Thursday, December 24, 2009

Middle-Aged Movie Maven

As we close in on the holidays, it’s likely many of you will be hitting the cineplex for entertainment. Luckily, the prospects are pretty good. Here are my two cents on the movies that have opened so far this season…

Up in the Air. This is THE movie to see this year. Not only does it have George Clooney, charming despite playing a morally repugnant character who fires people for a living, but it resonates with the country’s current financial straits and the isolation we can feel in our lives. It is pitch perfect from start to finish. The characters have chemistry and the dialogue is funny, surprising and touching. It's the best movie I’ve seen since last summer’s 500Days of Summer!

The Blind Side. A feel-good movie in the best tradition—and it’s based on a true story of a white family that took in a homeless, 6-foot plus black teenager with a sweet nature. It’s touching and engrossing. Sandra Bullock pulls off the role of a blonde Southern belle with nerves of steel. Country singer Tim McGraw does a fine job as her husband and the boy who plays their son steals the show with his antics. A definite yes (and suitable for the whole family).

Everybody’s Fine. I didn’t hate this movie as much as some reviewers; in fact, I might even venture to say I enjoyed it! It's a small, quiet film, but I thought it made some salient points about the relationship between fathers and their children and it was well-acted by Robert DeNiro, Drew Barrymore and others.

Avatar. You’ve gotta shell out the extra bucks to see this movie in 3-D because it transports you to a different world! The effects are amazing, the story is engrossing enough, and it even has a message (about community and about preserving the environment). Personally, I think it is about an hour too long (and you’ve seen the battle in the last third many times before if you’re a sci fi fan), but enjoyable for young and old.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? The reviews were horrible for this film--and well-deserved. Being the good sport and movie nut that I am, I went to see it anyway. Sarah Jessica Parker is miscast, too serious, and looks homely (WHO convinced her to go with bangs?). Hugh Grant gamely tries to carry the movie with his usual wit and charm, but isn’t given enough to do. The end result: the movie is predictable and unfunny.

On my Christmas list:
It’s Complicated with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. This one has been called “middle-aged lady porn” for its story of a tossed-aside spouse whose cheating ex-husband comes back to woo her.
Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams. Love ‘em all and this film looks like fun.
Young Victoria with Emily Blunt as the English queen of yore.
A Single Man with Colin Firth, in what sounds like a breakthrough role as a gay man who loses his partner and his will to live.
Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges, as a torn-up, run-down country singer.
Nine with Daniel Day-Lewis and a host of women. I saw the show and it wasn’t much to write home about, but I’ll see this anyway for the musical interludes. The Penelope Cruise number was a showstopper when Jane Krakowski (of 30 Rock fame) did it on Broadway.
The Lovely Bones and The Road…both sad stories. I'm on the fence about these two because of their content. I hate how the movie industry releases these "serious movies" in the dead of winter, as if we're not depressed enough already!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Feeling Like a Fraud

I just read Andre Agassi’s book “Open.” I’m a big tennis fan—I was at the US Open the day he retired and had the honor of giving him a 5-minute standing ovation as he said goodbye—and I found the book fascinating. Not so much for the tennis dirt, but more for his honesty. He says that he was forced to play tennis from a young age, subject to a well-meaning but abusive father who de-valued education and elevated tennis as the only way for him to succeed. Agassi never graduated from high school and was stuck in a career he hated because he thought it was all he could do. He had amazing talent but he says over and over again that he hated tennis. It was a lonely, scary, physically painful life.

As a result, he had a very up and down career. What was most interesting to me, though, was that his youthful rebellions—long hair, crazy loud clothes, and bad-boy style—were interpreted by the media as his personality. He says he didn’t know who he was. He certainly wasn’t this rebel everyone thought he was. Actually, he was towing the line he was told to by his father and coaches. He was wearing a hairpiece because he thought he’d be ostracized if fans and his sponsors knew he was prematurely bald. He even married actress Brooke Shields, not because he really wanted to, but because he thought it was what he was supposed to do. He was numb to his own life.

I was struck by how miserable and self-destructive he was when he seemingly had so much. Around age 30, he really screwed up by using drugs. That's when he got a second chance at tennis and out of his marriage to Shields. That’s when he committed to his career, he committed to building a school for disadvantaged kids in Las Vegas, and he committed to a real relationship with a woman he was suited to (tennis star Steffi Graf).

At first, I wondered why Agassi would admit to using crystal meth or not having a good marriage to Brooke Shields. But having read the book, I see he was on a mission to be real and authentic by telling all. The book is a cautionary tale about being too afraid to go for what you want, and about the damage that living life as a fraud can do to you.

Wow. How brave. I respect him even more.