Some recent film round-ups, both DVD and theatrical release:
1) Fried Green Tomatoes: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Matherson. Great film in the Southern woman friendship genre (which I love about a middle-aged woman unhappy in her marriage who discovers a murder-mystery story from an old woman in a nursing home (Jessica Tandy). Film spends most the time flashing back to the 1930s, when Idgie (Mary Matherston, I think) and Ruth team up to be best friends and cause trouble in the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama. Great story, lots of fun, poignant moments.
2) Life is Beautiful : I saw this movie when it first came out but I had forgotten how funny and life-affirming it is. Roberto Benigni plays Guido, a waiter with an impeccable sense of humor and comic timing , who has the ability to turn everything into a fairy tale. He falls in love and marries his principessa , Dora, played by his real-life wife, and together they have a child, Giosue (Joshua). Guido is Jewish and is arrested on Joshua's fifth birthday and taken, along with his son and brother, to a concentration camp; Dora follows them, unwilling to be left behind to wait for their return. To make the experience pliable for Joshua, Guido tells him that the camp is one big game and the first to earn 1,000 points gets a real tank as a prize. It's a wonderful, touching story about family and faith and the first half is really, really funny. Winner of 3 1998 Oscars.
3) The Producers : Saw the musical last year, and loved it. Very funny. The movie? Not quite as funny--some songs are cut ("The King of Broadway", "Where Did We Go Right?", and "Springtime for Hitler" is cut down substantially), and Matthew Broderick's Leo seemed a bit too tightly-wired in the beginning to be truly funny...itdefinitely felt like he was acting in the beginning. Nathan Lane does a fine job, as does Robert Bart (George on D.H.) and Uma Thurman. It's a good movie but it's not as good as, say, last year's Phantom (which I LOVED) or 2003's Chicago . It just screams "this is a musical that has been filmed exactly from the stage version"--even the costumes are the same, and no material's been added or changed, just deleted. It often feels like it's the stage version just held outside. But I will say the exterior shorts of old-time NY are nice, especially the ones in Central Park.
Note on the Oscars: alas, for long time readers of my blog, I do not know if I will be able to make my long-time Oscar predictions this year, simply because I haven't seen any of the films nominated. Out of the 10 Golden Globe nominees for best picture, I had seen one ( The Producers )> I have ZERO intention of seeing Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, or Munich. They are all downers that either have moral values I am intensely disposed against or portray America and American politics as dark and shady, or that the war on terror is all relative, or whatever. These are thigns I do not agree with implicitly, therefore I will not spend $6.50 to see these films. I will, however, see Walk the Line probably this week. That actually looks good.