Monday, May 6, 2013

How To Ignore Writer's Block Through Movies

Moonlight Mile - Lee Fields & the Expressions (mp3)

I own over 300 movies some 50 seasons of TV on DVD. How very 1997 of me.

In early April, I was collecting rejected movies, music, books and games for a triannual trip to the local used movie/book/game shop, I counted my movies and then took note of how many I’d watched in the past year. Excluding the kid movies (we own another 80 of those), the answer was four.

Roughly 296 of the movies I saw fit to purchase and store along a wall-length bookshelf sat an entire year collecting dust.

So I made a pact. One of my owned movies per week.

So far I’m ahead of pace, which is easy enough to do when you’re struggling with writer’s block/apathy and desperate for a mission to keep you from having to stare any longer at an empty page on a computer screen (or worse, a non-empty page that is an embarassment to writing).

Hell, I’m averaging 2.5 of my movies each week, because my old movies are far more entertaining than staring at a collection of words on my laptop screen and thinking to myself, over and over, “this shit makes absolutely no sense.”

Here are three quick movie reviews/recommendations if you’re looking for a serious drama film.

Moonlight Mile (2002)This film was clearly Brad Siberling’s baby. Brilliantly framed and lit by director of cinematography Phedon Papamichael ("Sideways," "The Descendants"), the movie centers around Jake Gyllenhaal in his first big role following the mojo of “October Sky” and “Donnie Darko.” He is Joe. His fiancee is dead, and he is recovering in the home of mourning parents Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon.

All three main roles are played well. The script comes off a bit wooden in a couple of places, but the way it’s filmed and several of the key themes/devices are so lovely that this minor sin can be forgiven. Especially awesome is Ellen Pompeo (“Gray’s Anatomy”) in a role that earned her the kind of move in the ranks she got. She is a scene-stealer because it comes naturally and is almost believable, the kind of adorable fantasy encounter necessary to salve the broken heart of a mourning young lad.

The plot has a couple of nice twists, and the movie is very quietly set in the early ‘70s. It’s the rare timepiece film that doesn’t try too hard to place itself. Some timepiece movies get so distracted with creating the right time they forget about telling the right story. This isn’t one. It’s adorable and moving and everything a drama with a heart and sense of humor should be.

The Messenger (2009)How this wasn’t a nominee for Best Picture I’ll never understand. Ben Foster is a fascinating talent from all the way back in his “Freaks & Geeks” days, and this is his finest hour. Fortunately, Woody Harrelson, who can occasionally possess more acting chops than often credited, is up to the task of going toe-to-toe with Foster’s great performance.

The scenes of these men, charged with informing next-of-kin at home of the demise of their soldier sons and daughters, husbands and wives, are gut-wrenching and believable. In a decade filled with movies about soldiers struggling to survive wars in the desert, few if any are better than this one.

Crash (2004)I’m not sure which gets less respect as a Best Picture winner, “Crash” or “Shakespeare In Love.” In truth, both are good and enjoyable films, but both are also flawed. They both deserve skepticism on whether they won on merit or on marketing.

Still, there are some well-written and moving scenes worth savoring. The highly underrated Michael Pena (“End of Watch”) passing on an invisible cape to his daughter. Don Cheadle in pretty much every scene he’s in. The riveting scene with Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon that earned much of the attention earned its attention. It didn’t deserve Best Picture anymore than Carmelo Anthony deserved a vote for NBA MVP, but it’s still a very good movie.

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