Thursday, January 19, 2023

My valentine to movies

I've been watching a lot of movies lately. A wide variety. Both at home and on the big screen at my local theater, and I've enjoyed every moment.

It's long been fashionable to say, "They don't make 'em like they used to." It's also incredibly lazy and elitist. For example, let's take a closer look at a popular 2022 movie that felt like a throwback to the classics I love.

Ticket to Paradise is a romantic comedy of errors starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It's lightweight, the cinematic equivalent of a candy bar -- you enjoy it while you're consuming it, but you're not really going to remember it after it's over. 

There were a ton of such movies in Hollywood's Golden Age, and Clooney and Roberts remind me of the stars of those days. They are beautiful, charismatic, and as comfortable being elegant as ridiculous. 

Clooney reminds me of Cary Grant. Exquisite in a tux, but just as winning in a wig made from a horse's tail or swinging from a railway crossing gate (I Was a Male War Bride). And both men have made aging an artform.

Julia Roberts reminds me of Jean Arthur. A clotheshorse, a designer's dream. A smart cookie, able to succeed in a man's world without sacrificing her femininity. She's just as comfortable being the beauty who inspires love poems as she is the faux mobster mall who spins tall tales with a cigarette dangling from her lips (The Whole Town's Talking).

Here are other modern movies I've seen recently that I highly recommend. Each is more consequential and thought provoking than Ticket to Paradise.

The Fabelmans. Steven Spielberg's autobiographical look back at the disintgration of a family and the birth of an artist. Someone from my movie group snarked all over it, calling it "self indulgent." I thought it was honest and intimate.

The Whale. Brendan Fraser is a morbidly obese recluse who knows his life is slipping away and wants to make his life and relationships right before he goes. Fraser is magnificent. The movie felt exploitative to me, displaying and exposing him like a freak. But Fraser transcends the tawdry and touched my heart with just his eyes.

The Banshees of Inisheren. A tiny Irish island is populated by idiosyncratic characters, including Padraic, Colm and Siobhan. One day Colm decides to end his long friendship with Padraic. No incident sparked this; Colm just decides there's more to life than listening to Padraic (who is, if we're honest, rather thick). The end of a friendship can be as heartbreaking and confusing as the end of a romance. Siobhan is Padraic's sister, and as much as she loves her brother, she knows can't help him with this. This movie has been described as a dark comedy and there were moments that made me smile, but I don't think it's funny at all. 

A Man Called Otto. I loved this little movie. A widower (Tom Hanks) concludes everyone he meets is an idiot -- neighbors (especially), store keepers, customer service at the utilities, everyone. Marisol moves in across the street and she insists he engage with her and her family, helping him see the good in life.