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

28 October 2007

Two More for 2007

I have been fairly good here about trying to see the new 2007 releases of late. I know that if I don't do it, I'm going to be way behind by the time Oscar season starts, so I'm trying to keep on top of things even though the thesis is calling my name. I even had to go by myself on Thursday night...

Sean Penn's new movie Into the Wild is pretty great. It stars Emile Hirsch, who I am a big fan of, and features supporting work from William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker and Vince Vaughn. The way Penn has crafted the film's narrative is particularly of note. It's the story of a lone traveler, who basically goes into the Yukon Territory to commune with nature and live there by himself. How do you tell a story about a person who is all by himself for the majority of the film? The answer is of course: voice-over. But Penn (who also wrote the screenplay) has developed numerous inventive ways of avoiding the traditional (and dreaded, at least by me) voice-over. This is a cleverly filmed, beautiful odyssey of boyhood, manhood, community and principle. I respected the film a hell of a lot, but I also really enjoyed it, and found its insights very moving. Into the Wild also boasts an award-worthy performance by Hal Holbrook (an Oscar nomination should be an incredibly easy get for whoever's selling this movie to the Academy), and I was also very move by Catherine Keener's work. That woman can do no wrong. Into the Wild is a sad, contemplative, and rather long movie, but definitely worth your time.

And Wes Anderson's new movie The Darjeeling Limited is also worth your time, though it is considerably shorter. Darjeeling stars Anderson staple Owen Wilson, as well as Adrien Brody and Rushmore star Jason Schwartzman. I pretty much loved this film, and it gets better in my head the more I think about it. It's your standard Anderson fare, but this one is more a story of brotherhood than anything else. The music is fantastic, incorporating music from four old Satyajit Ray movies and four Merchant-Ivory movies as its own score. It's an intriguing move and the soundtrack gives the film a timeless quality that it wouldn't have had otherwise. As usual for Anderson, the set designs are exquisite: characters all to themselves. The performances, too, are wonderful, and beautifully created. I want to say that Adrien Brody stole the movie, but it's not really a fair statement. He emerges as the most lovable of the brothers, and the most easy to identify with, but Schwartzman and Wilson have an impossible-to-ignore effect on the movie, and I couldn't help loving all of them. A must-see.