Monday, June 27, 2011

Dads, Superheroes and English Professors

Quick movie round-up. Before I forget. GH and I watched Beginnings before I left for Singapore. The second feature film of conceptual and graphic artist Mike Mills, Beginnings explores the relationship between a father, who comes out as gay very late in life, and his son, who is still struggling to commit himself to a woman. Cine 1.0 has a good review, by Felicia Feaster, which looks at some of the film's artistic influences. Christopher Plummer turned in a nuanced performance as the gay father Hal Fields, and Ewan McGregor submerged himself in the son Oliver. GH loved the movie for its understated and subtle depiction of human complexity. I liked it too, but found it a little unambitious.

On the way to and in Singapore, I watched three comics flicks. On SIA's Kris World entertainment system, The Green Hornet, directed by Michel Gondry, played for laughs. It turned out to be the only way to take the film seriously. Seth Rogen played the hero Britt Reid aka The Green Hornet, but Jay Chou stole the show as his sidekick Kato.

I have always loved superhero movies. They are like comfort food, romantic comedies and detective fiction: they are predictable. On my own, I watched in Plaza Singapura The X-Men: First Class. Stylish storytelling and cinematography, if it harps a little too much on the mutant versus human theme. "Mutant and proud" is a slogan for the age of Lady Gaga and her little monsters. James McAvoy traded more on his good looks than acting chops in playing Charles Xavier. Michael Fassbender did not bring enough coherence to the character of Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto. The Aryan/Jew and rich/poor dynamic between them did not get enough traction. Jennifer Lawrence gave Mystique a piercing vulnerability. Lucas Till, who played Havok, was adorable.

With RK, I watched The Green Lantern at CCK Lot 1. The attraction here, for both of us, was Ryan Reynolds, who appeared accordingly buff and semi-naked again and again in the film. He seemed to have shrunk in size from his turn in X-Men, and now looked more normal. I liked the bulkier version better. It went oddly with his boyish looks. The film was poorly scripted and directed. The best parts were when Reynolds acted goofy like his usual acting persona.

Last night, after Gay Pride day, I watched Wit, about an English professor's struggle with terminal ovarian cancer. Based on a play by Margaret Edson, directed by Mike Nichols, the movie was carried on the shoulders of Emma Thompson, who played the John Donne scholar Vivian Bearing. Thompson was compelling in her disintegration into pain and remorse. A scholar who prized academic rigor above human kindness, she learned what it felt like to be the subject of aggressive medical research for the sake of "knowledge." The irony was sharpened when the research assistant turned out to be a former student. Jonathan M. Woodward played that brash and brilliant young assistant Jason Posner with convincing brightness.

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