Monday, April 16, 2007

Kathleen -- Monday Morning Review

Filling in for Deb this morning, I thought I'd mention a couple of movies in passing on the way to the one I'll review. Most recent theater experience: Blades of Glory, chosen because I needed a good laugh. I got my money's worth. Will Ferrell is hit and miss in my book. I couldn't get through Talladega Nights, and throwing in the towel on a movie is unusual for me. It was a one-trick pony, and the pony wasn't my breed. Blades is silly, too. Plenty of 6th grade boy humor. Maybe this one worked better for me because I like figure skating. You have to "get" the send-up, and I know little and care less about NASCAR. But I thought the idea of men skating as a pair--especially this pair--had great potential, and I bought right in. I loved seeing skaters like Scott Hamilton and Peggy Fleming (and lots more) get in on the spoof. So I laughed! At the end Clyde suggested we leave before the lights went up because, "Everybody's gonna be looking at us." What, I'm supposed to cover my mouth when I laugh?

Two video recommendations chosen for fun and eye candy: First Batman Begins. Wouldn't have picked it up except that my son suggested it when I told him about an idea I've been playing around with for a book. I looked it up and saw that Christian Bale was Batman. Loved him in The Prestige. I lost interest in the Batman movies long ago. Hey, I like Michael Keaton. I like Val Kilmer. I love George Clooney. None of them was my idea of Batman. Christian Bale nails it. And Liam Neeson never disappoints. Can't go wrong with Michael Caine. The Batmobile is truly cool, and Gotham City is almost a living character.

Second: Invincible. I've become a big Mark Wahlberg fan, and while this isn't the juciest part for him, it's a neat story. I love the underdog triumphs tale, especially when it's based on a true story. Wahlberg plays Vince Papale (left with the actor), the avid Philadelphia Eagles fan who tried out for the team during what was basically a publicity ploy in the 1970's and ended up earning a place on the team. It's a great feel-good story with a little romance on the side and some fun '70's props.

But here's the movie (on DVD) that most impressed me in recent weeks: Copying Beethoven. I suspect this is one you either really like or really don't. I really enjoyed it; that is to say, I was wholly absorbed in the experience, and during the BIG moment (which lasts at least 10 minutes, and, yes, you could call it orgasmic) I was quite carried away.

I love a good costume drama, and this one is that. It's early 19th century Vienna, beautiful and gritty, and the cinematography alone is worth the rental price. Then there's Ed Harris. I happen to think he's a wonderful actor partly because when I'm watching him in a movie, I'm never aware that I'm watching Ed Harris. In this one he doesn't look at all like Ed Harris, and it isn't just the hair. But more than setting and performance, I loved what this movie did with character and relationships.

Beethoven is finishing up the 9th Symphony. He's aging, sick, deaf, and very grouchy. His publisher/producer (whatever they called the guy responsible for getting the music published and played) sends a young music student named Anna to copy Beethoven's illegible scrawl into sheet music for the first performance of the new work. (Anna is fictitious, but, from what I've read, Beethoven did employ copyists and there was a female composer who was his contemporary and who tried to emulate him. It's the kind of composite character a writer can appreciate.)

What follows is the development of a relationship--mentor, partners, friends, confidants, antagonists--two people meeting on a solitary plain. This is Beauty and the Beast without sex. Unless you count getting into each other's heads. Okay, yes, maybe it's mindf---ing. Whatever it is, it works in the aforementioned orgasmic scene during which Beethoven is able to perform (conduct the 9th for the first time) only because Anna leads him on. You see, she's been told that he'll ruin the debut if he conducts--he's been routinely screwing up concerts because he can't hear--but this is his baby, his transcendent moment. And no one understands the work or the man better than Anna.

I loved the passion in this movie. It's both grand and earthy. It has a few clunky moments, too, but nothing ruinous. It's not breathtaking in scope and splendor like Amadeus, but I liked it on its own terms for the characters, the music, and its reflections on the nature of art and what it would be like to be both genius and human.

Any comments? Recommendations? Warnings?


Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Kathy-- new stuff to look forward to! I hadn't heard of the movie "Copying Beethoven," but I sure will look it up now. And I'm glad to hear you liked "Batman Begins" as much as I did. Great movie-- probably the best in the Batman series. It made Batman so plausible.

I've seen a lot of movies lately-- most of which were. . . meh. But I loved "The Painted Veil". . . a romance of a very different sort, but oddly very satisfying. And Edward Norton in all his splendor. And I adored "The Lives of Others," the German subtitled movie about the East German Stasi.

And of course, "Miss Potter," which was lovely and so "period". . . and of course a real romance with heartbreak thrown in.

Last Friday, went to "The Perfect Stranger" in which Halle Berry tried hard but had a horrible story and even less chemistry with her co-stars. And I hate seeing Bruce Willis as a bad guy. The story had plot holes big enough for the MOON to blow through without disturbing the doily on the coffee table! Why, Hollywood?

Helen Brenna said...

I've never heard of Copying Beethoven, Kathy. Sounds interesting and I love Ed Harris. You hit it when you said he's so good because you forget you're watching Ed Harris.

Has he ever been nominated for an academy award?

Funny, I liked Talladaga Nights better than Blades of Glory.

Some good suggestions, Betina!

Michele Hauf said...

I'm so glad you mentioned Copying Beethoven, Kathy! I've had my eye on renting it, but for some reason keep passing it over. Don't know why. I'm always so hungry for costume dramas. It's going on my list for my next rental.

I watched Wild Hogs at the theatre and Kinky Boots (video) this weekend.

I've heard a lot of poor reviews for Wild Hogs, but I tell you, I really enjoyed it. Just a lot of laughs. And is William Macy a comedic genius? I love that guy. He's such a chameleon.
Kinky Boots was a cute Brit story about a down-on-its-luck shoe factory. The son inherits after his father dies and realizes how in debt they are. In an effort to boost sales and moral at the factory, he gets the idea to make high-heeled sexy boots for male drag queens. It was just a cute show to watch, and made me think 'yeah, good idea that someone is taking care of the drag queens in this world. Not at all easy for those men to wobble about in women's shoes.' :-)

Ah, Christian Bale can make any movie rock.


Kathleen Eagle said...

Loved Kinky Boots. I checked that one out after Deb reviewed it here. I've thought about Wild Hogs and steered away because of the reviews, but the premise and the cast, how can it not be worth seeing? Will do. The Painted Veil has been on my list, too, but must be one of those "limited release" numbers because it hasn't reached any of my 'burban multi-plexes.

I agree heartily on Wm Macy and Edward Norton. They're both good in anything. They never overact (which I have to say Harris does once in a while).

I always come to a point in the writing where I have to avoid almost everything in the real world, but I can use movies to clear my mind for more writing. Isn't that weird?

I did send the ms in last week. I'm not celebrating because I'm still working on the last chapter. But it's done. Whew.

MsHellion said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I remember seeing something about Copying Beethoven--and then totally forgot again. *makes note this time*

I loved the Talledaga Nights as well as Blades--I think my least favorite Will Ferrell is probably Kicking & Screaming. I watched his "serious" funny movie again this weekend--"Stranger Than Fiction". Boy, do I love that movie. It appeals on every level for a writer, I's almost perfect.

I also saw The Prestige (I will need to see again, I think, to truly understand it...but I think I liked The Illusionist better, simply because it strikes me as something that COULD have happened...and The Prestige was almost too sci-fi...)--but it was good and I did like it alot.

Debra Dixon said...

Kathy-- You guys are killing me. I've now added both Copying Beethoven and The Painted Veil to my queue at NetFlix.

I thought Christian Bale nailed Batman as well. Perfect. This was the first Batman I saw in which I said, "I hope they do this again." The tone was right. The humor was right. The cast was excellent.

Has anybody seen STOMP THE YARD? Part of me wants to see it and I want someone to tell me it's worth the investment of time.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hi, mshellion!

The Prestige is a good one for watching at home. I had to review parts of it and would be willing to watch it all the way through again. Fun to watch with someone and compare notes right after ward.

I loved Stranger Than Fiction, too! As for Talledaga, I got tired of the redneck stuff--I'm tired of rednecks, actually--and Ferrell running around the race track in his whitey-tighties. The sports send-up is a good theme, and I love that Ferrell satirizes macho-ism. But for me he's a lot like Chevy Chase--really good at what he does, but it can get old. I think you buy into the venue (is that the word I want?) and it carries you along.

Interesting reflecting on the nature of humor, especially in light of the past week. I truly think the dialogue about the appeal of "shock jock" stuff has been a long time coming. Humor influences us in so many ways, "on so many levels." As does language. Fascinating!

Betina Krahn said...

Yes, Kathy-- too darn much stuff is passed off as "humor" that isn't humorous at all.

And Deb. . . Stomp the Yard was formulaic but still quite interesting to me. Funny, I went with my 64 yr old brother-in-law (and his wife, my sister! who was in ROTC in what had once been a primarily black college. Imagine my surprise when he and my sister started reminiscing about how the "Pershing Rifles" (military honorary) "Stomped the yard" with the rest of the frats on campus and really got down. Geez. Who knew. But then. . . I remembered my sis talking about their drum beats and routines. . . how stirring it all was.

So, we really liked the movie. . . the stomping was cool and the guy who played the lead was sharp and altogether believable. I'd recommend it!

Debra Dixon said...


Great! I've really wanted to see STOMP THE YARD. I'm okay with the formula plot. I just wanted to be sure there was something besides a few minutes of interesting footwork to keep me interested! I almost rented Saturday night after my workshop and didn't. Wish I had now.

lois greiman said...

Funny, I don't find Bale physically appealing, but he can play a grumpy part terribly effectively.

Saw Keeping Mum last night...a dark comedy Brit film. It keeps you wondering and I like that.

Christie Ridgway said...

Man, I feel so behind in my movie watching! I did love Batman Begins and Son 1 and his girlfriend really enjoyed Blades too.

Copying Beethoven. Making a note to rent this. The dh was a music major so he'll enjoy it, I'm sure.