Monday, February 08, 2010

52 Films in 52 Weeks: You Can't Take It With You

Sadly, I've already fallen behind on my mission of watching 52 Oscar movies in 52 weeks. I'd say I'm about three weeks behind. I actually watched "You Can't Take It With You" a couple of weeks ago but never got around to posting my thoughts on it. In short, it's an entertaining movie that hasn't aged well--it was enjoyable and had very charming performances from the entire cast. What I enjoyed most was seeing Lionel Barrymore in essentially the polar opposite role he took on in "It's a Wonderful Life." Here he doesn't care about money, and in the later film that's all he cares about--and both films had the same message: no man is failure who has friends.

"You Can't Take It With You" is too slight and trifling, but worst of all, it drags and just didn't seem to want to end. It could have taken a more sprightly pace. However, if anyone's interested in remaking a best picture winner today, they should start with this one. I think it can be updated easily and effectively.

It makes me wonder how this year's Oscar nominees will fare years from now. Speaking of Oscars, I've somehow managed the feat of having seen all ten best picture nominees, practically all of them in theaters by paying real dollars! "The Blind Side" was the only one I saw via a borrowed screener. I've also seen a couple of others via screener. "The Lovely Bones" was a sad failure. I haven't read the book, but it seemed that Peter Jackson was too faithful and reverential. The "in-between" sequences were just too much, and by film's end I was rolling my eyes. Very disappointing.

Tonight I watched "A Single Man." I quite liked it, if a bit over-stylized. Still, its a very evocative and effective story of a gay man mourning the death of his longtime partner. This is an impressive debut from Tom Ford, focused and assured. The big surprise is how well he plumbs the depths of sadness and sorrow beyond just a shallow depiction. I guess it was a bit unfair of me to expect that Tom Ford would be unable to fashion something as substantial as this. It's a stylish and stylized film, yes, but it also has emotional heft beneath the film's gorgeous visuals. The film does wallow in its poetic depiction of sorrow a little too much. The film wears grief like a plush robe and never takes it off even for a moment. It could have used a change in emotional wardrobe now and then.

The performances are terrific. Colin Firth embodies grief and heartbreak beautifully and it's always a delight to see Julianne Moore. Nicholas Hoult is weirdly beguiling as an aggressively seductive student. He doesn't seem to be seducing Firth's character as much as he is pouncing on him, but Hoult and Firth have some nice moments near the end upon which the film's climax crucially depends. Matthew Goode was the one that impressed me the most. In the role of the dead lover, Goode has a character that in most films like it would essentially be hollow and beatific, but in his few scenes, Goode imbues the character with beauty and warmth. The film's best scenes involve Goode. First as he and Firth lounge at home reading, and second, the flashback to their meeting--the film's best moment. In these scenes we come to fathom the depth of George's grief. He has not only lost a lover but also the source of life's bliss and, to quote W.H. Auden, nothing now can ever come to any good. "A Single Man" really struck a chord, not just as a gay man. I think its story of loss and grief is universal and one that anyone can empathize.

I'm still doing a terrible job of updating this blog. Suffice it to say, I've actually run more than my posts the last few weeks suggest, but it's also true that I really ought to be running more. Due to a turn of events, though, I probably will have more time for both running and blogging now, and as I've been doing a lot of thinking lately it will probably be good for me to do both. We shall wait and see how well I do.

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