Also, I never mentioned seeing Good for the Jews, a comedy / music duo, the night before Christmas with a group of friends. The show was reasonably entertaining, albeit predictable. I suspect that the handful of non-Jews in the audience were lost much of the time. We went out for dessert at Amphora afterwards and I was disappointed that they were out of bread pudding. Overall, a fun evening.
But I was going to talk about the last few months of movies I saw in 2013.
- The Heat : There was a lot of comic potential in the story of the mismatch between Melissa McCarthy's tough Boston cop forced to work with Sandra Bullock's prim FBI agent. Unfortunately, the script gave the two actresses very little to work with and the promise was wasted. Highly disappointing
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi: An absorbing documentary about a sushi perfectionist. I was ready to go back to Tokyo just to eat at Jiro's restaurant, except I think it would also be extremely intimidating to do so. Highly recommended.
- On the Waterfront : An Oscar winner, the story revolves around a longshoreman who has to decide whether or not to expose a corrupt union. Unfortunately, it completely failed to grab me. I found the story pat and predictable and the violence excessive. Disappointing.
- The Aristocats: A cute and charming cartoon about a family of cats who need to find their way home. aided by an alley cat, after an evil butler tries to keep them from their inheritance. Awww! Beware of earworms and be prepared for extreme cuteness.
- 50 First Dates: The premise of this romantic comedy is that a man falls in love with a woman who loses her memory whenever she sleeps. The medicine is nonsense, but the story is mostly cute. I could have lived without the side plots, especially the bit about the sexually ambiguous aquarium assistant who gets covered in walrus vomit.
- The Life of Emile Zola: This Oscar-winning biopic is not especially accurate, but the inaccuracies do up the dramatic interest. For example, the restoration of Dreyfus to his position actually came a few years after Zola's death from carbon monoxide poisoning (which may have been murder). Still, it was reasonably interesting to watch, as long as you take it with a very large grain of salt.
- A Late Quartet: This was a lovely little film about a string quartet, faced with the loss of their cellist, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Most of it is about the relationships between the members of the group and about dealing with aging and redefining goals. It’s probably of less interest to younger watchers, but I really enjoyed it.
- The Way Way Back: I mostly enjoyed this movie about a boy who finds an escape from his dysfunctional family (well, mostly his mother’s boyfriend) by working at a water park. I just wish that there had been some adult in it who actually acted like an adult. Owen (played well by Sam Rockwell) takes on a mentor role to young Duncan, but he’s still a bit of an adolescent jerk, so fails to fill the bill.
- Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's: A documentary about a major New York department store could be interesting. This one focused partly on designing and installing the Christmas windows and partly on fashion designers. It would have been more effective to focus on just one of those. As it was, I found the fashion segments to be rather repetitive, possibly because I’m not ever going to spend thousands of dollars on designer shoes. What can I say? I’m more a Macy’s kind of gal.
- Monsters University: This prequel to Monsters, Inc. deals with how Mike and Sully first met and their challenges in the Scaring program in college. They join a fraternity of losers and set out to make a name for themselves. It’s pretty much standard feel-good Pixar fare – cute, clever enough, and decidedly cheery. You already know whether or not you like that.
- Fill the Void: Movies about Orthodox Jews are rarely written by members of the community and particularly rarely by women, so this Israeli film is unusual to begin with. It deals with arranging for the marriage of a young woman named Shira. When her older sister dies in childbirth, her mother decides Shira should marry her dead sister’s husband. But it’s all her decision to make. I found this very interesting, albeit a bit slow-paced. I also wish that I knew more about some of the characters, e.g. an armless aunt.
- Ben Hur: I’m not actually sure whether or not I’d seen the complete movie before, so took advantage of it being one of United’s classic movie selections on a recent international flight. There are certainly some images from the movie (e.g. the galley slaves at work, the chariot race) which are deeply engrained in popular culture. At any rate, it’s absorbing enough that I didn’t mind the length, though I thought the ending seemed rather pat.
- The Descendants: Can moviemakers please stop making movies in which somebody is in a coma? Or at least in which the mother being in a coma prompts the father to reexamine his relationship with his daughters? This felt like an episode of Oprah, not a serious movie about family and preserving traditions. This movie annoyed me on numerous levels and I suggest not wasting your time on it.
- An American in Paris: Gershwin music and Gene Kelly dancing - who could ask for anything more? The plot is clichéd, but it’s all really just an excuse for some of the best ballet ever on film. I watched this on an airplane even though I’ve seen it at least 3 or 4 times before. And I’d happily watch it again. So should you.
- Saving Mr. Banks:) I had a free movie coupon from a refund offer and this was how I chose to use it. For anybody who has been hiding under a rock for the past month or so, the story involves Walt Disney’s attempts to get P.L. Travers to sell him the movie rights for Mary Poppins. There are lots of flashbacks which show Travers growing up in Australia, with her alcoholic dreamer of a father and one can draw obvious conclusions about why she feels the way she does about her characters. She doesn’t come across as a very nice person, frankly, but I’m no fan of what Disney did to various works I care about, so I can sympathize. Emma Thompson did an excellent job, by the way. The only really issue I had is that I got infected with the Mary Poppins score as an earworm.