Saturday, January 03, 2009

Moving pictures

Been watching tons of movies lately. The most recent ones:

I'd been wanting to see Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, forever, and it was worth the wait. Clayton (Clooney, of course), is the "fixer" at a prestigious New York law firm. He helps clients out of little scrapes, leverages his contacts to make the firm's problems go away, and in general operates under the radar to ensure that business continues to run smoothly.

Clayton has a huge opportunity to work his magic when friend Arthur Edens (in a brilliant performance by Tom Wilkinson), one of the firm's senior partners, changes his opinion about one of the firm's major clients. Apparently, Edens becomes convinced that UNorth, a company he's been defending for 6 years in a contamination/poisoning case, was guilty all along. Edens snaps, creating a scene during a deposition and later collecting irrefutable evidence of UNorth's guilt.

While Clayton scrambles to contain the situation, UNorth's new vice president, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton - amazing), devises her own way of silencing Edens. Pretty soon, bodies start turning up. And after a life of cleaning up other people's messes, Clayton has to decide what he really stands for.

Performances are wonderful in this, and they are the primary reason to see this film (though it's not as much fun to watch Clooney "think" on screen as it is with other actors, such as Tom Hanks). The script moves along at a fairly quick clip, and I thought the majority of the action in this corporate thriller was very believable.

What I liked best about this film, though, was the way it addressed the relativity of morality in today's society. For example, Clayton has spent his life kinda on the "wrong" side. He's been paid handsomely for it, and you don't get the feeling (at the beginning of the movie, anyway) that he's lost any sleep over it. But the film begs the question - Where does one draw the line? At what point can one no longer justify one's actions, even through today's hazy lens of right and wrong? What does a lifetime of such moral tiptoeing leave you with, what sort of legacy? These are the questions that, more and more, begin to drive Clayton towards the conclusion of the film.

We also watched The Golden Compass recently. It wasn't on my short list, but it was a decent way to pass a couple of hours. The movie took more than a few liberties with the book, but I enjoyed both Nicole Kidman's performance (She is physically and technically gorgeous in this.) and the well-done special effects. Sadly, Daniel Craig was woefully under-used here, though I did LOVE seeing Sam Elliot make an appearance as Lee Scoresby. (That was a piece of perfect casting.)

Lastly, when I was sick and felt like I was going to die, I watched The Bucket List. (Appropriate, no?) Again, this movie wasn't on my list, but I chose to watch it after a glowing review from none other than my dad, who NEVER watches movies. (When I talked to him on the phone, he was all, "It was a good show. It crack me up." Even though he's been living in this country for nigh onto 40 years now, his English can still make me giggle!)

The movie, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, tells the story of two terminal cancer patients who decide to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. Smartass billionaire Edward Cole (Nicholson) and trivia-obsessed mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) find themselves sharing a room in a hospital. During the course of their treatments, the two men become friends, commiserating after being given terminal cancer diagnoses.

Edward and Carter decide to create a "bucket list," a list of all the things they want to do before checking out for good. With Edward's unlimited budget, the two men travel the world, skydive, and race expensive cars, slowly checking items off the list. Along the way, Edward and Carter forge a close friendship, learn more about themselves, and discover the joy of living each day as it comes.

Though the script is a bit maudlin, the strength of two powerhouse leads makes this an entertaining movie. (You're watching Edward Cole and Carter Chambers, but, after all, they are still Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two guys who I would jump at the chance to "hang out" with.) I laughed, I cried, I was completely emotionally manipulated. And it felt good, dangit!

More to come . . .

1 comment:

A. Boyd C. said...

I love that you're drawn to performers for their craft rather than their celebrity.

Neither Michael Clayton nor The Golden Compass ever seemed to find their audience. For Michael Clayton that's really too bad, but The Golden Compass seemed to me like a loaf of bread that wasn't quite done baking yet.

The Bucket List has almost a cult following now. Partially for its cast and partially for it's carpe diem message. It crack me up, too.