Uptown Girls

Uptown Girls. It’s not great but I love that it makes the effort to be better than it strictly needs to be to get the job done. Like the high-energy opening setpiece, around the room and out the building to grab a taxi. Small touches like the quick cut when looking at the mirror in horror; the Road Runner cartoon playing during the break-up scene; the use of mirrors and blocking during the ballet practice; the cuts between street fights; the train reaction shot transitioning to Coney Island; the spin of the teacup echoing the spin at the beginning of the movie. It all adds up. Brittany Murphy is completely charming.

Night Moves

Night Moves. Movements of all sorts cultivate their own extremists. Part of being on that fringe is wrestling with futility. Even if you accept that you’re not able to do one huge world-changing act… you may not even be at peace with your own puny effort. Reichardt captures pretty standard thriller genre stuff with a spooky calm. The lead-up to and climax at the dam is brilliant. I love the scenes with jabs at how we’ve alienated ourselves. There are glimpses of homes with heavily landscaped backyards that imitate nature itself; leisure activities like golf in the same faux-natural environments; campgrounds where people sit in RVs and watch TV; gear stores that sell a squeaky-clean impression of interest in the outdoors; etc. Been a while since I’ve seen a character use a public library. Eisenberg is a master of sulking. He’s so good.

Man on Fire

Man on Fire. This is the beginning of my Denzel Washington self-education program, as I’ve seen embarrassingly few of his movies, and they were all a long time ago. A guilt-ridden drunk on a revenge mission. Young Dakota Fanning is impossible not to like. And her on-screen friendship with Denzel is fantastic. I really liked the lively, kind of spazzy directing. A rush of colors and cuts, zooms in and out, accelerating and coming to a halt, and how that ties in with characterization and mood. I like the work with the occasional subtitles, too. Interesting that the bullet and the St. Jude medallion come along with sobriety (like AA tokens). Also note the recurring theme of “I’m just a professional” or “I’m just doing my job.” It’s not enough. Cf. Taken, of course.

There is no such thing as tough. There is trained and untrained.