Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)
A second viewing to prepare for reviewing the sequel this week. As with the first time, I quite enjoyed it. Romantic comedies are really easy to fuck up, since the audience is often undemanding and if you hit all the expected beats you don't really have to worry about sharp dialogue or well-drawn characters. So a good romantic comedy is a real treasure, and this is a good one. Renee Zellweger pulls of a really nice performance as Bridget, and this is a movie that's as funny as it is romantic, something a lot of rom-coms forget about. I still keep wanting Bridget to end up with Hugh Grant, though. Colin Firth is just so dour.
Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
I hadn't seen a Bertolucci film before watching The Dreamers earlier this year, and I absolutely loved that one. It was a loving homage to the French New Wave, a sensual love story that was graphic without being exploitive, and an interesting exploration of the aesthetics of the 1960s. So I was excited to see Bertolucci's masterpiece, and after watching The Godfather a few weeks ago I was looking forward to one of Brando's best-known performances. Maybe my expectations got the best of me, but this was a tedious disappointment. The worst part is actually Brando's performance, which is so obviously improvised that it's like watching a second-rate acting student ramble on without any guidance from a teacher. Bertolucci uses all of the worst pretensions of the New Wave, like the annoying film "auteur" character who's engaged to Maria Schneider, the philosophical mumbo-jumbo about the meaning of life, and the random "tragic" ending. There are, in fact, many wonderfully elegant moments, including the titular tango, and the sex scenes are still pretty graphic even 30 years later, doing a good job of showing the rawness and vulnerability of the central affair. But Brando just overacts like crazy, and the movie rambles for two hours, and most of it is a waste of time.
Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1983)
You know, I consider myself something of a conoisseur of avant-garde and independent film. Maybe not as much as some, and lord knows I enjoy a good mindless Hollywood flick from time to time, but I think I can be a card-carrying member of the Pretentious Movie Club, as RJ calls it. However, I don't understand the appeal of this indie classic, Jarmusch's first film. I've heard so much about Jarmusch's brilliance but never seen anything he's done, and a co-worker recommended this as one of his best. It also seems like the beginning is a good place to start. But this movie is incredibly boring and populated with sketchily-drawn, not particularly likeable characters. It's about this New York hipster and his Romanian cousin, divided into three parts: In the first, they sit around his apartment in New York. In the second, he and a friend visit her in Cleveland. In the third, the trio take a trip to Florida. Not much happens, especially in the first part, which I guess does a good job of capturing the sheer boredom of sitting around doing nothing. The style is minimalist to a fault, with few cuts and little camera movement. The acting is flat, the story is non-existent, and, although the NetFlix sleeve claims it's a "black comedy," there really aren't any funny moments. Maybe I just didn't get it, but this movie bored the shit out of me.