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Catalogue April 5th , 2015013
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April 5th, 2015

As one gets older--and by one I really mean "me"--one's capacity for things consumed with relish in younger years diminishes. Or at least your perspective changes.
I love horror movies. I've seen some pretty extreme stuff--the more violent it is, the better.
Or at least it used to be.
I still enjoy it (when it's in the service of a truly good film) but I feel every slice, punch and impalement now.
As we go through life and gain an understanding of pain and injury our ability to be entertained by wounds being inflicted on other people qualitatively decreases.

I bring this up because I watched a really great miniseries this past week called Olive Kitteridge and I wouldn't have got as much out of it as I did if I wasn't as old as I am.
It was up for a number of awards this past year and stars Frances McDormand as the titular character--a smart women married for 40 years to a simple man named Henry (played by Richard Jenkins).
Henry
doesn't challenge her in any way. She feels stifled. Trapped. But his inherent goodness keeps her at his side. The 4 part series follows the couple as they raise their adolescent son in a small seaside community until he moves away and starts a family of his own. We watch them communicate with words that have several meanings, weighed down by the years of shared memories and disappointments. Olive is a tough woman to like. She has taken the (perceived) mediocrity of her life deep inside, turned it to anger and spews it back at the people she encounters by judging them harshly and very vocally. But you feel for her because she realizes who she is and you see these moment of clarity in small movements in Mcdormand's eyes. It's a powerful performance of subtlety that conveys both strength and fragility.

I saw The Theory Of Everything this past month and was so surprised by how much I liked it.
Bio-pics are a troublesome genre for me. They take a person's life and round off the edges both to make the story fit into 2 hours and to make the subject more simple and palatable. I don't really know the story of Stephen Hawking's life but I was riveted by this film. It seemed to portray his near-idyllic love affair with his wife with enough warts to keep it from being too saccharine. And Eddie Redmayne? Forget about it! This kid is phenomenal. He wasn't an actor portraying Hawking, he became the man! A pleasure to watch--which is incredible because Hawking's decent into the clutches of ALS is harrowing.

Similarly, I loved the film Wild. It's based on the biography of Cheryl Strayed, a woman consumed by grief who sets out alone to walk the Pacific Crest Trail (a distance of over 1,100 miles!) in an attempt to reconnect with her true self after a dark period of casual sex with strangers and intense drug addiction.
Much has been of Reese Witherspoon's performance because Strayed is so far from the goody-two-shoes or saintly characters she usually plays. She's good. Believable and compelling but the stretch does not match the same demand on craft that Redmayne's Hawking does.
Still, Wild is a great watch and I haven't forgotten a frame.

Inherent Vice, the Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) directed film is an adaptation of a novel by the enigmatic Thomas Pynchon. The reviews are split but with PTA directing and Joachim Phoenix starring, there is nothing I'm more excited for in the month of April.
We'll see if the fiction holds up as well as these last 2biography-based films did.

Thanks for reading,
Rob


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