Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Everything is Illuminated" stars Elijah Wood as an affectless Jewish writer who goes to the Ukranine to research his family history. I'm not quite sure if you can combine a zany, picturesque road movie with a moving tale about anti-Semitism, but director Liev Schreiber gives it a shot. The screwy, zany bonus scenes, had they been left in, would have made it even harder. I've never liked stereotypical, Borat-like, Slavic bumpkin characters (which is only partly why I hated Borat, the only movie I've ever taken back to the video store for a refund), but Eugene Hultz, who looks like a young John Turturro, manages to pop from two-dimensional to... well, to two-and-a-half dimensional by the end of the movie.

"Popeye, the sailor. Volume one, 1933-1938" Oh boy, this is a great DVD set. The bonus features include silent "Out of the Inkwell" shorts, which are all really grand, as well as several other silent shorts. Just to be able to watch Popeye cartoons one after the other is such a treat. It made me realize what a deeply moral character Popeye is -- don't laugh, I'm serious. Unlike goody-two-shoes characters like Mickey Mouse, Popeye does what's right. There's one very sweet cartoon in which Popeye and Bluto, dressed to the nines, drive to Olive Oyl's house for a night on the town on New Year's Eve, and Popeye decides that it would be wrong to leave Olive's grandmother at home while they're out having fun. Popeye announces that granny is to be his date for the evening, and while Bluto and Olive make fun of him, he proceeds to spend the rest of the picture being nice to an old lady. Of course, he gives her some spinach and they win a dance contest, which isn't much of a plot, but I defy you to find an example of Mickey Mouse ever being this kind. I found it strangely moving.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

State of the Union

There has to be a worst Tracy/Hepburn movie, and this is it. When Frank Capra decides to make a movie that is talky and preachy, he doesn't do halfway. No, he goes full bore, in every sense of the word. I fell asleep on the couch several times, and every time I woke up, there was Tracy again, giving another speech. The defining moment of this movie was when Hepburn makes Tracy sleep on the floor; he responds by laying down and giving another speech, which, of course, brings a tear to her eye.