May 12, 2006

Oscar clean-up

Finally we're at the time of year where all the films that were up for Oscars are coming to video. So at last I can play catch up and see all those that I had meant to see in theaters. ScottE and I went to the store and rented three of them this week, and I'm happy to report that I'm not upset I waited.

First up was Muderball, the MTV Films documentary about quadraplegic rugby. There was much talk about this being a darkhorse for the Best Documentary Feature category, but I can see why it didn't win. It begins very strong, drawing you into the stories of these guys, and explaining how the sport came about, how it's played, etc. But as the movie progressed, I found that I was less and less drawn into the lives of these men. It's as if the filmmakers couldn't decide if this should be a triumphant sport movie, or a touching movie about people overcoming obstacles.

Don't get me wrong, it was pretty good, and I'm glad I saw it. But I still feel that March of the Penguins was the better film by a longshot.

Next up was Mrs. Henderson Presents, which came strongly recommended by our gay friends. This is "inspired by true events" telling the story of a widow who revitalizes a theater in London by featuring nudity, only to have it come to a crashing halt when the blitz arrives.

The movie was sweet, but a tad light on substance. It was like a good chocolate at Godiva - a delicious treat, but it won't fill you up. The main reason to watch this is Judi Dench, who is amazing as usual. I feel like I could teach a master course in acting just by showing a marathon of her movies. Also you see Bob Hoskins full-frontal naked, if that's any enticement. (What? You say it's not?)

And then last night was Memoirs of a Geisha. This is the film I had most wanted to see in theaters. After seeing it - I regret that a little bit, but not as much. It deserved all the awards it got for costumes, art direction, etc. The one thing that would have been nice on the big screen were all the lovely settings, kimonos, and so forth.

The plot started slow, got very interesting in the middle, and then dragged at the end. (Not unlike the book, as I recall - read it ages ago.) when it ended, I had that, "Really? That's it?" feeling, which is not good.

As for performances, the film is led by three women. Ziyi Zhang as Sayuri was admirable, but nothing special. I've seen her do far more compelling work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers. Her mentor Mameha is played by Michelle Yeoh, whom I adore. Heck, I've loved her since she was in that James Bond movie. As always, she's very polished, although she doesn't have a lot to work with in the script.

The real star to me was Gong Li (at right), who plays the wicked rival Hatsumomo. She is deliciously wretched, looking beautiful whether she's composed or on the verge of a breakdown. When Hatsumomo hits rock bottom, her hair is a mess, and yet she looks desperately beautiful. In summary, she kicks ass.

So overall I would say Geisha is worth renting, especially if you enjoy other films of the genre.


ScottE. said...

Murderball was a solid B+ in my view. Mrs. Henderson, I really enjoyed and of the three, found the most interesting...sure it didn't have lots of substance, and sometimes lacked some motivation for things these actors were doing/saying, I'll give it a B, with a + for effort. Geisha...started slow, had some good stuff in the middle, then I had to go to couldn't sustain me. Oh well. But it was very pretty. B.

Stef said...

I've heard very mixed reviews of Geisha. It's in my Netflix queue so I'll have to report in soon.

I've been watching a string of this winter's romantic comedies that are now out on video. Last Holiday, Rumor Has It, and Just Friends. Surprisingly, I liked the Ryan Reynolds-in-a-fat-suit movie the best! Last Holiday was cute but gave me a toothache. Queen Latifah is awesome, but the rest was just over the top. And Rumor Has It, the Jennifer Aniston/Graduate movie, is just a piece of crap. As my old Artistic Director would say, that movie was like a dog's breakfast.

DaveBearIN said...

Also you see Bob Hoskins full-frontal naked, if that's any enticement. (What? You say it's not?)

Are you kidding? In my book, Bob Hoskins full-frontal naked would be worth the price of admission, let alone what the rest of the movie is about...