Tag Archives: Movies

Up In The Air (2009)

Ryan Bingham is a “transition specialist,” a fancy corporate chess piece brought in to companies to fire employees when the boss cannot muster the decency to do it himself. He lives a life always on the move from airport to airport, surrounded by people, but unable to form a relationship with any of them. Bingham has lived the majority of his life with this lifestyle and has been content with it until two women come along and shake up his routine. One is the female version of himself and the other is his nightmare, a young woman essentially trying to eliminate his job. The first, Alex, gives Bingham a taste of what it means to see the same person more than once. The second, Natalie, exposes how callous he has become and perhaps there are things to be gained from softening up. Both open up the proverbial Pandora’s box.

SPOILERS:

Bingham was ignorantly bliss before these women came along and given the events of the third act, can you really say Bingham is a better person after meeting these two? Films do not always need a happy ending, but a dismal ending should be justified whether it is portraying harsh reality (as in Precious) or delivering a message (as in Atonement). Up In The Air is firmly a message piece since Bingham’s occupation is rather esoteric and not an accurate portrayal of reality. Indeed, the film is full of “messages,” but whether they are true or need to be told remains up for debate. Bingham does open himself up to pursue a relationship with Alex, but suffers quite severely from it. By the end, his life has come full circle: he continues to live airport to airport and remains single. The only difference is that at the end, he is unhappy with this situation. Surely, the pursuit of love requires vulnerability and the chance to get burned, but even then, the rejected comes out the other side with some amount of personal growth. In Bingham’s case, it is not clear that he has grown or learned something about life. In fact, the last scene shows a man that has grown weary of the game and has had the life force sucked out of him. He is not stronger and we have no idea if he will attempt to find another partner or if he will go back to a life of isolation. The tagline on the movie poster, claims that he is ready to make a connection, but it is unclear if he feels the same way by the end of the movie. On a larger scale, the audience is left to wonder if the suave, charming, fast-talking Bingham (played by an equally suave and charming George Clooney) cannot find love, then are the rest of us mortals doomed?

The other half of the plot in this film – the art of firing people – was more than just a plot device. Unlike the main plotline, the interludes of celebrity firings actually strengthened the film’s thesis that even under the most desperate circumstances, human interaction is craved. Whereas Bingham never required human connection for happiness, the people he fires do. They have families to support and children for whom to be role models and in a moment of personal tragedy, they need a real person to deliver the news rather than an email, a text or a virtual person 1,000 miles away. In his moment of personal tragedy, Bingham could have also used a human connection, but ironically, he could have avoided this tragedy if he had not put himself out at the mercy of another human.

Despite my dislike of the plot message, every other facet of this film was crafted with fine detail. The performances by Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were stellar. The dialogue was sharp and unforced. The directorial style was not flashy, just solid. I can see how some people are eager to throw end-of-the-year accolades at this film, but 2009 has produced stronger films with more creativity (Inglourious Basterds), more emotion (Up), and more hope (District 9).

Advertisements

Indecent Proposal (1993)

Adrian Lyne is no stranger to exploring the morals of sex. He preceded Indecent Proposal with Nine ½ Weeks and Fatal Attraction and most recently made Unfaithful. In this film, Lyne introduces the premise that everything, including everyone, can be bought for the right price. The first hour of the film, leading up to the proposal, was very well directed. It moved at a clipping pace as all the pieces fell into place and the characters became developed. We learn of the immature foundation on which Diana and David Murphy got married, their hopes and dreams, and the volatility and intensity of their love.

Certainly, the plot swirled into foolishness several times in the first hour, but we the audience allow this because we know that otherwise we cannot reach the crux of the film – the proposal. We watch unbelievingly as Diana comes at David with a knife for leaving his clothes on the floor and his shoes on the table (who puts their shoes on the table?), but two seconds later they are on the floor undressed while David’s underpants are literally on fire on the stove. This impulsive juxtaposition of violence and sex seems to happen only in the movies, but we let it slide because it is “character development.” We watch more of the naïveté of youth unfold as the Murphys buy a plot of land to build their dream house completely on loans and then get hit by the recession. We watch in disbelief as they go to Vegas to make some quick cash and actually succeed. We watch with wide-open eyes as the two of them literally make love to the money they won on a cheap off-Strip motel waterbed. We shake our heads in further disbelief as they make $25,000, half of the amount they need to settle their mortgage and then decide to continue playing and squander everything. What is most confusing is that they won all their money on craps the first day, but then lost it all playing roulette the second day. Craps has the best odds at a casino if one knows how to play, which the Murphys obviously did since they won a boatload the first day, so why would they switch to roulette which was invented only to make money off people that did not know how to play the other games?

Enter John Gage, billionaire “poonhound.” He has his eyes on Diana in a very “Pretty Woman” way. He buys her a dress and asks to borrow her from David for good luck. Finally, the film reaches its climax as he offers David a cool $1 million in exchange with one night with his wife. The couple initially rebuffs the offer, but then accepts it. The aftermath is where the story falls apart and the audience develops vehemently different opinions on the characters.

Most people love to blame Diana for the decision and its aftermath, calling her a whore. If Diana is a whore for accepting money for sex, though, David is a pimp for selling his wife. When Gage first makes the offer to the couple, there is silence in the room and it is Diana who first tells Gage to go to Hell; David corroborates. Later in bed that night, neither one can sleep and Diana urges them to talk about the proposal. Others use that as evidence that Diana wanted to sleep with Gage more than David wanted her to. However, I do believe that Diana was not lying when she said she doesn’t want to sleep with Gage, but she would for their future. She is cold to Gage the night of the deal, avoids him judiciously after the deal and even lets him see her temper when she finds out that Gage bought the property on which David and she were building their dream home. In fact, Diana stayed true to the deal and treated the one night as sex and nothing more. The two men were responsible for breaking the rules. David demanded to know what happened that night, even after they specifically agreed not to talk about it. He egged Diana on until he got what he wanted to hear. The only way the proposal could work was if both parties really were able to keep emotion out of it, jealousy on David’s part and romance on Diana’s. It is up for debate whether Diana was truly able to keep her romantic emotions separate from the business transaction, but she tried to rebuff John Gage to the best of her ability.

When John Gage first made the proposal, he said that the price would be one million dollars for one night. He never mentioned that he would buy the property that was David and Diana’s dream house. He never mentioned that he would try to buy a house, specifically going to Diana’s real estate agency. He never mentioned that he would intrude upon the citizenship class she was teaching. From the beginning, Gage was dishonest and manipulative, making what he proposed to the couple to be a very different thing from what he was planning in his head. Furthermore, on the fateful night, Gage says to Diana, “If you were mine, I wouldn’t share you with anyone.” This statement is highly unfair as it compares David to Gage while they are certainly not on the same playing field.

One issue the movie does leave unclear is why exactly Diana ends up falling for Gage. After awkwardly making her show him houses for sale (even though he had no intention of buying anything) and then conning her into looking at his own house, he tells her this terrible, sappy story about not saying “Hi” to a girl on the train when he was a teenager. Apparently this mundane story is enough to win over Diana, a fact which many people use to support the claim that Diana was attracted to him from the beginning and simply needed the opportunity to go to him.

This movie posits if one can buy people and the answer is yes, if you look like Robert Redford. It was impossible to isolate the money from the rest of John Gage. If you have money, you can certainly buy opportunities, but it takes other qualities to make someone change their opinion about you. When Indecent Proposal came out, it was (unfairly) lambasted by critics and bestowed three Razzies, but the movie got the box office public talking and the money flowing. That money may not be able to buy real emotion or a change in critical reception, but it sure does help in establishing a spot in pop culture history.

The Lindsay Lohan Filmography: #1

Mean Girls (2004)

Although Lohan is not particularly known for her commitment to the set or her stringent dogma of method acting, she has been preparing her entire life for the role of Cady Heron. A previously cute young girl get a little fame and notoriety, rises to great heights by playing her cards right and then falls hard. Trade Cady’s calculus acumen for Lindsay’s acting chops, and you have yourself a perfect parable for Lohan’s life. Unfortunately, Lohan is stuck in the part of the movie where she and everyone around her are still running around like “homeschooled jungle freaks” and lying about who’s pushing drugs on whom. Lohan has been bit by a snake and she hasn’t yet figured out how to “suck the poison out.” If only real life could have a moment as cathartic as when Cady discovered that “the limit does not exist!”

Besides the questionability of how much Lohan actually acted in this movie, it was wildly entertaining mostly due to Tina Fey’s script and the deadpan line delivery of the SNL alumni. Still, this movie did catapult Lohan out of the virginal Disney quagmire and into her first adult film. She handled the comic timing perfectly and played both the good girl and the bad girl with ease.

I guess the reason why I love Mean Girls so much is that it is so damn quotable. It is this generation’s Heathers, but instead of “What’s your damage?” we get “That’s so fetch.” The Heathers undo each other while Veronica enjoys her partial outsider status and gains the upper hand. Same goes for the Plastics and Cady. Even in real life, Winona Ryder was slated to be the next big thing, worked with a few prolific directors like Scorcese, had a high profile scandal, fell from grace and then reappeared as Spock’s mother in Star Trek this year. Lohan, also destined for great things, worked with Robert Altman, went to rehab countless number of times, but refuses to go away so she cannot resurface as anything. At this point, Lohan looks so haggard that she could have gotten the role of Spock’s grandmother.

Apart from Lohan, Mean Girls was an accurate yet scathing review of life in American high schools. Fey managed to capture the cliquey nature of high school. The one thing she has exaggerated though, is the ubiquity of the Plastics. In normal high school, if you don’t live in girl world, you are not even aware that the Plastics exist. All the cliques overlap and they all share the same basic structure. People often make their own group of friends that they share something in common with and this gets miscategorized as a clique. Every clique has its own queen bee and it is quite possible for there to be no top clique. Too much emphasis was placed on making the Plastics special, but as the movie ended, it became evident that every group had their own mean girls and their own niche of drama.

——————————————————————————–

This concludes my survey of Lindsay Lohan’s filmography. There was her childhood cheesy phase, her young adult phase of interesting choices and her current phase of just plain disaster. Since the time this project started, Labor Pains came out and it was the nonsensical train wreck we were all hoping for. A review will be coming shortly, but until then I hope Lohan can lay low and whip herself back into form.

The Lindsay Lohan Filmography, Part III

7. I Know Who Killed Me (2007) SPOILERS FOLLOW (but if you have not seen it by now, I doubt you will seek it out)

Why isn’t this the lowest ranked movie on the list, you ask? It is the epitome of high camp without even trying to be and that folks, is quite impressive. This movie has it all: twins separated at birth, stigmata, color symbolism that hits you over the head with the force of a piano dropped from forty stories, creepy psychopaths, missing digits, good v. evil, rich v. poor, roses EVERYWHERE, and Lohan as a “dancer.” The screenwriter must have just gotten out of third period AP Literature and decided that he would try his hand at the art of symbolism, but then realized that people may not get it, so he would have to tone down the subtlety a little bit. The product is what one would get if one were to mix together The Bible + Law and Order: SVU + wealthy Renaissance artists’ love of indigo + a tiny dollop of Jerry Springer.

As if you needed more convincing about the brilliance of this film, allow me to point out that this is actually TWO Lohan performances in one. She gets the juicy roles of playing both Aubrey and Dakota. With those names, it is surprising they both didn’t end up as strippers. I am glad Aubrey got to grow up in privileged suburbia, so that we could witness the full range of Lohan’s skills as she goes from prim, intelligent schoolgirl Aubrey with her white blouse and black-framed glasses to trashy Dakota in her cherry red two-piece and heavy makeup. Perhaps this transformation is best exemplified when Dakota assumes Aubrey’s role and very loudly fornicates with Aubrey’s extremely chaste boyfriend. The uncomfortable face of Aubrey’s mother (played by Julia Ormond) listening from the kitchen below is fantastic. Most importantly, though, the film finally gave Lohan the opportunity to show her dedication to the craft by taking those pole-dancing lessons. Somehow, that does make the world a better place.

6. Bobby (2006)

This movie could have been brilliant; what went wrong? The main problem is that there were too many characters. The point of the film was to take a snapshot of the American political scene and more broadly the American pulse as shaped by Bobby Kennedy. That effect could have been accomplished with about half the characters that ended up being included.

Lohan’s character was actually one of the more interesting ones and Lohan showed great restraint and a real promise for being a dramatic actor. There was a glimmer of hope that Lohan could make it onto the A-list, especially after her co-stars raved about her. At this time, Lohan was a party girl, but when on set, she did her job with the utmost professionalism. She did the international award circuit and showed up looking like royalty at the Venice Film Festival. It was not until later that she hit her downward spiral. In any case, her role was one that actually should have been fleshed out as it left me sympathetic, but curious as to where life would take her next. It is certainly safe to say that Lohan is currently not a bankable lead actress, but she could still be quite good in supporting roles.

The other major problem with this film in general was the overt idealism it was trying to peddle. Bobby Kennedy, even though physically not in 99% of the scenes, was in every scene and he was a one-dimensional character. People watch movies for the conflicts, to see the resolution, to reconcile different viewpoints. Kennedy was painted in such a way that there was nothing to discuss after watching the movie. There was no point of contention. All the characters, despite coming from widely different backgrounds, felt exactly the same way. The film was well acted, but does it matter if no one bothers to remember it?

5. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

I’d say this movie marks the height of Lohan’s fame. She had just come off of Mean Girls and a fantastic appearance on SNL when she began filming for PHC. Playing Meryl Streep’s daughter, she had to dye her hair blonde and with that came the drugs, the eating disorders and the beginning of her downfall. It has been four years, but Lohan finally dyed her hair back to her natural red, so hopefully this is the sign of an upswing.

In any case, Lohan plays the daughter of Streep and niece of Lily Tomlin. A lot of talent in that family if I may say so! This film was directed by Robert Altman, whose main forte is getting the actors to talk to each other rather than getting them to talk to the camera. I was curious to see what an acclaimed director could do with Lohan. More importantly, I was interested in how Lohan would compare to the rest of the venerable cast. Admittedly, she did not have the nuance or the off-the-cuff spontaneity needed for an Altman picture, but she held her own for the most part. Additionally, she was able to showcase her singing voice as part of the radio variety show. The most promising feature of PHC was proof that Lohan can take serious dramatic roles and handle them. Furthermore, she proved both on-screen and on the publicity tour that she is capable of taking advice from those that are far more experienced than her. PHC has often been compared to a homemade rhubarb pie and Lohan knows she’s not the center, but a contributory slice – a scrumptious slice at that!

The Lindsay Lohan Filmography, Part II

In this edition of the Lindsay Lohan filmography, we have a trifecta of Disney movies. The Disney era was probably the most successful period for Lindsay with all the accumulating buzz and whatnot, but it did not always produce high-quality movies…

10. Get A Clue (2002)

I wanted to be nicer to Lohan here since she was so young, but screw that. We know perfectly well what she is capable of since The Parent Trap was all sorts of amazing and she was only twelve when she made that. Age is not her limiting factor for sure. In this movie, she plays the daughter of a wealthy journalist who is aiming to be a journalist herself. Basically, all she has to do was act like a wealthy brat who gets into other peoples’ business. It does not sound like work; rather, it sounds like the dream life of any teenager. Thus, it was shocking to me that Lohan was so unbelievable in this. The dialogue was shoddy and the plot barely held together, but Lohan was unconvincing nonetheless. Perhaps, she felt too comfortable in the role, so she phoned in the performance; it was a Disney Channel production. On the other hand, it is possible that this was early enough in Lohan’s career that she did not know how to be a brat yet, although I sincerely doubt that is possible when your mom is Dina Lohan.

One remitting factor for Lohan, though, is that her character’s actions make little sense as written. She tells her father what she has done, which is pretty horrible when you think about it, and her father leads her to believe that such meddling is appropriate for someone her age. Consequently, she feels no remorse for embarrassing her teachers, potentially putting him in danger, and generally breaking the rules of decorum that would be found at any school grounded in reality.

9. Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)

As it was her last movie for Disney, you could tell Lohan was just itching to leave that phase of her life behind. Looking back, I bet she would much rather have her Disneyfied career rather than the one she has now, but there is something to be said for breaking out of Disney’s shadow. You know you are beyond Disney’s target when they have to digitally reduce your boobs for a movie (as was done for Lohan here). It seems that the bigger the cash cow you are for Disney, the harder you fall when you leave. Take Spears v. Aguilera and Lohan v. Duff as examples. If the pattern holds trues, Miley Cyrus has a few rough years ahead of her.

Despite taking this role to fulfill contract obligations, Lohan was actually pretty good in Herbie. She showed the tomboyish drive of her racer and stayed consistent with her character throughout the film. The plot is most likely exactly what you would expect it to be from a racing movie. Lohan’s car is the underdog, but she works hard and puts up a fight against Matt Dillon, who is up to all kinds of no-good shenanigans. And as if that was not cliché enough, Lohan must do all of this against the wishes of her father, played by Matt Dillon. When watching a Disney movie, though, one must expect the clichés. In fact, it would be quite the unpleasant surprise if you were to pick up a Disney movie and not get the clichéd plot twists and happy ending you were expecting. So, in short, Herbie had nothing surprising, but nothing bad either.

8. Life-Size (2000)

Ah, a younger, more innocent time in Lohan’s life where she could cry and it would still feel genuine.  Lohan plays a child who has recently lost her mother and desperately wants to bring her back. Instead, she brings a doll that looks like Tyra Banks to life. The rest of the plot follows a traditional trajectory where the doll serves as a catalyst for Lohan’s self discovery and then disappears to re-establish the status quo.

The problem with this movie lies not with Lohan, who was quite charming and spunky, but with Banks who is a terrible actress. Tyra Banks as she is now is a very scary-looking woman, especially when she “smiles with her eyes.” Well, Banks in 2000 was not as scary-looking, but said equally ridiculous things in that gentle, but patronizing tone of voice. It’s the same one she uses in ANTM when she starts her “Two beautiful girls stand before me…” speech. Being the surrogate mother/friend to Lohan’s half-orphan, Banks was actually justified in using that voice in this movie. Call it irrational, obvious, or both, but Banks ruined this movie for me.

Part I

The Lindsday Lohan Filmography, Part I

The Lindsay Lohan Filmography

Now that Lohan’s film career has come to a screeching halt and she is contemplating full-time modeling, it seems like a good time to examine her filmography. Counting down from my least favorite to the best:


13. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)

This high school melodrama was painful to watch, mostly because of the aural atrocities imposed throughout. Also, the costuming was all sorts of ridiculous. I am not sure if anyone wears day-glo orange, nor should they. Honestly, I don’t even remember the plot, but it seemed like it was trying to be a rehash of Clueless, except without any of the wit.

12. Just My Luck (2006)

This was Lohan’s first “grown-up” film where we were supposed to believe she could hold down a job. She cannot. Perhaps her level of immaturity in real life transcended onto screen, because the entire time I could not figure out why this child was running around New York by herself. In fact, this movie was even worse than New York Minute in which the Olsen Twins also ran around New York on their own. However, in that film, the girls acted their age for the most part and their hi-jinks were age appropriate whereas Lohan was horribly miscast in this movie as a career professional at the ripe old age of 20. I, however, am very eager to see what Kristen Bell does with When In Rome, yet another movie involving magic, luck and romantic entanglements.

11. Chapter 27 (2007)

Neither Lohan nor Leto could save this film. Admittedly, Lohan played her role as an innocent Lennon fan that becomes increasingly freaked out by Leto’s Lennon stalker perfectly. However, she was in the film for a maximum of five minutes. The rest of this arduous film was filled with Leto rambling to himself and battling some inner demon speaking to him. The character of Mark David Chapman must be fascinating, I am sure, but inner psychopathology never translates well to screen. All the good psychiatric conditions portrayed on film have had some outward manifestation such as John Nash’s writings on the wall and imaginary friends or crazy in the form of Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. In fact, in Girl, Interrupted, Jolie’s flashy role is the only one anyone can understand and Winona Ryder’s borderline condition seems quite innocuous in comparison. This is not to say that Chapman’s brand of schizophrenia or Ryder’s borderline personality disorder are any less important than the other conditions; they are just not suitable film. Thus, it is not that Lohan or Leto were particularly bad in this film; they were just in a film that never should have been made.

Part II

Changeling (2008)

Changeling has a 142 minute run time and I still can’t find anything substantial to say about this movie…except does anyone else find the name of this movie awkward when the “The” is dropped? Also, why did the guy from Burn Notice have an accent in this movie? It sounded like a Southern drawl. So as not to leave my legions of readers (legions I say!) hot and dry, I give you the following conversation.

A: I watched Changeling last night.

M: That movie does not interest me in the least

A: I knew you were going to say that, but you are justified this time. It was pretty boring and too long.

M: What can I say, I am predictable.

A: And Angelina was not good.

M: Is that Clint Eastwood directed?

A: Yes.

M: Yeah, the impression I got was that her part mostly consisted of her screaming “Where’s my child!”

A: Yes. If I had the patience to watch it again, I would count how many times she screamed “my son.” It would give Michael from Lost a run for his money

M: haha. “WAAAAALLLLLLLTTTTTTT!”

A: Know what’s funny? The kid’s name in this movie is Walter.

M: Oh god, so much synchronocity!

I will say one last thing. Angelina is truly at her best when she plays crazy (Girl, Interrupted) or sexy badass (Wanted, Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sky Captain, Gone in 60 Seconds, etc), which bodes very well for the upcoming Edwin A. Salt. Angelina is by no stretch of the imagination an ordinary woman and I honestly don’t think she has the acting chops to make me believe she is.