Monday, June 1, 2009

DJG / One Gold Film - One Groan Film

Doubt * * * * *
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley / 2008

“The dragon is hungry.”

In grade school I learned to differentiate the words “principal” and “principle” by the “pal”. As in, “The Principal of the school is my pal.” Still, the principal at my school, though she was very nice, intimidated me. Though, my personal history shows that most anyone in position of authority intimidates me slightly. Now, I never went to Catholic school but nuns in general have always carried an air of intimidation. Though, nothing in comparison to what Meryl Streep creates in the monster as head principal nun trying her best to get to the principles at hand with the head pastor (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), even if she must dig holes for everyone to lay (or lie) within, in last year’s fantastic “Doubt.”

I had my errrr…doubts?…upon heading up to the theater to see “Doubt”. The trailer showed me all I needed to see and my early perceptions were heavy-handed with top-rung-top-lung acting from Streep, Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. Plus, I wasn’t really in the mood for another tale of religious scandal and race, of-the-moment topics that seem to be either over-killed or skimmed-over at the theater. It turns out that I needed to let the awards season simmer and enter the film six months later with nothing more than a Sunday afternoon of no expectations. I was thoroughly surprised and thoroughly engaged by “Doubt”, even as it continues to chew on my insides 24 hours later. This movie is certified GOLD.

I doubt I need to explain much about “Doubt” and quite honestly I’d rather allow new viewers to enter without expectations. However, I will say that “Doubt” is one of the finer written, directed, photographed and played films of last year. And more than any, it will give you everything without giving anything completely away. Rather, you will leave looking close at the pieces from all matters and sides of principle. –djg

Eagle vs. Shark * *
Directed by: Taika Waititi / 2007

Just say NO to New Zealand’s “Napoleon Dynamite”...

2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite” was quite the gut-buster for me. I’m not bitter by how far the film stretched into the vernacular (even though I’m still sick of the quotes five years later!) and I’m very happy for its success, but for the most part I need a huge break from seeing it again. Perhaps I can dig farther back and say that without Wes Anderson’s great and original “Rushmore”, though definitely on the higher movie tier, there might not be the “Napoleon Dynamite” we came to know. Add to the mix many-many-many-mimicry-quirky-indie-arty comedies (“Garden State”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Juno”, every new Wes Anderson film, even the forthcoming “Away We Go”) of the past 5+ years that share tricked-out similarities and I’m starting to “get” them as the hand-scrawled predictable promotional materials drip off the press and the trailers blah me to their eccentrically* populated cores. Though, I liked the aforementioned samey-so-so films… especially anything Wes Anderson cranks out even though he is wearing himself a little too thin…simply put, “Eagle vs. Shark” is a total GROAN. And I think I need an even longer break before I watch “Napoleon Dynamite” again. Despite my bickers, and however sickly so, I am inspired to revisit Todd Solondz’s insanely original and at times repulsive work. However, that is another movie ballpark. -djg

*Coincidentally enough, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ECCENTRICALLY as “a: deviating from an established or usual pattern or style b: deviating from conventional or accepted usage or conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways ”.

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