I haven’t had a chance to review some of the movies PJ and I have seen lately, so I thought I might catch up by composing quick reviews of them.

There Will Be Blood

Last weekend we saw There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a prospector turned oil magnate in early twentieth-century California. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this movie is amazing — it definitely lives up to its critical acclaim. Day-Lewis is a powerhouse as the increasingly vindictive and malevolent Daniel Plainview, a man of raw grit who is committed to succeeding at all costs. In the movie’s opening section, we see him injured in an accidental cave-in while prospecting in a hole in the ground. Despite his broken leg, he manages to recover a hunk of silver and literally scoot his way across the desert and back to the nearest place to sell the precious metal. Here’s the trailer:

When one of his workers dies in an oil drilling accident, Plainview adopts the man’s son as his own, using him to swindle families out of their rightful share of oil profits by casting himself as a widowed family man. When his “son” is later injured, we see both Plainview’s seeming love for the boy but also the limits of that love.

Plainview’s antagonist throughout much of the film is a local evangelical preacher, played by Paul Dano, who really should have also been nominated for an Academy Award. He’s excellent in this part, especially in the film’s climactic ending, a confrontation scene between him and Plainview.

Everything about this film is magnificent — the acting, the direction, the score, the cinematography. Overall, this film is mostly a character study. We see Plainview’s development as a kind of anti-hero. I thought Day-Lewis was mesmerizing. (A+)

Away from Her

We rented Away from Her from Netflix. I think this was the wrong week to watch this movie, since I was teaching Pal Monette’s Borrowed Time, which is also about watching a partner die. It’s just a little too much death at once. Away from Her isn’t exactly about death, but we do see Fiona Anderson, played by Julie Christie, slowly fade into Alzheimer’s disease. The first thing I will say about this movie is that Christie is one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived. She is amazing to look at. See for yourself in the trailer:

But on the whole, this movie left me wanting more. We see her fading away from the point of view of her husband, played by Gordon Pinsent, but I never really felt much about either of these characters. This is Sarah Polley’s first feature film as a director, and I think that might have been the problem. I thought that the plot seemed rushed and too elliptical. It felt more like a made-for-t.v. movie than an emotionally gripping feature film.

Just about everyone says that Christie is the favorite for this year’s Best Actress Oscar. Hers isn’t my favorite performance of the year, but she is certainly good in the film. I think this role is actually a supporting role, however. Overall, this is a good directorial debut and a solid, if not great, movie. (B-)

East Side Story

Another recent Netflix movie was East Side Story, a film about a gay Latino who is outed by his aunt. Here’s the trailer:

René Alvarado does a great job playing this man, Diego, who wants to open his own sophisticated restaurant rather than work in his grandmother’s Mexican diner. His closeted boyfriend dumps him as soon as he’s outed, but Diego’s interest quickly moves to a new neighbor, Wesley, played by Steve Callahan. Wesley and his racist partner have just purchased the house across the street, joining the ranks of gay couples who are invading the traditionally Latino neighborhood.

This movie’s examination of gentrification is interesting. I especially like that it’s not afraid to make some of the gay characters look just as bad and racist as some of the Latino characters are homophobic. Last year I loved Quinceañera. This movie covers some of the same ground, but it seems to argue that the blending of gay and Latino cultures is a good thing.

On the whole, this is a good movie. I especially liked Alvarado’s performance. He was definitely believable in portraying his character’s coming out and burgeoning love for Wesley. It’s more than a little predictable, but it follows the generic expectations of a gay romance/race relations movie well enough to be entertaining and watchable. (B+)

Cloverfield

Today we went to see Cloverfield with a friend of ours. Here’s the trailer:

We all agreed that it wasn’t very good. It’s trying to be the new Blair Witch Project — the film is shot entirely from the point of view of a character’s video camera. I’m pretty sure it’s not trying to be funny, but we couldn’t help but laugh out loud sometimes at the cheesy dialogue. One of the main characters is played by Michael Stahl-David, who is kind of hot, but on the whole this film just didn’t do anything for me. (C-)

I think this catches me up on movie reviews. I’ve decided to start “grading” the movies I review. This seems the right thing for a professor to do!

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