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July 2005 Face-Off:


Can’t we all just get along? Well, as the summer weekends come & go, options at the multiplex get increasingly bleak. Very few are genuinely appealing to either of us, & those that we tolerate individually divide us as a couple. 

BEWITCHED, for example, is no great film, but I enjoyed it well enough; I laughed a bit, & liked the main story line, which is about a girl who wants girlfriends. Now this is not how you’ll hear this film described by your mostly male film critics, but here’s what I saw: a witch who has only to snap her fingers to resolve the slightest little problem decides she’s rather be real. Why? Because on SEX & THE CITY & all the other female buddy shows, she sees women spend their time @ the coffee shop sharing “insoluble problems,” but poor Isabel (Nicole Kidman), who has no problems, has nothing to share! I found this a hilarious riff on the research of linguist Deborah Tannen ("women bond with 'troubles talk'"), but alas, these Tannen references went right over Rich’s head. He hated it. Therefore, from the perspective of FILMS FOR TWO, BEWITCHED “does not meet criteria.”

So then we went to see WAR OF THE WORLDS. I was bored out of my mind by 2 hours of mindless explosions; the monsters had no rationale for their behavior that I could see; the “mobs in panic” shots never coalesced into anything; I would have strangled Dakota Fanning myself in order to stop her endless screaming. Now you know what comes next: Rich found it engrossing & exciting… But from the perspective of FILMS FOR TWO, WAR OF THE WORLDS “does not meet criteria.”

For mainstream thrills, we both say see BATMAN BEGINS, but avoid MR & MRS SMITH like the plague. As in summers past, your best bets for genuine adult entertainment will be the Indies & foreign films at your closest art house theater. Follow this link for current Theater recommendations.

But if you just want to stay indoors, we have many, many wonderful films posted on our DVD/VHS page.

Now e-mail YOUR thoughts to us at: WhatsNewFF2@msn.com


June 2005 Face-Off:


Most of you should have 2 new "mainstream" choices in your local multiplexes this weekend: CINDERELLA MAN & LORDS OF DOGTOWN. We both agree that you should all pick DOGTOWN.

Loyal FF2 readers know how happy we were the night Ron Howard (director) & Akiva Goldsman (screenwriter) both on Oscars for A BEAUTIFUL MIND. Also Russell Crowe, Paul Giamatti, & Rene Zellweger are 3 of FF2's favorite actors, so we went into CINDERELLA MAN with high hopes -- but our hopes were dashed. Read between the lines of most of the (male) critics such as David Ansen in NEWSWEEK & the problem will be clear to you: this is a film that shorts its characters & tries to redeem itself with a big uplifting mano-a-mano punchfest finale.

It's not a "bad" movie, but it certainly doesn't ask any of its talent (especially the 5 above) to stretch. It's a sentimental & predictable amalgam of ROCKY & SEABISCUIT that avoids conflict & pushes pablum. Loyal FF2 readers know we don't ask BioPics to be true to all the "facts" of a life (which would be impossible in a ~ 2 hour film), but we do hold the director responsible for his choices. In this case, eagle-eyed viewers will note that Max Baer has a Star of David on his boxing trunks. Howard doesn't eliminate this true detail, but he doesn't focus on it either. Nevertheless, for those of us who know Max Baer was Jewish or assume as much when we see the star, we can only guess what all those good old boys were really screaming in the Irish bar on the night of the big bout. Add this to the fact that Zellweger's character is given no backstory & is asked only to be "the [generic] loyal wife," & it's a wonder Jan didn't pull all her hair out!

On the other hand, LORDS OF DOGTOWN is a well-crafted film that uses its microcosm (Venice Beach in the late '70s) to explore timeless truths about male bonding. When we saw DOGTOWN & Z BOYS a few years ago, we both loved Stacy Peralta's exuberant BioDoc even tho we neither knew nor cared much about skateboarding before we entered the theater. Now Peralta has written a screenplay which provides the emotional backstory.

Why draw from the same well twice? Z BOYS did a great job of introducing the sport with great kinetic energy, showing the moves & the real historical moment. What LORDS adds is the way the 3 budding stars (Jay Adams, Tony Alva & yes Stacy Peralta) challenged each other to take ever-greater risks, first to establish their own internal pecking order, then to impress their mentor, & finally to play to the crowds.

LORDS is directed by Catherine Hardwicke who shows the same empathy for teenager boys here as she did last year in THIRTEEN, her wonderful debut feature about teenage girls. The 3 young guys are great, but the standout is Heath Ledger as the owner of the Zephr surf shop (hence the Z in "Z BOYS"). Watching him as he sets it all up, only to get pushed aside & left behind, is a true heart-breaker, bigger than any of the manufactured emotions in CINDERELLA MAN.

Now e-mail YOUR thoughts to us at. WhatsNewFF2@msn.com


Oscar Nominations 2005:


Our biggest disagreement this year was over MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Richard gave it high marks. Jan gave it low marks. What do all of YOU think??? Were you surprised by the "big twist," or did you see it coming? Did Hillary Swank convince you she had the inner fire to be a boxer? Would Clint Eastwood's movie be getting all these nominations now if John Kerry were our new President?

And what about
KINSEY? Do you all think Jan is just nuts to love this movie as much as she does? Did it bore you? Creep you out? Make you angry?

Email your thought to us at WhatsNewFF2@msn.com.


And here are your comments...

Jan, stop worrying; you're not demented. Alan and I agree that KINSEY was excellent. It was intelligent, intriguing, and even sexy. The storytelling technique was original, yet engaging. The acting and production values were superb. It informed us about an important period in history. Yes, some scenes were hard to watch due to the subject matter: sexual extremes. But I find extreme violence in films even harder to watch. So all those people who are still afraid of or disgusted by sex can go stick their heads in the sand. We are still a country of Puritans. Sigh. 
Sharon (1/28/05) 


I disagree with the masses who adore MILLION DOLLAR BABY. I thought it was total crap. There wasn't a genuine moment in the film. The first 70% was a rehash of every trite sports movie Clint ever saw. The last 30% was a lifeless rip-off of WHO'S LIFE IS IT ANYWAY?, and all the other right-to-die flicks. The girl's family were one-dimensional monsters who were not even remotely believable. There was no artistry or originality involved in this sodden misadventure.
Alan (1/29/05)


Well, Jan and Rich, I really liked both MILLION DOLLAR BABY and KINSEY...so call me diplomatic but it's true...:-) 

I don't usually like stories about boxing but I did find the characters interesting in Clint Eastwood's film. I was taken in emotionally by the "twist" in the story although how easy it was for Clint's character to get around the medical system at the end was far-fetched for me. These are characters who don't quite make the American success story come true but they have had their shot. I still think it is uncomfortable for us to be faced with coming so close and yet so far in life, and this film throws up a mirror to the realities of so many of us. (SIDEWAYS has a similar message, I think.) Yet, that simple connection to someone else might not get its just due, even though it might be the best gift of all. I think Eastwood's film pays its respects to that longing for connection, which we often can fear, even screw up (as implied by his inability to take steps to connect with his own daughter), and nevertheless, really desire so much if only we would face the truth about ourselves... Even though the "white trash" characters seemed like caricatures, I have actually met people (who were not from the South so this is not about bias against a certain cultural or geographical group) who are so close to such self absorption and utter meanness that I can truly say such humans really do exist... I wish it weren't true.

As for KINSEY, for some reason in America, it is so okay to show graphic violence but frank sexual content is still a no-no. I think KINSEY is a brave film, which is still ahead of its time in the U.S. I do wonder how European audiences have taken to this film... I think this film is superbly acted, and I also liked the "questionnaire" style that frames the story. I think it does address how our obsession with "technical proficiencies," whether it relates to sex or other areas, still cannot provide us with the "spirit" -- the human heart still rules. This film does again open up the door to all kinds of sexual fantasies and practices, which does not fit the Disneyland version of America. Unfortunately, as our world seems so messy right now, a lot of folks seem to want to escape to some sort of idealized, unknowing innocence. KINSEY makes us face more complexity in our feelings and actual practices, and that is not always the American way! 
Kim (1/30/05)


I liked MILLION DOLLAR BABY and Hilary Swank did a great job, Oscar performance! As for Eastwood, I don't think it merits an Oscar, much less an nomination. There in are my comments today!
Scott (1/31/05)