Sunday, July 20, 2008

glutton for film

(David Mackie photo)
With the Spousal Unit away on his Manly Fishing Trip and the Resident Offspring enjoying a rare Saturday off work, the RO and I decided to indulge ourselves by not only going to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, but by going to the screening of one of the most widely anticipated block busters of the summer which had only opened the night before, and which was showing at the most insane shopping mall in the city, if not the world.

I know what you are thinking. Did I not learn from the last time I went to that mall on a Saturday? Do I have a secret death-wish or am I just a masochist in zombie's clothing? Those are all things which I kept asking myself as we headed there, but I was delighted to find that nobody (relatively speaking) goes to that mall on a beautiful summer weekend, so not only were we able to park, but we were able to shuffle into the temple of conspicuous consumption and find decent seats at the theatre.

I have to admit to being skeptical when I started hearing Oscar buzz about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. I dismissed it as mere sentimentality for a young talent prematurely demised. But to be truthful, he really did turn in a mesmerizing performance, certainly surpassing what you would expect from a comic book movie.

Some of the dialogue in the Dark Knight is pretty lame, but this is a comic book movie after all, and, as the Resident Offspring so rightly pointed out, DC Comics to boot, so this was excusable. I could not, however, get past the bat-voice. Christian Bale speaks normally when he portrays Bruce Wayne, but when he switches to his Batman persona, he adopts an annoyingly harsh stage whisper, which is bad enough, but it gets worse.

Have you ever had to wear a retainer or that plastic guard on your teeth to keep you from grinding them at night? Do you know how it makes you talk like you have a mouth full of marbles? That's what Batman sounds like. Why Batman has to wear a retainer to disguise his voice was something we could never quite figure out. I mean, he had the high tech suit and all (although not nearly as cool as Iron Man's suit), why wouldn't he use something a little more technologically advanced than a mouth-guard to dissuade voice recognition? A vocoder or something.

Griping about details aside, I really did enjoy The Dark Knight. It's not Iron Man, but it's still worth the ticket. I'm still a little stunned to admit that I have seen two comic book block busters this summer at the theatre, but one must keep an open mind.

Then, because we hadn't sat on our butts nearly enough for one day, we headed home and watched The Savages.

I recall Urban Blonde reviewing The Savages a while back and thinking that she enjoyed it far too much for such a bleak sounding film. And the subject matter is certainly not sweetness and light, dealing as it does with a brother and sister who are forced to step in to care for their alienated father, who is now suffering from dementia. Jon and Wendy certainly have enough issues trying to cope with their own fragmented lives, and they now face the burden of this additional responsibility and must struggle with what it means to be a family.

But for all the heaviness of the subject matter, this is a wonderful film. It is darkly comedic, and it is smart, and it has what is probably the most realistic portrayal of the complexities of sibling relationship that I have seen in film in a very long time. Philip Bosco is wonderfully poignant as the ailing father, and
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both outstanding as the emotionally-scarred siblings. Their characterisations are multi-faceted and completely believable. Wendy is an anxiety-ridden, struggling playwright, involved in a relationship without a future; Jon is a theatre professor who lives in semi-squalor and is about to forgo a relationship to which he cannot commit. They may be needy and dishonest and crippled, but they are also clever and witty and drawn from life. The Savage family is hugely dysfunctional, but they are still family. Personally, I have a hard time believing that they are fictional.

Do yourself a huge favour and rent this one. Better yet, buy it.


Allison said...

I just finished watching The Dark Knight and I'm so glad you said something about the voice! It was like the 80s robot voice that used to come from this knowledge computer my brother and I had as kids. Mind you the voice only ever said "Insert Card", but still, gave me the creeps.

My favourite cheesy line in the film was "The only morality in a cruel world is chance". I have yet to see Iron Man. I think I must.

bloody awful poetry said...

I must watch this Dark Knight thing. Batman has never been my favourite,but I'm not exactly going to run away screaming in the opposite direction from Christian Bale eh?
Oh totally agree with you about the voice change! I found it annoying even back when I was watching the cartoons.

Will also mostest definitely find a way to watch the Savages. Tried watching Zodiac yesterday, but people kept "visiting" us and taking advantage of my parents' hospitality (if it were my house, I'd have kicked them out) but whatever I did manage to see looked really good.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You must see Iron Man, indeed, Al. Shit blows up real good, and besides, it's Robert Downey Jr.
And oh yes, there was no shortage of cheesy lines in The Dark Knight, but somehow they suited the batmanness of the film. Ultimately I'm just glad you and your brother are not too scarred from that robot voice. You could very well have ended up as The Joker.

I don't even recall the voice change thing from the cartoons, BAP, but I was always more of a Bugs Bunny kind of girl anyway.
How rude of people to interrupt your viewing of Zodiac! Did they not realise that it boasts RD Jr, Mark Ruffalo, and your boyfriend, Jake? Some people are just plain rude.

mister anchovy said...

At risk of being annoying, I have to ask where your spousal unit went fishing? Is he by chance a fly fisher (I'm not going to assume that everybody in Calgary fly fishes)?

Strawberry Blondie said...

I'm so excited to see The Dark Knight this week! I'll definitely look out for the retainer/dental apparatus voice. That definitely would add on to the number of reasons that Iron Man is much cooler. Although, if I'm honest, I wasn't totally on board with the whole tin man flying suit and was kind of hoping the film would just have been about Robert Downey Jr. in a finely tailored Italian suit. ;)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That is an accurate assumption, Mister Anchovy, pretty much everybody in Calgary who is of the fishing persuasion is a fly fisher, and the Spousal Unit is no exception.
The place they were originally heading had far too many recent grizzly sightings for their comfort, so they shifted south, to the Crowsnest Pass area, where you can still get eaten by something large.

I actually loved the suit in Iron Man, Strawberry Blondie, not so much for its flying ability, but for the coolness factor. It really spoke to my inner 8-year-old boy. My considerably older outer woman, however, would also be very happy with RD Jr in a perfectly fitted suit.

BeckEye said...

Batman should just squeak like a bat. That would make more sense. Of course, then no one would be able to understand his pre-ass kicking one liners.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have to agree, Beckeye, I wanted to see more use of echolocation in the movie. It's a highly underrated tool.


I have yet to see Iron Man nor have I braved the crowds for The Dark Knight. And while you may have found parking in my most hated mall when you went to the movie, when we went there much later (9:30pm) to pick up the oldest it was a frickin' zoo. Did you guys go during the day?

I "enjoyed" the Savages because the S.O. and I will never have to look after aging parents. I recommend estrangement for those very reasons alone. Ha!

When are we going to see Mamma Mia? If only because I picture us singing ABBA songs at the top of our lungs and throwing popcorn at people who scorn us.

JustRun said...

You are right on about the voice. Oh my gosh, something about that just didnt' feel right.

And I agree, I wondered about the Heath Ledger talk, but he was so very good.

AND, The Savages was one of the best "small" films I've seen, I think, in years.

You and I could definitely watch movies together.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Who would DARE scorn us as we belt out ABBA tunes, Urban Blonde? Only the very brave or the very foolish.
We went to the 3:00 showing and I highly recommend hitting that mall while everyone else is still at the beach.

We could, Justrun! We would be out own little mutual admiration moving watching society. And we would congratulate each other on our good taste.

Anonymous said...

I love that you cited my thoughts on Marvel vs DC!

mister anchovy said...

hmmmm. It happens that if I could build a trout stream right here near where I live, it would look a lot like the Crowsnest. I'm very fond of that river. A couple years ago, I was more or less chased off the river by a black bear (in the TU section). It seems I was in his berry patch and he wasn't amused. The same trip, I was off on some stretch by myself and I saw fresh tracks from a Big cat, right beside the river. As it happens, I have done some flyfishing in grizzly country as well, mostly in SE BC, but also in Yellowstone country, but we haven't encountered any of the big bears. I think that's a good thing, even though it would be very interesting to SEE one in the wild. My friend K, who lives in Idaho and writes about all things fly fishing, always writes in his books that you should never go into grizzly country with less than three people. One year we were fishing some streams in Wyoming, and I asked him about that. He said, "Anchovy, just remember, you don't have to outrun the bear...just your slowest friend. Har!

I hope your guy has a great trip. By the way, we saw Iron Man tonight, and we both really enjoyed it. Mr. Downey Jr. was perfectly cast.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

RO: your thoughts are always imminently citable.

Mister Anchovy: you have fished some diverse areas, and you and the Spousal Unit could certainly swap fly fishing and encounters in the wild stories. You certainly need your wits about you in those parts. And a sacrificial dog or slow friend help as well.
Glad you enjoyed Iron Man - it was loads of fun, wasn't it? A perfect RD Jr vehicle.

Gifted Typist said...

I've really switched gears on the comic book flicks. There was a time when I would have said Never! But the genre has really evolved into an art form that is both entertaining and intelligent with its observations of human nature. I'm thinking Spiderman3. So yes, I will take your rec and see The Dark Knight.

And totally agree with The Savages. Loved it. Would even see it again.

Show me a someone with a totally functional family and I'll show you a liar.

Gifted Typist said...

Zoiks! Just heard on the radio that Christian Bale was arrested for assaulting his mother and sister. Hmmmm, do I want support the art of a mother-beater?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Fully functional families were made up by the Disney Corporation, Gifted.
I just heard about the arrest too, and can't think of more scummy behaviour. See the film for Heath Ledger's performance then. But yes, comic book movies are getting some respect!

Will said...

You braved the mall! Well, the Dark Knight is playing two blocks from us but we opted to wait for the masses to subside. We did stay in and take in some Phillip Seymour Hoffman for ourselves - Charlie Wilson's War, which I thought was quite brillant. Hoffman was excellent (as expected) but even Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts were top notch (and I've probably never said that before).

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I can't get past Julia Roberts' weird hair in the trailers, Will, but I think that is more my problem than hers.
I find if you go to a matinée on a beautiful weekend afternoon, you stand a better chance of not getting trampled by the hordes.

Dale said...

I haven't seen it yet but I'm thinking of the awful voice Travolta adopted in Hairspray, it grated on my nerves.

I like Shirley Mclean's answer when asked if she saw the Dark Knight. She said Heath Ledger was wonderful. The follow up question about whether he deserved an Oscar was a short and sweet 'No'.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hey, Shirley tells it like it is, Dale. I did not see Hairspray and now I have even more reason not to, so thanks for the heads up.