Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Reviews: The White Ribbon and Others

Boy, do things change quickly, and I don't just mean the sudden but schedule-savvy switch of my Friday Reviews series into its new Monday timeslot. Last year, I earned my highest-ever attendance on this blog by live-blogging the Golden Globes, which I had also done for that strike-canceled ceremony in 2008. This year, not only no live-blog, but in fact, I have been so checked out that I didn't even know until Sunday morning that the Globes were happening this weekend. Apologies if I am flagrantly avoiding what my regular readers would like me to post about, but just now, clicking over to IMDb to peruse the winner's list, I cannot say I am sorry to miss a ceremony where Avatar and The Hangover got crowned as the year's great achievements in cinema, and where proficient, face-saving turns in films as desolate as The Blind Side and Sherlock Holmes scored top acting honors.

My only bit of Globe-related activity today was finally seeing Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, a front-runner for the Best Foreign Language Film award. Indeed, it copped that trophy tonight, but as per my general dyspepsia throughout this season, I was mostly disappointed in the movie, whatever its strengths. With only The Lovely Bones and The Last Station left to see in the 2009 awards cycle, it's getting harder and harder to drag myself out to the cinema. In general, I've been having much more luck renting a whole slew of films from 1944, as provoked by the recent Best Pictures from the Outside In installment featuring Going My Way. I've written short pieces about the Joan Fontaine-Orson Welles Jane Eyre and Jacques Tourneur's nutso mystery Experiment Perilous, while continually working my way toward a richer and richer sense of 1944 as a whole. Stay tuned for more dispatches from this interesting vintage.

And incidentally, though I wish I had more auspicious content with which to mark the occasion, happy fifth birthday to this blog! I certainly didn't expect while writing this first post amid a flagrant bout of procrastination that this blog would last out the rest of the winter, much less emerge as the primary portal through which a lot of readers find their way to Nick's Flick Picks. Thanks so much to all of you who keep reading, responding, and linking.

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Blogger Andrew K. said...

Congratulations on your blog anniversary. Worthy of celebration no doubt, I have to say that you're probably one of the smartest people on the blogosphere [hate that word]. Here's to five more.

I hope you don't hate The Lovely Bones too much, are you going to be seeing Private Lives of Pippa Lee?

1:58 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@A:EE: You know I'd be at Pippa Lee in a flash if it found an exhibition berth anywhere in the Chicago market. Obviously, the budget of the outfit that's distributing the movie has determined (that is, constrained) its visibility, but it sure has been odd seeing that movie pop up week by week in smallish towns in New Jersey, Idaho, etc., but never once land in the country's third-biggest city. One day, hopefully.

2:32 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

I come to post a warning to you, trusted film expert and fellow cinema lover. I have just come back from watching the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli......stay away.....just, just stay away.

3:09 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger tim r said...

Hear hear, both to what Robert said and to what you said, in every shrug and head-scratch of that Haneke piece. I graded the movie one small notch higher than you, but I can't say I fully get the fuss.

The surprise down in the sidebar is what looks like qualified praise for K-19. I'm always coy about recommending that, but I do agree. And it was back in Peter Sarsgaard's Damn Good period, right?

3:35 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger Guy Lodge said...

Leaving "The Last Station" and "The Lovely Bones" (which I'm rapidly becoming convinced was the single worst film of 2009) until last doesn't seem likely to raise your spirits at all, but looking back on the horrors of this year's December prestige pile-up, it's hard to see how you could have given yourself ANYTHING to look forward to.

My tips for catching up with the Globes go as far as this: look up Bullock and Downey's speeches on YouTube. The former just so you can see the priceless grimace on Mickey Rourke's face when he reads her name, the latter because his speech is rather a riot -- and because the presenter is a gangly, funkily dressed Sally Hawkins, looking quite recovered from HER Globes speech ordeal last year, which is reassuring at the very least.

The rest I thoroughly recommend skipping, unless you've always wanted to see James Cameron -- looking remarkably like Martina Navratilova these days -- intoning Na'vi proverbs with insufficient irony, somehow still managing to radiate smugness even while admitting that his ex-wife was robbed.

But hey, happy anniversary!

6:23 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

@ Guy. I actually found Cameron to be quite...toned down. The most smug had to be the Up guys. I just wanted to smack that silly smirk off their faces.

8:24 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger Tim said...

I cling with some fervor to your comparisons between The White Ribbon and A Serious Man, in the hope that we'll disagree on this film as we did on that film. Because at this point, I think that one more disappointing, over-feted awards-baiting mediocrity - and from Haneke, no less! - would probably break me.

And while I can't quite follow Guy to declare The Lovely Bones to be 2009's worst film, it's absolutely 2009's worst prestige picture, and I would take a good long think before subjecting myself to it, if I were you. None of us want to have to talk you down from a ledge, and if ever I saw a movie that killed my faith in the possibilities of cinema...

9:23 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Robert: Oh, don't you worry. From Hell pretty much put me off of the Hughes Brothers forever, though I'll eventually reach back to pick up Dead Presidents.

@Tim: I can't quite go as far as Mike D'Angelo, who said that Haneke finally winning a Palme for White Ribbon is like Pacino finally winning his Oscar for Scent of a Woman, but I'm astounded by how easy it is to see where he's coming from. As for K-19, I think in retrospect the Sarsgaard perf looks an awful lot like the ones he's giving now, but yes, I still would have seen that as a sign of his inordinate promise had I watched the movie on schedule in 2002.

@Guy and @Tim: Very sweet of you to try to warn me away from certain gloom, and I might have to take you up on it, though the extremity of people's reactions to Bones is starting to get untowardly interesting. Rest assured that I've already YouTubed all the actors' speeches, and Cameron's. Rourke really didn't bring his poker face, did he?

9:44 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger Ivan said...

2009 is not complete without A Town Called Panic. It's endlessly inspired and proudly beyond absurd. Too often shows expanded into features invent a grand plot that only serves as a reminder of the brilliance of brevity. This avoids cohesion and is all the better for it, maintaining a dizzying pace that most screwball comedies would envy. Take a look, and keep in mind the movie's in the original French, which makes everything funnier:

11:10 AM, January 19, 2010  
Blogger jshamai said...

Hey, congratulations on the anniversary! It's been such a joy reading your essay reviews all these years. I keep expecting your site to go the way of most internet labors of love, but then there you always are.

I think I liked The White Ribbon a lot more than you did, but it is crowded. In retrospect, it is a shame that one of the richer strands of the movie--the aftermath of the saw mill incident--is reduced to the role of red herring.

2:23 PM, January 20, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Ivan (the Ivan I know?): Sadly, I missed Panic during its one-week theatrical run in Chicago, but it sounds like I owe it to myself to scout it out when it washes up on the shores of DVD.

@Jason: Thanks, as always, for being such a kind and generous reader and for keeping up with the site over the eyes, even/especially during the long absences! I think you're completely right on that Haneke missed a bigger opportunity with that particular thread of The White Ribbon.

9:20 PM, January 31, 2010  

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