Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year in Review--Movie Edition

It's a tradition with many of the lit bloggers to post their end-of-the-year list of books read, and I'm getting mine ready for Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!

But awhile back, I also began to keep a list of movies watched. It's not comprehensive, actually--these are just the ones I remembered to write down.  Some are good, some are duds; some are family-friendly, some aren't. Here's what I saw and what I thought it.

Schultze Gets the Blues
This is a 2009 view that I forgot to include in last year's list.  It's a subtitled film about a German miner, forced to retire early, with nothing to do but play the polka on his accordian with others in the town music league.  One day, entranced by a new type of music he hears on the radio, he begins imitating its Cajun blues sound, beginning a quest which brings him to America and ultimately the bayou, where he dies suddenly.  The film ends with his friends in Germany celebrating his life and his quest.  This is a subtle film, slow at times, sparse in dialogue, rich in imagery and moments of humor.

This is an animated kids' movie about guinea pigs on special ops missions.  The pigs are cute, but it's a pretty dumb movie. 

Madea Goes to Jail
I guess there are a bunch of "Madea" movies, but this is the only one I've seen.  The title character is a 6'5" black woman, played by a man, who is hilarious.  Though she cusses a little, she's sort of a crazy "Church Lady" character, and there are some good messages to the movie, along with a whole lot of funny moments.  Not for younger kids. 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Now this was a special movie.  Not one that I'd for sure recommend for younger kids, as several of the more colorful characters have poor morals, but the character you relate to and cheer for is the plain and deserving Miss Pettigrew. (Although Amy Adams is delicious as the delectable Delysia.) 

Anne of Green Gables
Rewatched with our younger kids. Soooo delightful. I cry every time when Matthew dies. 

My Father's Glory
Another re-watch, although we never got around to re-watching its sequel, My Mother's Castle.  Like Schultze Gets The Blues, these are subtitled and a little slow, but so well-done.  Fine for kids (that can read, of course). 

This was cute enough, about a rich girl cursed with the snout of a pig, and only true love can break the spell.

The Boys are Back
Now this was a more complex film, about a father struggling to raise his two sons after the death of his wife, their mother.  Good acting and some real moments, but overall I thought it took too long to go not that far. 

The Blind Side
Y'all saw this one, right?  If not, climb out from under your rock and get thee to a video store.  I loved the mother character played by Sandra Bullock (who won the Best Actress Oscar for this performance).  How come bossy and controlling looked so good on her?  Because she was right, perhaps, or because she's Southern?  Ah well, it gives me hope. 

The Hangover
Oh, shame and chagrin, I saw this.  Spare yourself. 

An intriguing story which plays with the line between reality and imagination.  Not just a kids' movie.

Henry Poole is Here
Another special one.  Here's why, and better than I could say it.

The Legend of 1900
This movie captured our imaginations like no other this year (though this is a 1998 film).  A baby is born and deserted on board a luxury ship reminiscent of the Titanic. He's adopted by a boilerman, who christens him "1900" for the year he is born and raises him like a son, until his death.  1900 is discovered as a piano prodigy and soon he is tuxedoed and playing piano every evening  for the ship's wealthy guests. Though he's never set a foot on land, his reputation spreads, and Jelly Roll Morton books a passage in order to challenge him to a piano duel (our absolute favorite part of the movie).  (A close second is a scene where he plays the piano during a storm, as the piano and bench glide gracefully to and fro across the pitching ballroom floor--a fabulous touch of magical realism).

The end of the movie--in which the aged boat, now a mothballed hospital ship after the World Wars, is demolished with 1900 still aboard, imprisoned by his fear of land--is disturbing, unless you realize that the character 1900 is a metaphor for the bright hopes and dreams of that new century, dashed by war and industrialization.  (Papa Rooster first saw this and it makes perfect sense of the whole film, but I just googled a bit and am amazed that so few reviewers seemed to recognize the metaphor, especially with the screenplay based on a Italian monologue called Novecento--or "Twentieth Century.")

Tim Roth plays the title character, looking ten years younger than he does in his current series Lie to Me.  The soundtrack is haunting and award-winning.  There is some bad language at the beginning in the boiler room scenes, and the ending could be disturbing for kids.  Still, such a beautiful film, visually and musically.  Our kids all loved it.

Up in the Air
This movie was a downer. George Clooney plays a businessman who's nearly racked up ten million miles with the same airline, because he travels so much.  His job?  He fires people.  He likes it, he's good at it, and he never gets involved in relationships.  But then he meets someone and takes some relational risks, which you so badly want to go right for him...but then it all goes wrong, and he's back to racking up the mileage, alone and apparently at peace again, up in the air. This movie made my own "road warrior" husband, who recognized so well the whole frequent flyer routine, cringe and shake miserably. 

Leap Year
A cute romantic comedy, in which Amy Adams hops a plane to Ireland in order to propose to her selfish boyfriend of 4 years on February 29, as allowed by an Irish tradition.  Mishaps abound, she ends up far from where he is, she hires a handsome Irish innkeeper to drive her the rest of the way...eventually dumping the loser boyfriend for those smilin' Irish eyes. 

We have friends who are Paul Giamatti fans, and we enjoyed watching this with them, but I can't recommend it for family viewing. However, if you like wine or movies about wine, this is about a trip through California vineyards, pursuing women and wine.  Sales of Pinot Noir went up 20% after its release! 

Cold Souls
Another Paul Giamatti film which raises excellent questions about what our souls really are, and what we might be apart from our souls.  Cleaner than Sideways, but too slow and philosophical for kids. 

Night at the Museum 2:  Battle of the Smithsonian
I remember enjoying this movie.  I remember Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.  Beyond that, I don't remember much. (Maybe I didn't see the whole thing.) 

What a good true-life horse story, almost as good as Seabiscuit.  It lacks the jockey/trainer/owner Depression-era drama of that movie, but the horse sure is a hero, and his owner is another strong mom that I just have to admire.  This movie had me surfing the internet for original video footage of the finish of the Belmont, one of the most amazing sports moments of all time. (Which I remember watching live as an 8-year-old!) 

Good Morning Vietnam
For some reason, I kept wanting to show my older boys this old movie.  Partly for educational reasons--to at least put the Vietnam War on their mental radar.  Partly to show them Robin Williams in his heyday, since they only know him as an old man (Night at the Museum, RV, August Rush) and they can't quite appreciate him as Mork on YouTube.  They loved it. (Some bad language, but oddly, not as bad as it struck me back in the 80's...a sad statement of how much worse things have gotten!) 

Toy Story 3
What fun!  Do you think there's still room for future sequels, with the gang broken up?  How about Woody and his new friends?  Or some way that they all are reunited?  We debated. 

How to Train Your Dragon
Oh, ho!  This one sure appealed to the Nordic blood in my children. We loved it. 

Uck.  If you enjoyed the original Sleuth, with Michael Caine as the young man, DO NOT watch this remake with him as the old man.  This version is perverted and disturbing. Uck, I say. 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I sure am glad Bantam15 remembered that he and I never got around to seeing this when it came out. And it's a good thing we watched it before we went to see #7 in the theater.  I'm afraid I would have spent most of the movie snatching at filaments of memory, trying to fill in! 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I'm glad they split the last book into two movies; so much more character development was possible in this one. A great continuation of the series. 

This intriguing movie reminded me of The Matrix in how it plays with our ideas about reality. 

Nanny McPhee Returns
Alllmmmmost as good as the first one. Missed the first one?  Nanny McPhee comes when children don't want her but need her; when they want her but don't need her, she has to go.  Emma Thompson is wonderful, as always, as the authoritative Nanny McPhee, and this sequel also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I just like, as the mother. 

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
This was good!  The main character is played by the same actor who does the voice for Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon.  What an appealing nerd. 

Four Christmases
How a selfish couple who planned on a tropical vacation end up spending Christmas with all four of their (divorced/remarried) parents and find the true value of family and relationships. Probably not okay for the whole family, but not terrible. 

Step Up 3
Upbeat dance numbers with a loose plot tying them together.  This urban, street-dance style of hip-hop was interesting and kinda cool, but overall too mechanistic--almost industrial--for my taste.  Still, a fun dance movie. 

This was sort of a James Bond movie with Angelina Jolie as the double--no, is that a triple?--agent, and the Russians as the bad guys again.  It was good.  But I hate when a film asks me to suspend disbelief too many times, and this one stretched me further than I appreciate. 

Lie to Me, Psych, Chuck
Okay, these are TV shows, not movies, and I didn't see every episode.  But these are family favorites.

How about you?  I got some great recommendations from commenters last year (Penelope, Neverwas).  Any recommendations for me?


Anonymous said...

I didnt see a lot of movies this year, but I think I saw every episode of Lie To Me. Our family loves it. We have an ongoing amature game of trying to read body language because of it.

Jen in Seattle

nroys said...

Thanks again for the great reviews. In an effort to mimic your husbands different take on 1900 that was not reflected in most reviews, I want to offer a different take on How to Train Your Dragon that was not reflected in your review.

When it comes to movies that feature symbols used in the Bible, I tend to be a little wary of recasting the symbol as friendly when it's not. The message I saw was, "hey kids, your parents are all wrong about everything they know about what's wrong with the world . . . and by the way, what's really wrong with the world is that really big dragon that consumes non-stop." Now what might THAT dragon represent?

At A Hen's Pace said...


Interesting take on it! We should get together and discuss over dinner. Aren't we overdue?


nroys said...

We were just talking about how we need to get together with you two. We'll be in contact.

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

The only movie I've seen recently that I'd really recommend was Ramona and Beezus, based loosely on the Beverly Cleary series, which I loved.

mama said...

Jeanne -

You've probably seen these both before, but over THanksgiving, our family watched "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Chitty Chity Bang Bang" and loved them both.

One thing that struck me about both these movies, is how both families prayed before eating. It wasn't a big deal at all, and I don't think they actually prayed aloud, but we saw them bow their heads.