Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Mansfield Fox at the Movies

Slate has two good articles on the economics of the movie industry.

Speaking of movies, here is a list of the films I saw over my Christmas break, in order of my enjoying them.

1. Munich: Spielberg's latest is well-directed and well-acted, and resists the temptation to late-reel mawkishness that has ruined his most recent work (I'm looking at you, War of the Worlds and A.I.). The plot is obviously of contemporary importance, but the September 11th/War on Terror parallels aren't crudely hammered home (again, you, War of the Worlds); the film pulls of the delicate trick of being neither didactic nor relativist about its subject matter.

2. Brokeback Mountain: The movie looks fantastic (I was going to say "fabulous", but, y'know...); the first act, which actually takes place on Brokeback Mountain, features some of the most beautiful vistas (and sheep! - who knew sheep could pack such an aesthetic wallop?) that I've ever seen. The biggest problem was the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist. Gyllenhaal cuts a more-than-faintly ridiculous figure as a cowboy (which, I suspect, is the point, but still). From his first appearance about a minute into the movie, he kept shattering my suspension of disbelief. As for the, y'know, plot: too many thoughts for a short blurb; perhaps a full post later.

3. The Ringer: It a small movie, it starts off a bit slow, and Johnny Knoxville isn't exactly the next Olivier. But the movie is sweet, and the supporting cast (a mix of character actors and real Special Olympians) are a hoot (particularly Bill Chott). I especially like that Special Olympics great Leonard Flowers (more-or-less) plays himself as a villain: try to imagine Michael Jordan doing that. Everybody's game, and seems to be having a good time. I did to. (Plus, the movie has Brian Cox, one of those actors who - like Donald Sutherland, Bob Ballaban and Abe Vigoda - makes things better just by showing up.)

4. Mother Night: I watched this on DVD this afternoon. I don't remember the Vonnegut novella on which this is based that well, but this seemed a fairly faithful rendition. Which is good and bad, since it means the movie reproduces everything that's beautiful, and maddening, about Vonnegut as a writer. Still, worth a view if you were ever a lonely, brainy teenager.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Having seen this movie, I am now more convinced than ever that the Narnia books are essentially unfilmable. With the Lord of the Rings movies, Peter Jackson could adopt a pose of faux-realism: play everything straight and hope that some combination of the coherence of Tolkien's world, sophisticated CGI effects and the audience's suspension of disbelief will prevent the movie from collapsing on itself. But how do you play the White Witch straight? Or the talking animals? Or Father Christmas? Plus, when all your leads are children, you're walking a dramaturgical tightrope. That said, it's not a bad movie. Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers work quite well (though as the Mansfield Fox I was offended that Mr. Fox looked very un-vulpine - for shame!).

6. Fun with Dick and Jane: I would rather this movie had been an ambitious failure, like The Cable Guy or And God Spoke...; instead it's just a competently made, mealy-mouthed mediocrity, not funny, not daring, neither realistic nor fanciful, neither topical nor archetypical. (The film, you can see, has brought out my inner Revelations 3:16.) Also: Fun... reportedly cost $100 million to make. Where in the world did the money go? This isn't exactly a movie laden with CGI, or elaborate action sequences, or casts of thousands. Even if you told me they paid Jim Carrey $50 million for his starring turn, I'd still be at a loss to explain how they dropped $100 million on this mess. Ahh, well... such is life.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that the above is an amazing exercise in navel-gazing, even for a blog. 1,000 apologies to everyone who slogged through it despite not really caring what movies I've been watching, or what I think of them. I'll try to keep subsequent posts on subjects of more general interest.