What We’re Watching – 5/18/11
Let’s break this down, shall we?
On the big screen
What have I been watching in theaters lately? (I mean, besides Bridesmaids, of course.) Because I couldn’t seem to get it together to see it in a timely fashion, I haven’t yet talked about Source Code here on the site, but I did see that movie, and liked it very much—and not just because of my well-documented girl crush on Michelle Monaghan (I was once within three feet of her and kept my composure!) or my more-traditional-for-a-straight-woman crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. Let me say: if the conceit is fun enough, the actors have enough chemistry, and the execution works, I am never going to be the person who gets stuck on logic details of a sci-fi film. For example, if you start talking to me about time travel paradoxes or some such in relation to, say, Back to the Future, I will zone out. As long as the momentum works, I just do not care. And it really does work here. So eight minutes of one dude’s memory should not a whole detailed world make? So the way information travels from one track of the story to another probably doesn’t make much sense if you think about it? So what? Tension! Banter! Explosions! Pretty people! Enjoy the ride.
Going on the same principle, I declined to get too hung up on the messiness of why anything happens the way it happens in Thor. I did get into one discussion about this with Allen, Ed, and John, but my problems were less about logistics and more about Loki’s motives at various points, which I thought were pretty muddled. That sort of character inconsistency will bother me way more than anything technical. But overall, Thor was made a success by the charm of Chris Hemsworth. More than anything with these Marvel films, I’m just hoping for solid building blocks going into The Avengers (Joss!), and I feel like Thor delivered on that front by creating a version of the title character whom I enjoyed watching for two hours and look forward to seeing again.
On a completely different note, I want to mention a film that I saw yesterday that I am frustratingly not allowed to write a review for, due to needing to wait until its theatrical release date…which doesn’t even exist yet. This film is Perfect Sense, which plays at the Seattle International Film Festival. I can tell you that it stars Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, it’s about a mysterious plague taking over humanity that begins by taking away a person’s sense of smell, and that you should definitely forgive it that awful, atrocious, unworthy title and see it. (The film was originally called “The Last Word,” which is, I’ll grant, generic, but at least it’s not a fucking pun.) I didn’t know too much about this film going in, and I actually think that’s probably best. So, you know, silver lining to not being able to write about it—if you Seattle readers trust me and go see it, May 21st or 25th at the Egyptian. And then email me, please!
On the DVD machine (that’s right)
Recently I was in Scarecrow Video (a common occurrence) renting something for a specific piece here on the site. It happened to be a Wednesday, so I happened to be able to get another film for free. They had a display set up for films that had won awards at Cannes in previous years, and I just grabbed the first one on the shelf at eye level with me and figured it’d be worth watching. The movie turned out to be L’Enfant (The Child, 2005), by the Dardenne brothers. I’ve spoken about them before, when Allen and I did our Top 5 French Language Films, and I urged everyone to watch their incredible film Le Fils (The Son, 2002), which is devastating and affirming in ways that you can’t believe can be swept into one simple story. L’Enfant has moments that almost reach the pitch of what the Dardennes accomplished in that earlier film, but it doesn’t quite get there. Still, it’s a very good movie. It tells the story of a young couple, Bruno and Sonia, who’ve just had a baby. They live off of her unemployment benefits and some money he brings in with petty theft and schemes. We get the sense that Sonia might want more, but she’s caught up in Bruno and busy being a new mom. Then Bruno gets an idea—that the baby itself could be a source of income, if they were to sell him.
I like the Dardennes’ spare filmmaking style, with its utter lack of glamour or sheen. I’ve been interested lately in films that take place in lower-income parts of society but focus on the characters in a way that doesn’t seem like just a “wrong side of the tracks” comparison with richer pockets of life. (Maybe because this concept seems to go hand in hand with interesting female protagonists? Winter’s Bone, Fish Tank, Frozen River, Down to the Bone, My Life Without Me…that’s just the past few years, what about Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or Norma Rae or…okay this is a topic to explore on another day.) L’Enfant definitely convinced me that I need to further explore the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. It’s not an exposé about black market baby-trading. It’s a story about a messed-up guy and the girl whose world is thrown by him. To take an issue like that and explore it the way they do here defies audience expectation and tells a more resonating story than another approach could.