In short, Julie Gavras' wonderful Blame It on Fidel is wonderful and well worth your time, a very assured feature debut from the daughter of noted filmmaker Costa-Gavras.
Becoming Jane, on the other hand, is a bit of a been-there/done-that snoozefest. It pains me to say as much because I do love -- fine, fine, "Have a crush on" -- Anne Hathaway, but I dare say that even if you're the world's greatest Jane Austen fan, you might have problems with this film and find it a tad boring. I say that because, in addition to having seen it myself, I have been told as much by a few people -- and yes, they were all women -- who love, love, LOVE Jane Austen. Personally, I'm getting really tired of fictionalized biographies -- the recent Moliere has this problem as well -- that imagine their subjects' lives as being oh-so-similar to their work. There has to be a fine, albeit hazy, line between experience and written output, yet watching Moliere was just two steps away from watching a film of his play Tartuffe, and even more directly, Becoming Jane seems almost like a less-interesting adaptation of Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," especially when considering the 2005 adaptation which was quite good.
But what to do about all the other new releases this week. Good and bad, I find too many must-sees among the list; not just The Bourne Ultimatum, but also Hot Rod and Underdog! Yeah, I said it: I'm dying to see Underdog. I don't care how bad it likely is. (Hmm, no reviews ... at all? Uh oh!) Underdog was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and if Hollywood is going to crap all over it in live-action form, I want to be there to witness the horror.
And that doesn't even take into account all the holdovers I have still yet to get to, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'm also dying to see No End In Sight at Film Forum, a documentary which I was supposed to see two separate times at advance screenings but had to skip due to work both times.
Oh yeah ... and where the hell has my head been anyway? Film Forum is already a full week into its annual noir series, and I've yet to say anything about it? Shame on me! Bad blogger. This year, it's "NYC Noir",
although looking at the titles, it seems more focused just on films which depend on New York as an integral character (Yeah, that would be because Mondays are "The Silent City: New York in the Movies 1898-1928." Way to read Aaron) Nevertheless, included this last week was my favorite silent film, about which I've raved here often: Speedy starring Harold Lloyd. They've also already shown the great Alexander Mackendrick/Ernest Lehman/Clifford Odets collaboration Sweet Smell of Success and yesterday was the end of a two-day double-feature program of two films that epitomize noir: Samuel Fuller's phenomenal Pickup on South Street and Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death.
Sunday and Monday see another tremendous pairing: Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend featuring Ray Milland in his ground-breaking and Oscar-winning performance as an alcoholic who just can't beat his addiction; and John Farrow's The Big Clock, a classic noir murder-thriller also starring Miland, this time as a magazine editor trying to prove his innocence when his boss tries to frame him.
The entire schedule is fantastic, but a definite don't-miss double-feature comes next weekend when on Aug. 12 and 13, Film Forum will screen Mean Streets and Taxi Driver together. As much as I love the vast majority of Martin Scorsese's work, Taxi Driver remains my all-time favorite of his films. Together, the two movies are arguably the best depiction of New York through the '70s, and the only thing that could top seeing these two back-to-back might be adding a showing of After Hours at the tail-end. (What a fascinating progression of character-based films also very much about New York City those three provide in style, tone and narrative.)
I'll certainly return to discussing this series as it continues, but for now, I think I also have to try to make it to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. I mean ... really! When am I going to do laundry?