||[Oct. 23rd, 2006|01:40 pm]
Spent the weekend doing a concerted amount of absolutely nothing. Saturday I biked to Crocker Park to see The Prestige and Marie Antoinette (14 miles roundtrip), but otherwise hung out watching movies at home. Sunday I slept in, then spent the entire day watching movies. In the main, it was a very relaxing weekend, though probably too much period movie watching--I had a long and complicated dream about making Mead spiral notebooks in which everyone spoke like they were in a Jane Austen novel.
So, quick movie review the first, The Prestige: This movie shows why it's so much better that boys usually settle their differences with fisticuffs on the playground. The friendship between two young magicians turns into deadly rivalry triggered by a tragic accident. But after a while you realize that the accident only accelerated the speed and scale of their hatred for each other--their styles and strengths, which could have been complementary, are instead turned into fuel for the fire.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the lead characters, with outstanding suppport from Michael Caine who is the moral compass and Greek chorus for their tragedy. The female parts are frustratingly slight, to the point of being forgotten in the end; this is really my only beef with the movie. What's most interesting is how Jackman's character, who arguably engages in the more heinous behavior over time, is somehow the more sympathetic. I am not sure if that is a function of Jackman's superior likeability or inherent in the screenplay. In reality, neither of them behave in any way that could be seen as upright or morally superior.
I found Jackman's American accent more believable than Bale's Cockney, but both actors turn in fine performances. The production values are gorgeous without the need to point out their gorgeousness: we aren't shown beautiful mountains just so that we can admire beautiful mountains; information important to the movie is being portrayed.
Unlike The Illusionist, which takes great glee in making every magic trick seem like it might be the real thing, The Prestige goes out of its way to focus on the mechanics behind the tricks, leading to one of the most horrific twists I've seen for a long time.
In all, one of the best movies I've seen this year. I don't know if the Academy will acknowledge it, because it is something of a "novelty" movie, but it deserves nominations.
And, quick movie review the second, Marie Antoinette: The movie posters read "The Movie about the Teen Queen who Rocked Versailles" or something equally inane. The publicity shots have been scary, to say the least. How could I not go?
And how do I describe what I saw? First of all, it was quite beautiful - the costumes were amazing, as were the sets. I was worried about the "pop music" soundtrack, but it was neither as prevalent nor as jarring as I feared - when the young bride and groom dance their first dance, it is to period music, people attend the opera, etc. The pop music is simply background music, not inflicted upon the consciousness of the players. However, the lack of "period speak" is at times very jarring - I can live without pretentious accents, but "eww!" just yanked me out of the movie entirely. And unless there was a problem with the local projection, the camera work seemed a bit wobbly.
Much is made of Louis' inability to consummate the marriage, but whereas in real life Louis underwent a "minor surgical procedure," as it is delicately described in the historical references I have read (my assumption is that he needed to be made rather more kosher), in this version Marie's big brother drops by and provides a "birds and bees" sort of talk (apparently concerning premature ejacualtion), after which royal offspring are produced. A bit coy, in my humble opinion.
And then there is Marie's brief affair. Of which nothing at all is made. It seems more to be another excuse to see Kirsten Dunst in a modest Playboy pose than a plot point. And the strange part where Marie's daughter speaks fluent French, to which Marie answers in English is a bit head-scratchy.
There are a number of things I liked very much about the movie. It did a nice job of portraying how even the life of royalty can be stifling and confining. The scene of her first morning arising, and of the newlyweds being tucked into bed, are both quite amusing. Much of the movie, in fact, takes place in the royal bedroom. And young Marie, fresh from the much more relaxed Austrian court, gets herself in trouble by hooking up with the wrong sorts of friends. She is completely out of her depth. But there is a lot of redundancy, to the point of creating watch-checking.
And the biggest issue with the movie is that is never quite pulls together. It's rather like having a lot of marzipan flowers, an exquisite filling, and a bowl full of batter and calling that a cake; all the ingredients are there, but they just haven't been pulled together. I can't say what it needed to create a finished product, but it definitely left the viewer unsatisfied.
If you go, go for the costumes and the scenery. It's worth a matinee price for that, if that sort of thing interests you.