Gaijin at the Movies
Three thoughts on movies:
First of all, tickets to movies cost $14 here. Holy friggin crap. Is this a blatant cash grab, a way to finance the uber-theatres we're seeing built nowadays, a way to finance the huge budgets of the increasingly crappy movies we're seeing produced nowadays (think Charlie's Angels 2), or a "means" to recoup losses to piracy?
Second, only one cell phone went off during my attendence at these two films. I don't know if it is a function of Canadian politeness or the age of those likely to attend these two movies, but it was a welcome change from the cell-phone symphony that serves as the background soundtrack to most movies I see in the WH.
Third, I saw one of these movies in an old-school theatre with a hand-lettered marquee outside, and one in an uber-theatre. The sight lines in the old-school theatre were terrible compared to the uber-theatre with stadium seating. It had been so long since I saw a movie in an old theatre that I never really realized how big a difference stadium seating had. Viva the uber!
Lost in Translation
This was the better than Return of the King. Bill Murray is attempting to pull the reverse-DeNiro: break out of the comedy mold and attempt to redefine himself as a dramatic actor. After his performances in Rushmore, the Royal Tenenbaums, and Lost in Translation, I wonder about the great performances we might have seen if he made the move earlier.
Murray is amazing, and Scarlett Johansson (Ghost World) gives a fantastic performance.
The story is, as Geneve put it, very real (that is to say, not very Hollywood), and that is one of the most appealing things about it. If you have ever travelled or had a short-lived, intense connection with someone, you will dig this movie. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 161/170, for 95%.
The Last Samurai
This was pretty much what I expected: a Hollywood picture with a decent story line, some nice 1870's Japanese scenery, and Tom Cruise playing the disillusioned war vet who discovers what is Important through exposure to Eastern culture.
Ken Watanabe puts in a performance that is better than Cruise's strong performance (if only because he is shown in fewer cheesy slo-mo closeups). Critics yap about the racial themes (the white man "civilizing" the Japanese, Eastern culture showing Cruise's character The Way, and any associated ironies and/or themes that you might think of), to which I say: shut up. This is a Hollywood movie. It's pretty much a bullet-proof way to spend an entertaining two and a half hours, but this is not the finest film you'll ever see. And if you are a critic, you should know that; it's a Tom Cruise movie! Rotten Tomatoes gave it 111/165, for 67%.