Friday, September 10, 2010

Movie review (oldie but a goodie)

Life as a House.

Kevin Kline is one of my favorite actors, for several reasons. The first is his uncanny ability to be a real chameleon. To go from the over-the-top hilarity of Otto in A Fish Called Wanda to the heart-wrenching performance as George Monroe in Life as a House is incredible. His portrayal of George merits notice because of the difficulty of making a seemingly maudlin story, honest, down to earth and rich in subtext and importance. The story of the man or woman with cancer who discovers his or her better self has been done before, perhaps too many times to make another “cancer changes lives” story that has traction. This story gets traction for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Kevin Kline’s ability to keep that quirky sense of humor, (laughing at jokes at which most of us get a bit uncomfortable, or just plain don’t get) and combine it with a real sense of purpose, his character now has a mission; that is, not to die having built something worthwhile, but, rather, to build a whole new life for those who mean something to him. Kline conveys this sense without tipping his hand that George even knows what he is doing, but it’s all measured by the completion of the house. That is the essence of the story, I guess; human beings can be absolutely beautiful, but discovering that beauty takes effort and often costs us dearly.

The basic formula is universal too, because everyone understands, in some way, the metaphor that you must tear down the weak and broken within us, and re-build with stronger and better “parts”. The trick is finding the motivation to do the tearing down. George has cancer, which is part of his motivation, but most of the true motivation for him concerns those around him; his son is living the life of a loser, his ex wife is living the life she thought she wanted, and his own cantankerous lifestyle doesn’t fit in with what he knows in his heart is true. Life can be beautiful, but it requires that we discard the feeble excuses we often make for ourselves and those around us. Discovering the beauty of life requires making choices that take us away from the “path of least resistance”.

I thought that Kristin Scott Thomas was great, she played a character who becomes conflicted as she awakens to her own circumstances through the experience that George gives her, Sam and her two young sons. Hayden Christensen (Sam) was ok too, but the whining in the beginning was a bit hard to take, and I freely admit I cannot stand him anyway. Jena Malone was fine, but the whole shower thing was too weird for me, not to mention the kissing. But at least I understood the kiss with George, I think. Mary Steenburgen was fine too, although again, I found the sex with the porsche driving wank a bit gratuitous.

I guess, the only weakness to the film for me was that it was just a tad too convenient that the disgustingly smug, jerk of a neighbor who tried to stop the construction of the house was the very same creep to whom Sam was prostituting himself. A tad too convenient.

Altogether an excellent film and story played with heart by Kevin Kline and the rest of the cast. Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I cried. I am a true boo-hooer. Which really makes me mad. Oh, yeah, one more thing which torqued me seriously, the back of the dvd cover has this quote “Its clear that Hayden Christensen is a force to be reckoned with.”—1) he is a totally self-absorbed dork (much like his character) who can’t act his way out of a wet paper bag, and 2) they ended the sentence with a preposition.

Friday, September 11, 2009

clowns among us

Just once I would like to hear an attorney say to a prospective client “nope, sorry cannot help you.” Why would that be a good thing with so many un-represented clients with legitimate matters out there, you ask? Because then some of those same underrepresented folks could get an attorney to represent them. Its supply and demand, after all. Maybe if more attorneys turned away the case that, although within the bounds of the law, is CLEARLY outside the bounds of decency, then those litigants who are deserving might have a chance to obtain counsel, not to mention the resultant fewer outrageous claims in the newspapers, etc. Or perhaps the litigious clowns who sue for a hot coffee spilling, or a little league parent who sued because her son was clumsy and forgot how to slide properly, or the Dartmouth professor who sued her students in a “French Narrative Theory” class for arguing with her, would get just a little perspective and would stop clogging our courts with garbage. Everyone has probably read about the administrative law judge who sued a local drycleaner for losing a pair of his pants. Ridiculous you say? Oh contraire, he sued them for 67 million, having lowered that to a “more reasonable” 54 million just prior to trial. He turned down an offer to settle of $12,000 in a case involving a 1000 dollar suit. Needless to say, he did not get reappointed as an administrative law judge, for which HE IS SUING THE GOVT for not reappointing him. How would you like to appear before this guy?
I do not understand, as an attorney, how a firm or lawyer could with a straight face take on a case of such little import as one of these notable examples. Parents suing the National Honor Society because their son did not qualify. His gpa was off by .1 and the parents sued, claiming that they had not taken into account some extra credit work the student had done. Maybe if he had worked just a little harder, you say. No, it’s becoming alarmingly apparent that people always want someone else to blame for their own mistakes or for life. Life, after all, has a few bumps in it for everyone. It takes a little wider perspective to understand that everyone has disappointments, things that don’t go as they plan, etc. Maybe if we all had a little more perspective, we could get along much easier.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Soothing the Inner Beast

Recently I was making a new playlist, goofing around with some songs from a couple of bands that I listen to and came up with the perfect playlist. Have you ever found the perfect one, like one that you made for working out months ago and still use because its THAT perfect? This was one of those moments. I cannot explain why music has such power over me, but I guess I don't need to know the science of it to realize that the ability of music to heal and inspire. I had one of those moments and I am glad not to have to think too much about it but, rather, just live it and know that I am a better person for having experienced it. I think we have all had those moments, the kind that you probably had in high school, or perhaps in college. You know the kind I am talking about; it's early October, maybe driving around with a good friend on a warm afternoon after a chilly morning and anticipating going to a football game or maybe even a date that night and a song comes on and it just fits the moment? When I put the playlist together and listened to it all the way through once, I just knew it was....perfect. It seemed like the music actually went inside me and it was medicine to my brain. I even got goosebumps.

At the risk of ruining something so perfect, and with the caveat that we should all remember that everyone has different heartstrings when it comes to music, I will name the bands of whom I speak so highly; matt pond PA, Okkervil River and Shout Out Louds. No matter what "style" of music you prefer, these groups make great music and are worth a listen. Go get some goosebumps, no matter what you like, even if these bands don't move you the way they did me, go find something that does and let it work out the kinks for a few moments. Music is one of those inexplicable things that the lord gives us to make it just a little easier to get through life.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Movies that I have wanted to like

I will admit that I am a pretty big fan of Will Ferrell. He is, without a doubt, a very funny guy. Both in terms of what he says, but maybe more so for his physical style of humor. He is even funny when he isn't really in a scene (see the 2d installment of Austin Powers during the attack near the cliff). That said, I recently took two of my boys to see Land of the Lost. I wanted to like it, I really did, but found myself disappointed. It had funny man Danny McBride (who is an absolute crack up--see Pineapple Express), the beautiful Anna Friel and of course, Will. But it was one of those movies where the funniest scenes were the ones from the trailer. There were a couple of parts that make you laugh out loud, but frankly, just not enough of them. I would give it a 6.25 out of 10. For a really funny WF movie, just rent Old School, Zoolander or Anchorman. Will is at his best when he gets to ham it up without going over the top. The role from Zoolander plays into that perfectly.