Posted on 4/15/06 09:57 PM
Inside Man, Lee[indent]The marketing for this movie worked: it got me to see a paint-by-numbers heist movie by promising that Spike Lee's direction would raise this above the heist genre's low-brow standards. This promise goes woefully unfulfilled. Clive Owen robs a bank. Denzel Washington tries to stop him. Jodie Foster is a "magnificent cunt." Waste of time. Sad to see Lee diluting his "Spike Lee Joint" brand.
Brick, Johnson[indent]Johnson has taken the hard-boiled world of noirs like the Maltese Falcon and Chinatown and moved it to San Clemente High School. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the teenage Sam Spade, Brick is a helluva movie. Its well written. Johnson creates his own slang for the world he creates and, with this slang and clipped dialogue, comes write up to the line of over-writing. It's well acted. This is especially true for Gordon-Levitt who proves that he has the screen presence to carry a movie as his character investigates the death of his former girlfriend and finds himself in the seedy high school underground of sex and drugs. And it's well directed. John made this movie for an astonishing $500K, but looks better than most movies made on 10 or 20 times that, proving that skill not money matters. There's one pivotal scene where Johnson hides the action from the audience and you get the sense that part of this is because the action involved was too expensive, but he takes this budget constraint and mines it for the sort of off-screen menacing tension Scott used in Alien. He makes not seeing better than seeing. He uses this creativity not only to hide things but to reveal (or rather reiterate) the baser elements of human nature as his characters spend their movie time jockeying for power and position.
[/indent] Friends with Money, Holofcenor[indent]Writer/director Holofcenor's dramatic set up is simple enough: four women friends, three with money, one without. The message is simple enough too: money doesn't solve your problems. The simplicity here is the good sort, however, and not the bad sort as it is the basis for a well written study of relationships. The acting is spot on, the direction a bit shaky for my taste (shaky has never meant realism to me: my life isn't shaky; unsteady camera work only reminds the audience that there is a person holding a camera), but the quiet world that the characters move around in looks and feels like mine. Aniston shines here as the friend without money (and a relationships) as her friends Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack glow; they plus their husbands combine to offer the best ensemble performance of the year so far.