home page
teaching experience
problem-solving courts
book blog
movie blog

movie blog 

2007 "Hairspray"

This is a happy film with much to offer.  John Travolta as Edna Turnblad is wonderful and newcomers Nikki Blonsky and Elijah Kelley do an amazing job.  Michelle Pfeiffer was miscast and a disappointment.  The plot revolves an attempt to integrate an American Bandstand-type show in Baltimore in 1962.  It's a trip down memory land with fashion, cars and jargon. 

2007 "The Namesake"

I loved Jhumpa Lahiri's novel and was not disappointed by the movie as is often the case.  The characters were very well portrayed and the scenes of India made me ache to go.  It is in some ways a boy's coming-of-age novel but it's more than that.  The mother is especially compelling.  It's directed by Mira Nair who also did "Monsoon Wedding"

2007 "Amazing Grace"

Historically accurate portrait of the 20 years it took to outlaw slavery in the British Empire in the 18th Century and the man who made it happen, William Wilberforce.  A moving and powerful portrayal.  Bring kleenex.

2006 "Shut Up and Sing"

A.  I hate country music

B.  I hate their name.  I can't stand, in this post-feminist era, the use of "chicks," "bitch," etc.

C.  When the little dust up over the Chicks' comment about Bush started, I didn't give it two thoughts.

D.  However, I LOVED this documentary.  Rush down to Blockbuster today! I'm so glad they kicked butt at the Grammys.  I even bought the album.

2006 "Volver"

I never can seem to work up the enthusiasm that everyone else can for Almodovar but I did like (not love) this film.  Penelope Cruz does a great job and it has some interesting plot twists.  You can wait for DVD on this one.

2006   "The Dead Girl"

I loved this movie despite it's somewhat shaky start.  It has a wonderful repertory cast of women such as Toni Collette, Mary Beth Hurt, Marsha Gay Harden and, one of my favorites, Brittany Murphy (Daisy in Girl, Interrupted).  It's directed by Karen Moncrieff who was nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit best director award.  It's going to be hard to find in the theaters but it's worth the hunt.  With a better budget it may have garnered some Academy Award/Golden Globe nominations.


2006 "Notes on a Scandal"

This was my favorite movie of the year.  Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett were both fabulous, the dialogue was brilliant and the soundtrack was by Phillip Glass.  The dramatic tension had me holding my breath for minutes at a time (or so it seemed).  I loved it so much I read the book by Zoe Heller which was a Booker finalist.  Yum.


2006 "Marie Antoinette"

Sofia Coppola should be beheaded for ever making this piece of ----.  The jerky, hand held shots made me nauseous and the loud, modern music was totally out of place.  On the other hand, the costumes were to die for and the shots of Versailles made me want to go back.  Kristen Dunst does a good job.


2006 "The Illusionist"

Edward Norton is one of my favorites and his latest is no exception to the rule.  The twists and turns in this plot are fascinating and the special effects magic is beautiful.  The cinematography is terrific.   

2006 "All the King's Men"

This movie was a total bust according to the critics but, although not perfect, I liked it very much.  Sean Penn was riveting. 



2006 "Hollywoodland"

Not the greatest movie ever made but it may be Ben Affleck's best role. Brody does a good job.  Save it for a rental. 

2006 "The Departed"

This is a brilliant film with Scorsese at his finest (and, be warned, his bloodiest).  Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson all do great jobs.  Look for Oscar buzz on this one, especially for DiCaprio.  My friend Pam, however, felt quite differently:

I just saw The Departed and left hoping Martin Scorsese never wins the Academy Award’s Best Director. Perhaps he hasn't won so far because those voters don’t want to reward his morbid fascination with mindless male brutality or his worldview that doing good or evil doesn't matter, only style (charisma) does -- who you are as a personality is more important than the role you play in uplifting a group. The only reason The Departed was a "good" movie is because we cared about the ACTORS carrying the story -- the characters they portrayed are cartoon stereotypes. But the intensity and integrity of the actors -- Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and an exceptional supporting case -- was compellingly, as watchable as a pit of cobras.All the principals were forced to give one-note characterizations driven by the pigheaded dictate, “put your head down and keep fighting.” The only humanizing emotion shown was DiCaprio’s terrorized vulnerability over his own impending demise. The movie was merely the long version of Reservoir Dogs and just as stupidly, pointlessly brutal (at least Reservoir Dogs’ ending was surprising and sardonically funny when it came out). The Departeds screaming sound track, the graphic brain- and blood-splattering bullet shots, and endlessly mounting pile of dead actors seemed designed to appeal to the same male compulsion that has them turning over rocks so they can squeal and shiver.As an audience member, I felt assaulted, disgusted and depressed by yet another movie which exalts the least intelligent or civilized but rather the darkest side of human nature. This year I have been offered movies touted as admirable (on a continuum from most to least gratuitously violent) Apocalypto, The Departed, The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond, which had man’s brutality against man as their central theme. What did we learn from watching The Departed’s portrayal of our public safety officers -- defenders of The Public Good -- slaughter each other? That we Americans can't trust men (even if they’re part of The Thin Blue Line)? That men set up opportunities to kill each other as a way of whistling in the graveyard? That this cycle is destined to continue as long as women birth males? Maybe these are our current cultural truths (after all, our President insists on escalating the carnage in Iraq). But where is the voice for doing good? Where is the faith that one person with an eye toward the good of all can make a difference? Gibson’s movies certainly and most of Scorese’s movies are designed so we admire captivating, yet brutal central characters. These big, boy, blockbusters are cynical, at best. At worst, they glorify and desensitize us to the horrors and depravity of violence, terrorism, war, genocide and homicide.What I want to see more of and see rewarded are cautionary and visionary tales, spotlighting morally upright, yet compelling characters who demonstrate that doing good (having the habit of law abidingness) is worth striving for (Djimon Hounsou in  Blood Diamond and, to a lesser extent, Denzel Washington in Déjà Vu). Personally I am fed up with thug as protagonist.  I want to see more American male characters with moral fiber as well as backbone!


2006  "Little Miss Sunshine"

Although this had some funny lines, I was disturbed by the childhood sexual exploitation aspects. Call me too sensitive!

2005 "Hard Candy"

The first half kept me on the edge of my seat and the second had me peeking through my fingers at the screen.  This is not an easy watch nor for the faint of heart because of subject matter (pedophilia), vigilantism and graphic violence.  But, oddly, I liked it. 

2004 "Loverboy"

I loved Victoria Redel's first novel (by the same name) in 2001.  It was dark and fascinating.  Asking, "Has a mother ever loved a child more" the protagonist goes on to chillingly try to control her son's life.  Kyra Sedgwick tried mightily and was directed by husband, Kevin Bacon, but it just didn't make it as a movie.

2004 "Down to the Bone"

Another addict's story of trying to get clean.  Unique feature: after she's arrested, she's offered drug court.  First movie mention of DTCs that I know of.  If you're, you should excuse the expression, hooked on this genre, it's a good one; if not, skip it. 

Down to the Bone
1998 "The Staircase"

This documentary is a fascinating view of a murder trial from the original 911 call to verdict. Defendant and his defense team allowed full access for 2 1/2 years and it shows a rare, behind-the-scene look at defense strategy. The DA is now a judge and the judge is now retired. DA's assistant ran for DA and lost. Defense counsel represented one of the "Duke rapists." If you enjoy the law or reality TV, you're going to love this.