell was the MVP of both of these pics in my opinion, and it served as a more-than-welcome one-two punch reminder of just how talented an actor he can be. I loved In Bruges altogether, and even against the hysterically profane fun Ralph Fiennes was having I came out of the theater quite taken with Farrell's work. I had a lot more trouble with Cassandra's Dream as a film, but again thought Farrell stole the show.

Jena Malone and Laura Ramsey in The Ruins - I know, scoff if you must; get it all out of your systems. The Ruins was a bit of a let-down from the high expectations I had going in having been a fan of Scott Smith's relentless novel, but Malone and Ramsey are shockingly excellent here. Selling genuine terror is as tough a job as any actor gets, and both actresses are so good at what they're selling that there are moments when it's hard to look at the screen. I was especially taken with Malone's performance because it was so unexpected - I've seen Jena Malone in many roles over the years, and she crafts an entirely different person in this film than I've ever seen come from her, without once feeling disingenuous. Quite simply, I thought it was one of the best horror performances I've seen in years.

Fear(s) of the Dark - An animated horror anthology film that I caught a special screening of earlier this year, it has no release date plans that I can see - anybody know's any info, let me know. Fear(s) is funny and terrifying and visually stunning; I can't heap enough high praise on this one. Seek it out if you can. Charles Burns, y'all.

Josh Pais as the gynecologist in Teeth - A sentimental fave. That's him playing peekaboo behind a thoroughly flummoxed - and really terrific - Jess Weixler as the toothy-crotched lead. I've become a big fan of Pais ever since he played Molly Shannon's sour boss in last year's Year of the Dog, and whenever he pops up onscreen I smile. Add to that smile a tug-of-war with the mystical beast known as the Vagina Dentata, and it was meant to be. Love. This flick's out on DVD next week and definitely worth a rental; much fun.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Stop-Loss - I wish he'd had more to do in the film; hell, I sorta wish the film had been about him and not Ryan & Abbie's "Everything You Need To Know About The Home-front" Tour '08. But as usual, when Joe's on-screen there's no looking away. Okay, I might've not been looking at him when Channing Tatum was in his underwear rolling around in the dirt, but that was totally cheating on Mr. Tatum's part.

Alright y'all - your turn! What's been 2008's cinematic highlights so far?


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you about In Bruges, adding only that I think it might be the very best 08 movie I've seen to date. Everyone should see it! Honestly! It's much better than its trailer!

Sam Brooks said...

I'm not going to count Funny Games here, because it's a shot-for-shot remake and I love the original so much that counting it here is just going to be unfair to all the other films.

All of the films I've seen so far in '08 hover around the B/B- at the best mark, which is a no no for Best Picture.

So, I give my Best Picture up until May to.... Zombie Strippers.

The most fun I've had at a movie all year, by a long shot. So my Best Picture.

The best performance so far would probably go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Stop-Loss, though. I love that guy!

J.D. said...

My best picture so far is The Banquet. I know, I know: the wrong year, the title change, the direct-to-DVD-ness, the bias. But it's still phenomenal work, and I have to say Ziyi gave one of her best perfs to date and the best so far this year (if it ain't Amy Adams in MPLfaD).

Beau said...

Cloverfield and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Yes, I'm aware the latter is technically a 2007 release, but I've only just seen it at the end of February. Both films rocked my socks.

Kudos as well to FSM for being relentlessly funny (sans Kristen Bell, bad character work) and Portman/Johansson for trying their best to salvage the wreck that was 'The Other Boleyn Girl'.

I'd probably say something about 'Paranoid Park' or 'Love Songs', but I missed both.

Glenn said...

Jamie Bell's performance and the soundtrack of Hallam Foe.

The use of Ashley Tisdale's "He Said She Said" in Cloverfield! (it boggles the mind)

The screenplay to Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park. One of, in my opinion, the very best screenplays this decade. Perfect.

The Dracula Musical number in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The trailer for The Strangers.

Most of the "good" movies released in America so far haven't gotten here yet. Typically.

Catherine said...

Happy-Go-Lucky and Persepolis for me, I think.

lawyer tony fernando said...

no word on HARD CANDY Nathaniel?I know is off-topic,but just asking!

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel has a FILM STUDIES degree, ya'll


it's actually JA guest-posting with that cobwebby film studies degree ;)

Beau said...

And also, regarding 'The Ruins', I found myself more invested in and intrigued with Jonathan's performance. Poorly written but very well acted. Malone and Ramsey felt a bit lacking in character work.

Jason Adams said...

I must respectfully disagree, Beau. I thought Jena created a fascinating, fully rounded character, whose disintegration into girlishness as the film progressed made total sense, knowing what we knew about that character. The hand movements, the silent whimpering, the way she stood for god's sake - none of that was the Jena Malone I've come to like many times before. She just was this girl.