November is the early Oscar film rollout month, with a couple blockbusters rolled in for good measure. This November we're one blockbuster short with the push of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to summer '09.
I saw seven films theatrically this month. First, I caught up with the barely-playing Synecdoche, New York. Ever since I heard that Charlie Kaufman had made his directorial debut I was dying to see it. It didn't get the best word-of-mouth from Cannes; although a friend of mine saw it and liked it. Then it got released and did very poorly review-wise and box office-wise. I couldn't get anyone interested in seeing it with me! Hence the delay from October. During the first third-to-half of the movie I was not loving this movie... then it really began to peak my interest and even though it did, to some extent, seem to go on and on, I found it to be very funny and to contain all these little nuggets of truth. And no, I couldn't explain to you entirely what was going on, but there was enough to hold onto even in an initial mystifying viewing to say that there was really something here. I can understand anyone who would like to dismiss it and never look at it again because of it's non-traditional narrative-- I feel that way about a lot of movies that "break the rules." But this one is an exception for me-- I eagerly await the DVD release and multiple viewings in the future. And Philip Seymour Hoffman was particularly good in it.
I saw an advance of A Christmas Tale and wasn't quite as enthused as the critics. It's a string of character study and plot is kind of all of the place. Despite Denueuve's review's, the film belongs to Mathieu Amalric. I think Amalric will reach the highest international status. Which brings me to my next film: Quantum of Solace. Yes, critically maligned, but I enjoyed it. I will admit that it's a bit of a break from the series-- but I think the series needed it. I'm glad they chose to develop the Bond character for a one-shot film. And the criticism that he doesn't act like the sophisticated character that we all know and love is groundless-- he just got his "00," he's simply a thug at this point. If anything, he was TOO sophisticated in Casino Royale.
In between, saw Role Models, which was moderately funny. Wasn't one I had really planned on seeing, but it was well-reviewed, and friends wanted to see it. I think it's not a stretch to say it would be a decent rental.
Also, caught Slumdog Milionaire. I liked it a lot, but wasn't too keen on the romance-- which, after all, is ultimately the whole movie. The "gimick" worked great, however.
Milk was my Thanksgiving film. I purposefully avoided looking up Harvey Milk up on Wikipedia, so I could see how much I "didn't" know. Turns out I knew next-to-nothing. I've heard of the Twinkie defense but did not know who it refered to; and as for Milk all I knew was that he was an openly-gay San Franciso politician of some sort. The movie works well as history lesson and drama. My one beef is that it didn't delve enough into the personal life of Milk. We see his lovers but little of their ACTUAL relationship. And he seemed only interested in running for something the entire time he was on-screen. Now I know this is the movies, but this is always a pitfall for movies that take place over a long stretch of time. Solution: concentrate on a specific moment in time.
Lastly, I saw tween-flick Twilight. I have to say it was quite good. If I had a tween/teenage daughter I would be happy that (a) I could take her to a movie that didn't have any sex in it and (b) that I could sit through and enjoy. The key to its success, really though, was a brilliant eye for casting-- not just the leads, but down the line. For the next one, they need a bigger budget for effects.
On TCM, I watched The Year of Living Dangerously, which I agree with the Maltin Guide, is much more of a "mood" piece than a fully-realized feature: but good on those terms.