Charlie Wilson’s War (2007, dir. Mike Nichols): Not bad for a “true story.” Integrating historical footage in which the production actually works here, no doubt in part thanks to the competence of Mike Nichols behind the camera. Here’s a powerful statement on where we are now with Afghanistan and the rest, implicating politicians and giving a rare glimpse at a decidedly flawed but unusually effective congressman. If Hanks stuck to roles like this, we’d have no beef with him. Love the first and last shots: a clandestine award ceremony in an aircraft hangar. Profound in its irony.
Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005, dir. Stephen Frears): Certainly funny, certainly more proof of Judi Densch’s and Stephen Frears’ capabilities. This one, too, uses stock footage of a war (this time a hot one) in between Densch & co. So easy for U.S. folks to forget that Nazis bombed the heart of the Brits’ homeland in WWII. This provides a reminder, albeit a fleshly one. This one also “works,” although the notion that poor soldiers simply deserve to see some t&a in between shooting and getting shot at feels a little…pathetic.
Va Savoir (2001, dir. Jacques Rivette): Definitely Rivette, insofar as La Belle Noiseuse is “Rivette.” A comedy, however, not as long or as beautiful; but the pacing is close to the same, the sounds are just as earthy and harsh (a workout for the tweeters), and we have the same theme of giving birth to or discovering an annoying artwork. In both films it’s buried and must be unearthed. There’s a sense of schizophrenia within the artists that can’t be totally controlled. This time maybe it’s more about the art-pawns than the art-ist, though both were going on in Noiseuse. In both films, the art is everything; it’s never separated out. Editing doesn’t differentiate between what is and isn’t, and at the finale it’s all the same. Also, a Godardian goofiness.
Sleeping Beauty (1959, dir. Clyde Geronimi): Gorgeous. They could really draw back then, not to mention sing. This is a real storybook, in all its 2-D glory. It’s mostly all in focus and unashamedly medieval. Try focusing on the characters instead of the backgrounds; can’t be done. It’s not so much what moves that moves you, but what’s static. Haven’t seen The Princess and the Frog, but don’t have to in order to know that Disney can’t or won’t do hand-drawn like this again, or at least for awhile.