It can be hard to feel intimate with characters that are always in song supported by an orchestra, but the actors give compelling performances that draw the viewer closer even as some of the music pushes one away.
Life of Pi is, after Sense & Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain, more proof of cinema artist Ang Lee’s curiosity, humanity, and versatility: the film, full of expressive faces, and the strange wonders of nature, imagination, and life, recounts the story an Indian professor in Canada tells to a Canadian writer who has lived in India, an encounter of survivor and writer recommended by the professor’s uncle; and the tale hardly could be more unique and yet it is difficult to think of who would not find it entertaining.
One takes a survey of the past and present at different times, trying to ascertain merit: and here, I consider Adam’s Rib, An American in Paris, Antony and Cleopatra, Argo, Bully, The Cabin in the Woods, A Clockwork Orange, The Dark Knight Rises, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, East of Eden, Farewell My Queen, Fur, Garden State, Killer Joe, King Creole, Liberal Arts, Midnight in Paris, Notorious, Our Beloved Month of August, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Portrait of a Lady, Rosewood, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Shawshank Redemption, Silent Souls, Sparkle, Splendor in the Grass, and more.
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, the people who lived in Carthage, Texas, and knew Bernie Tiede and his friend and patron Marjorie Nugent, are presented, their testimony that of witnesses, full of fact, gossip, insight, and wit. Genuine observation is mixed with criticism and delusion.
Obviously, a film such as Pride, intended as inspiring entertainment based on a true story set in the early 1970s, arrives against a context of expectation and common disappointment and remembered excellence: it can be dismissed with inattention, or evaluated with exacting rigor.
In Gary Ross’s beautiful, funny, imaginative and intelligent film Pleasantville, a shy bookish brother who loves old television programs, especially the one set in the mythical town of Pleasantville, and his more indulgently sensual, pretty, popular sister—she chews gum, smokes cigarettes, and makes out with boys—argue over the television remote control on the weekend their divorced mother has taken a trip to be with her young boyfriend.
In Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin, a master of gesture, merriment, and pathos, a brilliant performer who became a storyteller, is the little fellow; and the little fellow’s work in a factory is attendant to automation, and he tightens screws on items on a moving assembly line, the repetition of the work rattling his nerves.
The community is both admirable and frightening. Does the observer accept their standards, or impose one’s own standards, on what he (or she) sees? The film Beasts of the Southern Wild may be the most persuasive portrait of sublime horror: a film that can inspire admiration for exile, loss, and madness is dangerous.
Both nights of Diana Ross’s Central Park performances were impressive, but in different ways: the first night was triumphant from the beginning, a confirmation of a singular woman’s great success; and as the storm approached and spread, her response—calm, informative, soothing, sensuous, dancing—was a demonstration of her assurance and strength as a woman and performer.
When Taylor and composer and teacher Pauline Oliveros perform together it does seem as if he has met his match in this white-haired, stout, tough-looking lady (she has a black belt in karate), as Pauline Oliveros plays an elegant and expensive large black accordion (usually her instrument is specially prepared).