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Friday, February 17, 2006

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Some disconnected thoughts about movies...

Is it strange to get the feeling that some movies need to be seen in solitude? I don't exactly know which movies, not before I see them. The World's Fastest Indian, for instance, is a fun, lovable, effortlessly friendly film, and every family should waste an evening on it (it, and the ceremonial tossing-out of Tim Allen/Steve Martin Lite movies that will surely follow.) But having seen it by myself - an unplanned happenstance - I don't think I would have cared for it as much had I seen it with company. I don't think any sort of theory is needed on this. Being alone with the story makes it mine; perhaps it's the difference between spending a night with the girl or boy you fancy and going out with the posse. There's also that not-always-healthy tendency of mine and everyone else's to comment wittily and with great insight when surrounded by people.

Speaking of The World's Fastest Indian - I love typing that title - even after seeing Capote, Anthony Hopkins's turn as Burt Munro is my favorite lead performance this year (Heath Ledger would probably come in second.) Of all the things he is in the movie - a child, a teacher, a lover, a genius, a stubborn old fool - he is virtually never Anthony Hopkins. The transformation is almost entirely internal, free of make-up, costume, and other crutches. Even his down-under accent is natural. See, I just know someone would've done the fava bean line had I seen this with other people. And thanks to Hokpins's mastery, I would have probably said, "Huh? What are you talking about?"

Another great Old Fart performance - John Wayne in The Shootist (yes, I only just saw it). Frankly, I had always found his chubby, tired figure something less than imposing. In this role, however, that's a requirement. There's great strength and courage in the way he and Jimmy Stewart play people as close to all the pains of life after seventy - including death - as they themselves were off the screen.

One more thing that stayed with me - in John Frankenheimer's tight, paranoid, no-nonsense political thriller Seven Days in May, a film propped up in broomstick-up-the-ass fashion with stern-faced Burt Lancasters and Kirk Douglases, one person drifts and waltzes through with feminist independence and motherly concern over boys with toy guns: a strong, mature, stunning Ava Gardner. She is quite possible the only character not in uniform, and it's food for thought that her minor troubles with booze and men seem more dramatic than the nuclear holocaust and fascist threats in the main plot. This is no put-down of Rod Serling's, Frankenheimer's, and other guys' job in this fine flick (it and Seconds are no worse, and often better, than The Manchurian Candidate). It's a Valentine's Day love-note to Ava. I like you, do you like me? [] Yes [] No

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