Thursday, September 14, 2006

new resolutions

Blogging hasn't been that good in the past few months. And I don't know why. There are tons of things I read or think everyday that I think will make a good blog-post and somehow I don't end up writing them at all or I just leave them unfinished, in fragments. So here's a decision I made. Beginning today, I will write "capsule reviews" -- small paragraphs on anything notable that I've watched, or viewed, or seen, or read. So without any further ado, here goes:

The Illusionist is the best movie I've seen this year -- the moviest, the most vivid, a movie about magic and illusions that is so magical that it reminds one how magical movies really are (or can be). Based on a short story by Steven Millhauser -- someone I intend to read soon -- it's finally about a little boy and a girl, who've been separated since childhood because, well, she's rich and he's not. The boy leaves, and returns as a famed illusionist, Eisenheim, a magician like no one Vienna has seen before and they reunite even though the girl is engaged to a cad, a rich cad. What happens then is fairly straightforward, a struggle between two lovers and the world around them, a struggle which the two lovers either win or lose, see the movie to decide for yourself. There is a moment late into the film -- stop reading now if you want to see it -- when something happens, when Eisenheim, who seems to be producing wraith-like figures, probably from beyond life, becomes a wraith himself and dissapears that is magical, probably one of the most transcendent moments on cinema. I gasped when it happened, though I'm saturated with movies. You will too.

If The Illusionist is the best movie of this year, then Hollywoodland could qualify for one of the worst, except that it is too boring to qualify for anything. The movie is based on the life of George Reeves, a man who played bit-roles in movies (in Gone with the Wind and From Here to Eternity, no less) and who became famous for playing Superman on TV in the fifties, and who later committed suicide although the movie flirts -- badly -- with the idea that he was murdered. Ben Affleck's performance is sympathetic and made me wonder whether he was drawing on his inner sense that "There for the grace of Matt Damon...". Diane Lane, who in Unfaithful, as David Edelstein memorably wrote, allowed us to gaze at the soul of her character through her eyes, gives her most stylistic performance, as a rich older woman who's infatuated with Reeves. Unfortunately Affleck and Lane and Bob Hoskins, who plays Lane's husband, are barely on scree, most of the movie involves a most boring subplot about a detective (played by Adrien Brody) trying to reconcile with his son and solving the Reeves case. Avoid Hollywoodland, just get some sleep instead.

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