Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Slate's David Edelstein calls Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the best movie he's seen in a decade. While that may be debatable, Sunshine is definitely one of the best movies of this year. Charlie Kauffman's wondrous screenplay is romantic and literally cerebral, in that it takes place entirely inside it's protagonist's head.

Readers all over are divided on what Eternal is really about. On one hand, it's about second chances, on the other, about the inevitability of fate. (Joel and Clementine are fated to meet, just as Howard and his receptonist are doomed to their own unequal relationship). It's also about love, the way that things about loved ones that seem so lovable at first get so maddenning later. And then, more than anything else, the movie is about memories. As his memories of Clementine are being erased, Joel realizes how precious they are. (An interesting article in Slatetalks about the neurophysical aspect.)

The movie is absolutely rivetting, laceratingly funny in parts and sometimes (well, thrice, to be precise) heartbreakingly moving. In marvellously poignant moment, the last memory of Clementine that is erased is actually the first, the one where they met. Winslet and Carrey are breathtaking here; savoring their first meeting and their ultimate parting at the same time in the movie's beautiful tour de force. Amazing!!!

Friday, April 23, 2004

An actor called Steve Sandvoss is the saving grace of Latter Days (2003), an extremely mediocre film, written and directed by C. Jay Cox, who seems to have written the screenplay by simply by reaching out into a bag full of Hollywood cliches and randomly choosing one. The story is the ultimate gay fantasy, the party-boy who seduces the cute Mormon missionary and then falls in love with him. And the cliches: there's the standard 50 buck bet, a fag hag who also happens to be a hip African-American, the obligatory sex-scene followed by a string of heart-tugging after-bed talk - need I say more?That, in itself, wouldn't be so bad. A standard romantic comedy, gay or straight, must be based on fantasy. The infuriating thing about Latter Days is that it pretends to be something it's not - a movie about the travails of gay Mormons.

It's not a bad movie, really. Cox's jokes are good, even if it makes all the characters sound the same. And Jacqueline Bisset, Wesley Ramsey, and Rebekah Johnson give pleasing performances, even in roles that scream caricature. It is Sandvoss, however, as the missionary Aaron, who gives the film it's spine. As the confused Mormon, he plays a card-board character with such sweetness and grace that it's impossible not to be moved at times. Consider one such scene where he consoles the distraught Bisset (in one of the film's many highly improbable coincidences) who's just pulled the plug on her ailing boyfriend. He elevates lines lines that seem pulled straight from the pages of a Hallmark greeting card, to something sublime, even profound.

Part of the pleasure of watching the movie came from the audience which consisted mostly of gay men. Somehow this is a movie that cries out to be watched in such company. The jokes seem ten times funnier and the movie rises up a notch from ordinary to fun!!