Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Wire Season 1 Episode 10: The Cost

The Wire Season 1 Episode 10: The Cost. This episode belongs to Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) and it's a bit of a pity that it's not as strong as those that bracket it. Kima's relationship with her lover Cheryl never seemed to be particularly well-developed for me. (Maybe straight white men find it difficult to write about lesbians of color.) Even though Cheryl was given more screentime than most of the other spouses of principal players in the series, she never moved far beyond being a disapproving scold, which is unfortunate. Cheryl was a journalist in a relationship with a police officer but that was NEVER explored. Instead, the writers chose to take the baby path for these two women. I will say this choice opened up some truly interesting opportunities for Greggs but Cheryl just became more disapproving and more scolding. No matter. Greggs delivers a wonderful monologue midway through this episode in which she recounts for Cheryl and their friends over drinks the moment she knew she wanted to be real po-leese. It's well done and, yes, darkly foreshadowing of how this episode would end.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall in the Peace Garden

Ides of March

George Clooney's Ides of March is competent treatment of one of Clooney's favorite topics -- political dysfunction (see the 2003 HBO K Street series he created with Steven Soderbergh). Clooney directed and stars Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Morris, who is preparing for the Ohio Democratic Primary. Helping Morris are his campaign chief Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman)and media strategist Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling). This cynical film is about the cynical machinations of "big league"cynical politics -- in other words ... innocence is sacrificed, loyalty is dashed and heroes are brought low. The cast -- which also includes winning performances by Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Ward -- is terrific, but their considerable talents are put to the sad task of telling such a dispiriting story.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

50/50

Jonathan Levine directed The Wackness (2008), a superior small film that was only able to cover half of its estimated $6 million budget through ticket sales. Levine's 50/50 is another terrific small-ish motion picture that I'm confident will do much better. For one thing, unlike the earlier flick, 50/50 has Seth Rogen's rapscallion vulgarity to draw boorish guys into what is ostensibly a Lifetime chick flick for dudes. For another thing, the film is a study in human resilience.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of the most engagingly intelligent actors who is not a major box office draw, is Adam, a young public radio producer in Seattle who receives a cancer diagnosis that does little to change his demeanor. You see, he's so inurred to life's dissatisfactions and disappointments that when he tells his disbelieving therapist that he's at ease, you really believe him.

Rogen plays Adam's best friend and co-worker Kyle who has his own detachment issues, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays Adam's self-involved artist girlfriend. (Between her roles in this film and in The Help, Howard's 2011 has been the Year of the Bitch.)

The lovely Anna Kendrick, who was so striking in Up in the Air opposite George Clooney, is marvelous as Adam's untrained and unprepared but totally winning therapist. Kendick's scenes with Gordon-Levitt alone are worth the price of admission and are studies in wounded guardedness as romance.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moneyball

Baseball, as a sport, is so accessible and yet so rich in malleable complexity that it's easy to imagine it having been created by a Harvard dropout and called Faceball. Both the game's accessibility and complexity are on display in Bennett Miller's excellent film Moneyball. The film is based on the 2003 book by Michael Lewis, which explored a new model used by the financially disadvantage Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane to hire and field a winning team. Because the film is so layered, I chose to view it as not only an exegesis of America's favorite pastime but as a treatment of our seemingly chronic inability to let go of the familiar. Brad Pitt as Beane and Jonah Hill as Beane's Yale-educated numbers cruncher / new world visionary are truly splendid and their scenes together are finely crafted, thanks to scriptwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. One particularly terrific scene has Pitt and Hill juggling player trades so hilariously and adroitly I was reminded of the work of Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis. Lovers of baseball might not love this film, but as a motion picture, Moneyball hits a homerun ... and is blessedly free of sports cliches.

Yesterday

  Director Danny Boyle's hummably insightful morality tale, Yesterday, is a sure starmaker for amiable Hamish Patel, who plays ...