Posts Tagged ‘Nicole Kidman’

“Australia”: The never never far away land of magic

November 30, 2008
This tender picture is moments before Darwin isn't bombed.

This tender picture is moments before Darwin isn't bombed.

I saw four movies on Thanksgiving Day: Twilight, Quantum of Solace and Australia. Wait, isn’t that three? You might be asking yourselves. Not only is Australia as long as two movies, Baz Luhrman, the visionary director, couldn’t decide what movie he wanted to make more, so he made both of them.

On one end Australia is a fairy tale, with real and intriguing magic and lore. Full of locations with names that make you feel like you stepped into Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz, which is referenced in the movie not only through song, a silly retelling of the story and showing the actual movie but also from lifting the general plot out of Oz and grafting it onto the film; that being a group of eccentric characters travel together across a dangerous landscape so they can find themselves and beat the bad guys.

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“The Golden Compass”: Dust to Dust

December 15, 2007

The GoldenĀ Compass

The Golden Compass, based on the popular fantasy book by Philip Pullman, races forward with the utmost urgency. It wants to get to the end of the film and quickly. Full throttle it sends us to the climactic battle, or perhaps the several climactic battles. It’s the conclusion it’s betting on and in doing so forgets somewhere in between each action sequence that there’s a journey to focus on as well. Not to say that there aren’t some rousing moments or that it doesn’t get off on the right foot.

After the shaky prologue when we’re pretty much told the physical questions to every mystery the characters have to seek out the answers for during the course of the film or that along with the voice over they show you every supporting character we meet until we’re no longer taking the journey with our hero Lyra Belacqua, but we immediately become one of the adults that holds the secrets from Lyra – knowing things she won’t for sometimes half the film. And who wants to be that character in a movie? This was probably the biggest bump in the telling of Lyra’s story, it took away our chance to discover the world with her. It’s like giving you the end of The Sixth Sense at the beginning of the film in voice over.

But then the film settles in after a bit when Lyra, while hiding in a closet with her daemon, a small shape shifting animal that contains it’s human counterpart’s soul, stops a plot by The Magisterium that would have killed her Uncle Asriel, Daniel Craig playing a heretical Christopher Columbus type. But who is The Magisterium? A sneering bunch of black robed priest like people who wish to control your every action and thought. And oh, even though they cut down the supposed Catholic overtones from the book, it’s pretty obvious that Pullman has quite the beef with the Catholic Church and perhaps organized religion as a whole, but like most writers and film makers when it comes to vilifying the Church they fall on the easiest moment in history to make them look evil. The Catholic Church during the medieval era and the Inquisition. Instead of humanizing and allowing their human triats to come out, the first Magisterium we meet has the cringe inducing task of pausing dramatically before putting an evil emphasis on certain words. It’s like he’s Doctor Evil, only this isn’t a joke. Finally a villain worth our effort to hate comes into the picture, and this is the short time when the movie really thrives.

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“Margot at the Wedding”

December 9, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

Margot at the Wedding might be a hard pill for some to swallow, for others it will be exactly the type of medicine they are looking for. People expecting and wanting a comedy are going to be sorely disappointed. That isn’t to say we don’t laugh at things that happen, but set ups and punch lines aren’t given. We laugh at the characters, not because they’re embarrassing, but because they act so realistically to the events that surround them. If you take Ingmar Bergman and add a dollop of John Cassavettes you get Noah Baumbach’s newest creation which leaves the overt quirk of The Life Aquatic and the diminishing quirk of The Squid and the Whale behind for something sharper and more bare bones. It’s not so much a character study, though the character at the center of it all, Margot, could certainly use a good slap across the face, but a study of how Margot infects the lives of the people around her. Nicole Kidman is slyly manipulative as Margot, slowly creeping in for the kill, and before the characters’ know it they are buying into her innuendo and hearsay. But she doesn’t play it as evil. Margot is an insecure woman who feeds off those around her. This is the type of role I love to see Kidman tackle. Her persona is a complicated one and when she dives into more Hollywood roles those complex traits become watered down and she becomes a very small presence. In this film she’s as brilliant as any of the greats.

The occasion bringing her into the story is her sister Pauline’s wedding. I’m so happy to see Jeniffer Jason Leigh on the screen again. She’s one of those overlooked actresses who I love and who plays Pauline at once with a now knowing eye about her sister’s ways, but also as someone who wants to see the good in everyone, even her fiancee Malcolm, whose schlubbiness could only be authenticated by Jack Black. We get the idea that the two sisters parted on ill terms and are trying to make up for lost time. Saying desperately that they love each other, and wanting to believe it as they say it. When Pauline talks you understand she means it, she wants it. But what Margot wants it ultimately more complicated. You see, it’s difficult for her to not have something under her thumb. So whether she truly thinks Malcolm is right for her or not isn’t the point. Margot wants to control her sister’s life as she has in the past when we also learn that perhaps she talked Pauline away from another suitor. But Pauline knows that Margot is sick. Margot knows Margot is sick, but in the end that perhaps is an act. She would trade sympathy for love any day.

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