Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tis the season to be…Dysfunctional!

I am sure most of you have perfectly lovely families and are on the verge of having the best Christmas EVER! Beautifully wrapped presents, sparkling and meaningful conversations and delicious foods made with care. Ahhhhhh, the glory of the holidays! But for the rest of us, I thought I would suggest some great films that make us glad for the families we have. You think your family is dysfunctional!? Watch these films and you will be glad to be with your family over the holidays!

Grey Gardens (DVD): Money doesn’t matter where dysfunction is involved! Edith and “Little Edie" Beale, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. Whether you watch the 1975 documentary of the actual Beales or the 2009 movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, this is dysfunction at its entertaining best!

Ordinary People (DVD): A young Timothy Hutton plays Conrad, the son of Calvin and Beth Jarrett, two of the most disconnected parents you’ll ever see. Conrad was involved in an accident which caused his brother’s death leaving him with various mental disorders stemming from the event. Both parents clearly loved their other son more and in a way resent Conrad for still being alive. Instead of properly grieving, they shut off their emotions and act as if everything is normal.

The Ref (DVD): Anything with Denis Leary in it is pretty unorthodox, isn't it? Well, add to the mix a bumbling thief, a married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) who can't stand each other, and a hostage situation on Christmas Eve and you get the most dysfunctional Christmas film of all time.

Royal Tenenbaums (DVD): Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum are the separated parents of two sons and an adopted daughter. Richie (Luke Wilson) is a tennis playing artist who has an affinity for hawks, Chas (Ben Stiller) is a paranoid father of two who constantly thinks death is at his door, and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a playwright with a missing finger, and a secret smoking habit. Royal was a terrible husband and an even worse father, so how does he make it up to his family? He lies about having cancer to try and reconnect with his family. Dysfunction with a capital D (One of my favorite films! Oh so amusing!)

May your days be merry and bright….and all your family events NOT be like the ones in these films! Happy holidays!

Friday, December 04, 2009

For Your Holiday Viewing Pleasure

The National Board of Review has just announced its film awards for the year, kicking off the film frenzy that leads up to the Academy Awards in March (Sunday, March 7th). Leading the charge are several films that will get wider release over the Christmas holidays. The National Board gave the top film prize to Up in the Air with its star, George Clooney named as Best Actor (which he co-shared with Morgan Freeman for Invictus). It also won best adapted screenplay and Anna Kendrick won for best supporting actress.
Best director went to Invictus director, Clint Eastwood. I have heard nothing but glowing reviews for the film, An Education, and its star Carey Mulligan took best actress award. Woody Harrelson won best supporting actor for The Messenger (he plays a captain who is given the job of informing the families of fallen soldiers.)
Rounding out the awards are Up (currently available in HBPL Media) for best animated film, The Cove (available 12/8 from HBPL Media) for best documentary and The Prophet for best foreign film.

So what should you see over the holidays?? I would put Up in the Air, An Education and Invictus at the top of your list:

Up in the Air: George Clooney take on the role of a management consultant, a harbinger of doom whose job is primarily firing people for companies that are downsizing. His work takes him around the country, helping him pursue his private goal of accumulating ten million miles in his frequent flyer account and with it, entry to an elite club. Enter a new recruit that introduces video conferencing that would ground his operation. The film is based on a novel by the same name written Walter Kirn (available at HBPL). Another indie feather in the cap of Juno director, Jason Reitman.

An Education: Based on the memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber (book not available in the US), this film follows the relationship of a sixteen year old school girl (Carey Mulligan) with a 35 year old man (Peter Sarsgaard). Carey Mulligan, who in her first major feature role is being compared by everyone with Audrey Hepburn and was the darling of this year’s film festival circuit. You think you have seen this before but this screenplay by Nick Hornby (About a Boy and High Fidelity) is a fresh, funny and moving look at a young girl's journey from innocence to experience.

Invictus: The film, based upon the non-fiction book "Playing the Enemy" by John Carlin (available at HBPL, also available under the title Invictus) follows Nelson Mandela’s ambitious plan to use the national rugby team, the Springboks -- long an embodiment of white-supremacist rule -- to grip the new South Africa as the team prepares to host the 1995 World Cup. Matt Damon plays the captain of the Springboks and Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela. One more film to add to the impressive directing career of Clint Eastwood.

So take a break from your busy holiday schedule to catch a film. Be it one of next year’s award considerations or just light holiday fare, it will take you away for a few hours. Films can make you laugh, make you cry and/or make you think.Then you can leave the dark and return to the celebrations of the season.