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Showing posts from February, 2010

Fish Tank

Mia strides purposefully around her Essex housing estate and fairly bleak environs. The problem is that she’s desperately short on purpose. In the first few minutes of Fish Tank, the film’s heroine stalks about in a grey hooded track suit over a black sleeveless t-shirt, something of a second skin. She summons a neighbor girl by throwing rocks her window and then leaves an expletive of a calling card with the girl’s father. She confronts a group of hostile girls and head-butts one of them with force enough to draw blood. Finally, walking along a motorway, she notices a woebegone old white horse tethered in a vacant-seeming lot, which she tries to free by pounding a rock on its lock and chain.

Those last two acts are alike in their futility and defiance. They tell us more than a little about Mia, who will clearly push back when provoked and longs to feel for or believe in something, much as the unlikely objects of her affection tend to disappoint her.

Mia’s main source of disappointment …

Shutter Island

*Spoiler alert - I give the big twist in the movie away. I like to think of it as a public service, but just so you know....

Shutter Island begins on a ferry bound for one of the Boston Harbor Islands on whose generally forbidding terrain is a hospital for the criminally insane. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is seasick and just plain afraid of all the water he sees. He joins his partner (a consistently muted Mark Ruffalo) on deck as the two U.S. marshals prepare to land on the island so they can investigate the disappearance of one of the hospitals murderous patients. As the boat lands and the two men are driven to the hospital complex, strings kick in like Bernard Hermann on way too many cups of coffee. It's the first blast of a score apparently cobbled together by old Scorsese pal Robbie Robertson, mainly from a selection of punishing twentieth-century classical music. As strings are raked to a near hysterical pitch, one expects the Atlantic to start boiling, or the walls of …

Crazy Heart

As Bad Blake says to his much younger paramour Jean Craddock while lying on her bed and picking a tune on his acoustic guitar, the best songs are the ones you’re sure you’ve heard before. So it is with Scott Cooper’s first directorial effort, Crazy Heart. There’s little new in the tale of this grizzled, bourbon-soaked country singer scuffling after long-sought success, often despite himself. But sometimes an older singer’s voice can often no longer distinguish itself so much with its overall quality as in its ability to squeeze a great deal of feeling out of a particular note.  Crazy Love is a tune we’ve heard before, but many of its notes ring resonant and true.

Certain older performers, whether through age itself, hard living, or a toll-taking combination thereof, assume an almost elemental appearance. Jeff Bridges’ Bad Blake, face deeply ravined, sunglasses over the rings and wrinkles about the pale fire of his blue-grey eyes, a snowy growth of beard over weakening chin, seems dra…