Yet More Proof that Only the Very Lame Play Travel Scrabble
Wrt./Dir. Lisa Cholodenko
Str. Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale,
Opens March 7th
it's that season again. For the last three months we've
been embroiled in the passion and grandiosity of the Oscar
season, but as the fateful day approaches when all will
be laid bare and not one shocking underdog will arise as
the cinematic champion of 2002 we are exposed to Oscar's
ugly stepsister, let's call her Velma. The Velma's are all
the movies that just didn't quite make the Oscar cut. They're
dramatic, and heartfelt and well acted and beautifully written,
and artfully directed (or at least two of those five), but
they just didn't make it Perhaps they were too dramatic,
or over-the-top artful, or just plain boring. Whatever it
was, the studios knew they couldn't compete with the serious
contenders, and so opted to show them a few months later,
amidst the Valentine's Day romantic comedies, and the impending
slurries of spring-break-jock-sex-fests. The Velmas are
the only things out there that are good for those of you
that have already seen all the 'best' movies from last year.
Now, not all Velmas are doomed though. Fargo for example
is the movie equivalent of the tale of The Ugly Duckling.
Fargo came out in March of 1996, the dead-zone of movie,
everyone loved it, but everyone knew it was doomed. Then
it walked away with two very impressive Oscars (original
screenplay and actress, Francis McDormand) and a host of
nomination (best picture, best director, etc). So I guess
not all is lost for the Laurel Canyons and the Spiders and
such. Just don't hold your breath.
All that being said Laurel Canyon has very quickly jumped
out into the forefront of the movies for this year, led
by one of the tightest ensemble performances I've seen in
a decade, and with superb writing and seamless directing,
this movie out strips a fair number of the 'best' pictures
from last year.
So why, you ask, was it not released in December? Well,
my young chap, Laurel Canyon falls short only in that it
moves rather slowly and explores a subject that is so simple
on the surface and so familiar to us all that it comes across
as almost boring. This is not really a short coming, mind
you, there is a depth to Laurel Canyon, and a brilliance
to its method of revealing that depth that boggles the mind.
But this is why the movie was cast out among the Velmas.
While it is exquisitely made and acted, it doesn't have
a hell of a lot of appeal. Well
there are a couple
of scenes with Kate Beckinsale and Francis McDormand sort
of getting it on (how in the hell can Francis McDormand
still be sexy!? I don't get it, she is so damned hot!),
and you do get to see Christian Bale doing laps in a very
tight bathing suit, so it's not all purely cerebral. However,
the movie is slow and deliberate and meditative. No one
considers suicide, no one kills their husband, no one tries
to take back the streets of New York City from Daniel Day
Lewis (winner of most absurd moustache). Laurel Canyon just
didn't make the cut. But it is definitely well worth the
Three Dames Judy Dench for acting
If the acting in Laurel Canyon weren't as amazing as it
is, this movie would be awful. It goes beyond being simply
character driven -- the movie is directed entirely by how
each of its characters interacts. And if every one of those
interactions weren't perfectly done the entire affair would
Two very hot boys
So there's Christian Bale, of course, and I know you're
all like "Oh My God! Is he like the hottest thing in
the whole world or what?" But there's also this other
British guy, Alessandro Nivola, whose not that hot, but
damn is he sexy; in the way that a beefy car mechanic whose
read Tolstoy is sexy. Actually there's lots of general all
around sexy behavior going on throughout this thing. Did
I mention that Kate Beckensale does a strip tease?
One Michael J. Fox
At first Laurel Canyon reads a little too much like a rehash
of an old Family Ties episode. Uppity working-world son
collides with his hippie life-loving mother, and antics
arise, and craziness ensues. It was funny in the eighties,
now it's eerily depressing. Although there's a lot more
pot in Laurel Canyon that there ever was in Family Ties.
Three hipsters, lost in L.A.
There's a lot more going for this movie than there is going
against it. And it's very nice to see that Christian Bale
has managed to escape from Reign Of Fire career intact.
Just go see it, dammit.