Station Agent

The Station Agent is my new favorite movie of the year, just replacing Whale Rider that came out today on DVD. Wonderful themes of community, kindness, compassion – and just being quiet. Fin is a dwarf who inherits an old train station “house” in rural New Jersey. He cannot rid himself of the kindness of strangers. This is a celebration of the human family.

I went to an art house in Santa Monica and it was about 1/3 full. Amost everyone stayed as the credits rolled, and the folks I saw came out smiling.

In the midst of so many dark films this week, this one is full of light without being a cliche’. See it.

Singing Detective

The Singing Detective is the poor man’s version of A Beautiful Mind. Whereas A Beautiful Mind was based on the true story of John Forbes Nsh, Jr. who suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia, Robert Downey, Jr. plays a fictional (from what I can tell) paranoid /schizophrenic writer who hallucinates into song because he witnessed his mother and her lovers’ sexual misbehavior as a child. Fine acting but a really weird movie. Mel Gibson’s most unusual and creative role yet as the psychoanalyist. (That’s a compliment.)

Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders – I liked it. Good acting from Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen. If someone says that the refugees are exploited or the audience’s emotions are being unduly engaged, don’t listen. I’d give this film a chance. It covers global humanitarian disasters from 1984 to 1995 or so through the experiences of aid workers and an American woman who at first has a bleeding heart, but who then makes good on it. People who live in comfort need to see the effects of the US not banning land mines. And such. Enough moral choices on every level. Lots to talk about.

In the Cut

In the Cut proves that Meg Ryan can act in other roles besides cute ones. However, I’d really need to interview Jane Campion before I would dare to hedge a bet on what this was about. Try a female version of The Bad Lieutenant. This is not pretty, not nice and someone put curry in the apple pie. OK, Blue Velvet also comes to mind. Life under the under belly. Maybe its time to take a look at Jane Campion’s women. It’s about a lighthouse without any light except the revleation of a truth – and at that point, who cares? Maybe I will feel differently in a couple of years. Meantime, I want to go and watch Seinfeld reruns.

Runaway Jury

The Runaway Jury, based closely on a John Grisham novel, is complex and it sure got my attention. It’s about the gun lobby as much as it is about amoral – and moral – lawyers.

Sobering, moving, probably confusing at times, but I felt like I got my money’s worth. This is not the run of the mill courtroom drama.

 

Veronica Guerin

I am writing this entry in “red” and “bold” because in the amazing film, Veronica Guerin, her little car is red and she is so bold in her search for truth about the drug kings of Ireland in the mid-1990’s and her efforts, mostly post-mortem, to have the laws protecting unaccountable income confiscated. Her death caused a change in the Irish Constitution.

Cate Blanchett “is” Veronica, and this brief film, only 98 minutes, has such power that it makes you want to do everything you can to support and protect the freedom of the press – for the good of humanity.

I was sorry that on this Monday afternoon I was the only one in the theater (I saw this just after The Runaway Jury – which I don’t recommend; seeing both films back to back will wipe you out emotionally)… whereas The Runaway Jury was about 1/3 full.

Please put this one on your list.

Without a Trace

I’ve actually had some negative reactions to my positive response to this fine show… because it’s about serious crime. But as a friend of mine said, there’s a Good Shepherd quality to these FBI agents who seek out the lost. They are flawed, yes, but compassionate to others. A couple of weeks ago there was an episode with Hector Elizondo who played a priest who disappeared…he needed a liver transplant and time was running out. Try to catch this one on re-runs. He gives absolution to Jack (Anthony LaPaglia) and if you watched last season, this gesture and kindness are so meaningful. Elizondo’s priest gives up the kidney, to repair for a sin in his past. So it’s not just repentance, it’s reparation. Very useful teaching for us to contemplate. Another show whose 60 minutes fly by…

It’s November 30th and I just watched the last episode of WITHOUT A TRACE about three firefighters who thought that by doing one wrong thing they could right a bad situation for two of them. The story was so simply well-told, with the moral and ethical issues clearly defined on the one hand, yet grayed by the love of these three men for one another and their families and job as firefighters.

One of the reasons I like this show is that it isn’t so blatent about promoting the current government’s agenda (JAG and THREAT MATRIX) even though the FBI is involved. It’s about real people and a group of FBI agents (with issues that transcend electoral terms) who have their own human flaws.