Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

24 July 2006

Two Movies

I am really really tired today (left over from yesterday?). Maybe it's that I didn't sleep much last night. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's slow panic setting in. I will be leaving for Florida in less than two weeks, all my earthly possessions are on a truck (how dramatic!) and tomorrow the company records Romeo & Juliet: Act II. I am actually taking care of some business every day, though, so that's good. I opened a Florida bank account. I am moving to Florida in less than two weeks. I must keep repeating it. It all seems so illogical and absurd. I am so tired and this heat is positively Hellish. I feel delirious.

So I saw Mr. M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water on Friday night and I've decided that I really like Mr. Shyamalan. The movie is—how to put it?—not exactly a good movie, but I liked it in spite of its numerous weaknesses. Like all of Shyamalan's movies, Lady is, mostly, a mystery. But this movie is really a fairy tale at heart, a sweet bedtime story run through with magic creatures and a good-and-evil morality. It believes in the future of mankind and looks forward with hope. Like I said, it has its drawback: there is a really snarky killoff of an odious film critic character late in the action that is stupid I laughed out loud, Bryce Dallas Howard's character is boring beyond belief and she mostly just shrinks in the back of a shower, but the biggest problem is the fairy tale itself, which is never shown so much as it is related by a Korean grandmother through an interpreter (her daughter and later Paul Giamatti's Mr. Heep character). Shyamalan could have shown us this tale instead of telling it to us and the picture would have been better off for it. The film is emotionally involving in spite of all of this. This is due to the artistry of Shyamalan, a wonderfully touching performance by Paul Giamatti and an absolutely gorgeous score by James Newton Howard (his score for The Village grabbed a surprise Oscar nomination a year or two ago and this one is even better).

Today I watched Franklin J. Schaffner's Nicholas and Alexandra, a kind of epic retelling of the fall of the Romanovs in the early part of the Twentieth century that is dull beyond belief. It's populated by very good performances: Irene Worth, Janet Suzman, Michael Jayston, et al. The cast also has small cameos of people you recognize but are so young you can't place them. Ian Holm appears very late in the film as a military commissar or something and has a very good part and I was stunned to see Brian Cox as Leon Trotsky. They said Olivier was in it, too, but I didn't recognize him if he was. Schaffner's direction makes the plot coherent but the characters distant. Rasputin is played by some crazy looking guy and he is neither powerful nor sexy nor engaging in anyway. I was consistently repulsed by him in every way and I found his seduction of Alexandra totally preposterous. The movie plods along, obsessing on Russian politics and showing the Tzar's failures as well as Kerensky's and Lenin's. These diversions seem unnecessary and unwanted. The film does get very interesting in the last twenty minutes but at three hours, nine minutes, Nicholas and Alexandra far more than oustays its welcome and I was so bored that by the end I really wished for their deaths.