What Is “Best” When it Comes to “Best Song”?

If you got a chance to see the Oscars last night, you got the opportunity to witness some great performances of music from the category of Best Song in a Motion Picture. The nominees began with Pharrell Williams’s singing of “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2, an infectious song for sure. He got things rolling.

A nice performance, early on in the show. It got people in the seats moving and it’s clearly a song that is hard to resist. Nice job.

Next was a delicate version of “The Moon Song,” from Her, by Karen O. Again, really nice – sweet and lovely.

Now, “The Moon Song” plays a different function in Her than “Happy” does in Despicable Me 2. It’s more central, as it’s a moment when Theodore sings to Samantha while on a “romantic” trip away – as romantic as one might be able to get when singing to the operating system on your phone, that is. It’s more central to the action than “Happy,” though this notion of centrality has nothing to do per se with the award. The song just has to be from a feature release; there are no specifics about what function the song is supposed to play in that film. In terms of the awards show itself, both very strong – if very different – performances.

Next we heard from U2, with “Ordinary Love,” the song that played over the closing credits for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

I thought this performance was also excellent, with the band in good form and Bono and The Edge singing well. Not necessarily better than Pharrell or Karen O, but very strong and really hitting the notes literally and figuratively. Really, the first three performances were as good as any I can remember as a group on the Oscars.

Mind you, there were other musical performances on the show – Pink did a tribute to The Wizard of Oz, singing “somewhere Over the Rainbow” in honor of the 75th anniversary of the film, and Bette Midler sang a version of her “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Why did she sing this song? To honor “heroes” in films. So she sang this to movie stars sitting in the audience, and thank goodness, because they certainly don’t already get enough appreciation! Moreover, I have no idea why the academy felt compelled to honor the “heroes” in movies – seeing as that’s what the movies themselves pretty much always do anyway. It’s nice for Bette Midler that she got to sing on that stage, I suppose, but it’s kind of an insipid song. She did a fine job with it, but really, it was strange. Pink was fine if not my cup of tea but at least it was less random to honor The Wizard of Oz after 75 years and  there was an understandable reason for the performance.

The last performance of the night, and final nominee for Best Song, was “Let It Go,” from Frozen. The song was performed by Idina Menzel, who also sings the song in the film. This song plays perhaps the most vital role in the film of any of the category’s nominees, as it represents a pivotal moment, as Queen Elsa realizes that she no longer needs to hide her abilities to create and control ice and that she can now use them without worry. The song advances the plot quite importantly. Here is Mendel singing last night at the Oscars:

http://oscar.go.com/video/2014-oscar-music-performances/_m_VDKA0_tsgwsn3k

Menzel is clearly talented with a particularly strong voice, able to hold the stage and an audience’s attention just like the Broadway star she is. But I have to tell you that as I sat listening to this performance I felt something was off – not technically but in some other way. It was loud, brassy even. I recognized that it was a moment of transformation for the character Menzel was embodying, but it felt over the top to a degree, at least in performance outside of the film.

Simply put, I didn’t think much of the song, nor the performance of it. Not that I couldn’t tell it was going to win – Frozen has become a giant hit in the last two months and even Bono in the last week had publicly noted that it was the front-runner. But the win raises some interesting questions. Should the award go to the Best Song in a film? To the song that plays the most important role in a film? To the song that works especially well within the context of the film? I don’t think audience members have any idea how this is decided, and I wonder about voters too.

Based on what I saw last night, “Let It Go” isn’t the best song. Menzel is good; her performance is fine. It’s big, maybe even too big, but that’s the song itself and what it does. That was the issue for me. I found the other three performances and songs to be much stronger, more emotionally true, and more compelling musically – even the relatively simple “The Moon Song.” I’m not surprised the Disney song won: I mean, who could be? But I’m willing to say that I don’t think it should have.

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Kids, Films, and the Search for Something Bearable

The other day my older son was humming the theme to Ghostbusters and my wife, as she often does when he’s humming, asked him to stop, or at least to quiet down. My brother-in-law, in town for the day, said to me, “Ghostbusters?” I told him that I had watched it recently with both boys, and he asked if it was age-appropriate.

“Umm, I hope so,” I replied, and then changed that to, “Yeah, I think so. They weren’t scared, not really, and there’s no sex in it.” My hesitation, though, told me something important. I really needed to come up with a program of films to watch with my kids.

I’ve had this question before. My wife was out of town a bunch of weekends earlier this year and I decided that it would be fun to watch films with the boys at night. But what films to watch? That was the question. I’ve done the Pixar films and I don’t have the patience for a lot of children’s movies. Frankly, I don’t have the patience for a lot of what is billed as “family” movies. I find these rather dreadful. Instead, I hoped, to come up with some ideas for films that were well made and also appropriate for multiple ages – ones that the boys could enjoy but that I would like too. This is harder to do than one might think.

Most films for adults are either too violent, too morose, or have too much inappropriate content for children for me to screen for boys who are nine and seven years old. Or else they’re just boring to kids, who don’t have an investment in the drama or don’t understand the comedy. I decided, in the end, to go for action/adventure as a genre that held the most promise. This led me to the James Bond series.

“Really?” perhaps you ask. Yes, really. There’s less sex there than you think – it’s more implied than shown – and much of the fighting is rather cartoonish and not lifelike at all. The boys were rarely scared, if ever. I began with Dr. No, the first one, starring Sean Connery. It turned out that this was a mistake. It’s not that it was scary or too violent. It’s just rather out of date – about 47 or 48 years old now. The look of the film, the technology shown in the film, the fashion, the cars – everything looked to be of a such different time and place that it was too disconcerting for my kids.

For the next one, I skipped a decade and switched to Roger Moore as Bond. These films were much more successful. Because of the camp factor that Moore brought to his portrayal of Bond, my kids found much more humor in these films. We all did, quite frankly. While I appreciated Connery’s portrayal, he’s also rather self-srious in those early films.

We watched, I think, all of the Roger Moore Bond films over the next few weeks. But then we finished those. What next? We tried Ghostbusters, and that was successful. We watched The Natural, because they like sports, and that might prove useful as a further avenue. But we have reached the point where we are not sure what to show them next. Comedies and action/adventures seem the best way to go. But which ones? They can’t be too scary or too age-inappropriate. I know that they are not both quite ready for what I might call classics, though there are a few I might consider. We’ve shown them musicals before, and we could, in theory, do a few more of these.

A few years ago, A.O. Scott wrote a nice piece in the NY Times about the limitations of family films, and the predominance of them in terms of what children see, in which he argued for less timidity in what we show our kids. It’s a good thought piece. He has some good suggestions – Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python, Casablanca. This post is essentially a follow-up, and a bit of a cry for help. Any suggestions for films to show two boys – nine and seven?

On the Best Films of the Past Decade

This past week, in writing about the films of 2009, I was moved to consider what the best films of the decade were.  In thinking about the films of the past year, and thinking about the very notion of “best,” I realized that this was something of a complicated term for me.

I have argued that the term “best” is an especially loaded one, but that perhaps a fruitful way to conceive of it is as a film that helped us begin to see in a new way, or to see film in a new way.  I suggested Where the Wild Things Are works powerfully for me as this type of film, moreso than any other film of the past year.  But to be fair, I would want to put Avatar as one of the best films of the past decade, because it does indeed start to point us in some interesting directions in terms of its application of 3D technology that exceeds what that technology has offered in the past.  It’s not hard to see that soon enough filmmakers will utilize the technology to do more than titillate the eye, but will devise ways to construct images that operate and function in evermore sophisticated ways.

There really weren’t other films of the past year that had this effect on me – apologies to Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is a wonderful film, and one you really should see if you haven’t, and visually packed with details and wonderful elements but doesn’t really change how we watch a film so much as it celebrates moviemaking, the way all Wes Anderson films celebrate the medium of film.  And I’ve already spoken about the mumblecore films of the last decade, and don’t really want to revisit those here.

Overall, in thinking about truly great films, films that changed the game for me (or that demonstrated a potential path to changing the rules of the game) there were few and far between not only in 2009 but in the 2000s as a whole.  It was a pussy-footed decade insofar as it had to do with film.

What are the films of the last decade that really had a profound effect on you?  I want to suggest a few.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  That was fun, and that was well done.  It took the best of a subculture and it brought it into the mainstream, and brought that technology into a much more accepting place.  It made what was hard to imagine of bodies – floating, flying, spinning – look like an everyday possibility.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another.  Michel Gondry, in this film, took Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay and placed it in the familiar milieu of the everyday life of brokenheartedness, even as unfamiliar things began to take shape during the course of the film.  It’s wonderfully disconcerting visually – in a good way – and forces us to deal with what we cannot control or predict. (Be Kind Rewind is also charming, though more limited, but brings that sense of playfulness to it that is a hallmark of Gondry’s films.)

Few people are going to love David Lynch, but they should – Mulholland Drive is an amazing and upsetting film that forces us to deal with our own expectations of narrative and how narrative is supposed to function.  I still remember my wife saying, after it was over, that the film just didn’t make sense. In my mind, though, there is no rule that narratives have to make sense – what readers/viewers want is not necessarily what storytellers have to provide.  This might make for difficult viewing, but it can still be electric as we witness striking images, set pieces, and scenes.  Lynch isn’t afraid to not fit into a neat little box of sense and clean lines.  I loved it.

I’m Not There is similar.  I liked Todd Haynes’s casting approach and his mix of actors playing the Dylan character, and I liked how these different casting choices seemed to lead the narrative down divergent paths.  It was a hard movie to make sense of, but it was continually compelling visually and narratively it kept you in your seat if off balance.  But off balance isn’t always bad, now is it?  I wonder if anyone will take up the mantle he laid down here.  I haven’t really seen anyone do that yet.

Same is true for Pan’s Labyrinth, an amazingly realized film from Guillermo del Toro.  It’s horrible, wonderful, awe-inspiring, chilling, eye-popping, and always engaging.  It’s tough to turn away, even as you want desperately to turn away.  It’s a tour de force and it takes us into some hard-to-imagine places.  It will be tough to see nature as beneficent ever again.  Zoinks.

What other films?  Children of Men, I thought, was great and deeply satisfying as a dystopic vision and had some amazingly conceived scenes.  But I don’t think it changed how I see films.  Donnie Darko and Southland Tales were two intriguing films by Richard Kelly, but not masterpieces of the medium.

That doesn’t seem like an inspiring list to me, not for a decade.  Let’s place it in context by looking merely at some of the films I recall from the year 1999: American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, Run Lola Run, The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project, Boys Don’t Cry, All About My Mother, Three Kings, Magnolia, Fight Club, and Being John Malkovich.  That’s a good year, a great year actually, and just about matches, by itself, the past decade as a whole.  Some of these were just interesting and well-done films, but some were what I would call important.  The Matrix was certainly groundbreaking technologically and I think The Blair Witch Project was underrated in its use of aural effects as a deeply affective element of the filmgoing experience – it’s DIY aesthetic has had more of an immediate impact.  Three Kings was prescient in its treatment of war and its use of comic and absurd effects.  I’ve written a touch on Malkovich and don’t need to say more here, though I would reiterate that I just haven’t seen a film in the last ten years that does, or captures on film, what it does.

Fight Club is an amazing film.  The script falls apart at the end, but the speed of the film, through its editing and direction, is mesmerizing.  Brad Pitt is incredibly charismatic in the movie, even if totally bonkers and over the top.  Ed Norton is fine and Helena Bonham Carter is too, but Pitt grabs the film by the throat and doesn’t let go.  I found its dramatization of issues of masculinity and commodity fetishization both astute and amusing, especially because it at first wonderfully captures the rhetoric of self-help ideology and Ikea aesthetics and then brilliantly satirizes the critical standpoint that men have become feminized through commodities and infantilized by self-helpers.  Too many critics were offput by its violence to see the satire at work.

Magnolia.  A film that uses an ensemble cast the way that Altman imagined it could be used – and did in Gosford Park, an excellent film from 2001 – and which doesn’t fall into easy answers about the frustratingly fractured nature of the Los Angeles that it captures.  (Essentially, it’s the anti-Crash.  THANK GOD!)  IT weaves its various plot threads together and Paul Thomas Anderson trusts his great actors to do great work without a heavy hand.  Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly – these are actors who are almost always good.  But has Tom Cruise ever been better?  Melora Walters?  Philip Baker Hall?  Two moments, eleven years later, stand out in my memory.  The frogs.  When the frogs fell, I laughed and said, “Shit.  This guy’s got balls.”  To show a deluge of frogs, to have the courage to put it on film, to knowingly invoke the connections in such a moment, to consciously thrust his film into the intermingling of the allegorical and the literal: I had to hand it to Anderson for his bravado.  And he pulled it off.   The second moment, of course, was when the cast broke into song, singing Aimee Mann’s “Save Me.”  It was goose bump time for me.  It was absurd, it took us out the film, it insisted on its own filmic moment and its own fictiveness, and it still satisfied and did not disrupt the film but actually complemented and amplified the narrative.  It was a brilliant aural moment that challenged the viewers to deal with something they weren’t used to seeing.

Few filmmakers have taken on the aesthetic gauntlet that Anderson threw down with Magnolia.  It’s hard to blame them, really.  You need a strong script, an extremely capable cast, and a vision that won’t be swayed because it is totalizing.  (Sounds like a casting call for Orson Welles.)  The only one that comes to mind is Lars Von Trier.  I wonder if he had seen a rough cut of Magnolia when he filmed Dancer in the Dark, which came out in 2000, only a year after Anderson’s film.  This is a much more emotionally satisfying film than Moulin Rouge – which is in love with its own glimmery surface but, because of its indebtedness to pastiche and postmodern excess, cannot delve into any valid or authentic emotional truth.  The film plays at sorrow, but doesn’t even approach melodrama (compare it to Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven, which plays at melodrama, and engages us in deep and authentic regret, despair, and pain).  Dancer in the Dark might have been my most favorite movie of the past decade.  Not at the beginning.  Fifteen minutes in, my wife leaned over to me in the theater and said that this might be the worst movie I had ever seen.  I kind of agreed.  At the end of the film, over two hours later, my wife was sobbing so uncontrollably that other filmgoers who were exiting as the credits rolled stopped to check and see if she was okay.  The film’s use of music is enthralling and more than clever.  Von Trier aesthetically captures the effect of basic sound and its (John) Cagelike relationship to music.  At the same time, his story of heightened melodrama is deeply affecting and brutal.  Like Anderson’s film, we are sucked in.  We can’t get out.  We are wrapped up in something bigger than us and perhaps beyond us.  Slaves to the screen.

That’s great filmmaking, filmmaking that changes the rules of the game for viewers, that makes us see films in a new way, or that makes us see film itself in a new way.  And it’s out there, sometimes.  But there wasn’t enough of it in the last decade.

What It Means to Be the Best

Although I was pleased to see The Hurt Locker win the Academy Award for Best Picture – it’s an exceedingly well-made film in terms of its writing, direction, cinematography, sound, acting, and editing – I find the notion of “Best” to be strikingly limiting.  Obviously, we know that many of the films that win the Best Picture award are anything but that (some obvious examples: The Greatest Show on Earth over High NoonHow Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane and The Maltese FalconRocky over Taxi Driver and Network?).  But perhaps most importantly, what is problematic in the very construction of the award is what it means to be “best.”

How are we defining this term?  This may account for some of the choices as to how academy members vote.  It’s not defined in terms of aesthetic achievement, political relevance, highly evolved sensibility, highly evolved sensitivity, or any other criteria.  It simply says “best.”  Maybe the voters just thought the movie made for a great show?  Certainly Rocky is a highly dramatic film and captures and riles the emotions.  I can see that, I can even imagine valuing that.  But I still have a hard time as evaluating that film as somehow “better” than Network or Taxi Driver.  I hated Titanic: I thought it was one of the dumbest dramatizations of class conflict that I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  But it was a hell of an entertainment.  That would be hard to deny.

I’m confident that many academy voters select what they see as the best entertainment.  At times, this may mean the best film in terms of aesthetic achievement but a lot of the times it doesn’t.  That’s not all bad, and we shouldn’t merely single out the Academy Awards for its sometime-poor judgment.  Other organizations and awards often go out to highly suspect films – I’m looking at you, Golden Globes! – and critics can be just as suspect in their choices.  (I’ve read more than once that the winners of critics’ awards are often compromise choices made by a group of critics with deep ideological and aesthetic investments in a particular film.  Because they cannot reach consensus they are forced to choose the least-objectionable film to the overall group.  That doesn’t much sound like “best” to me.)

An alternative notion as to what qualifies as best might be the film that is most influential.  This is obviously hard to identify for those voters who are considering very recent films, as there usually isn’t enough time to get the requisite feedback to determine the influence of a particular film.  Going back twenty years or so, one might note the power of Scorsese’s Goodfellas as a particularly influential film, but Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction would most likely qualify as the most influential film of the 1990s.  Just think about all of the copycat films following the release of that movie – we’re still seeing them to this day.  Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy may well end up being the most influential of the last decade – partly for aesthetic reasons, but also because his ability to create a franchise and to shoot all three films essentially using the same actors, sets, and crew.  The rise of the franchise in the last ten years – Harry Potter, Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean – is a dreadful development overall, it seems pretty clear to me.  While there are some successful films in these series, many of them make for a depressingly dreary viewing experience.  They are the embodiment of how Hollywood dumps its development money into making movies for the teenage boys of America – and of tapping into an international market that values known starts and narratives.  Consider the second films of Transformers and Scooby Doo as just two striking examples of sequels to a horrible but profitable film.  I always fear there could be more, and that this development money won’t go to some compelling, new story that will remain unmade.

We know that the most influential film of the year can often be a rather horrible film.  Crash won the Academy Award back in 2005, and since then I have noticed a large number of movies made with large ensembles and screenplays that seek to weave a web of differing individual narratives into a large sociological tapestry that tells us something purportedly deep or profound about our modern lives.  They don’t, and God knows Crash didn’t.  what was a horrible film was somehow read as an enlightening dramatization of race in America – it wasn’t – and the copycats have followed, each of them depressingly inept in its ability to effectively tell a story.  Didn’t these people ever see Nashville?

Mumblecore was a major underground movement of the 2000s – kind of like Hal Hartley movies in the early 1990s.  These movies certainly enjoyed critical acclaim and received a fair amount of publicity in the better newspapers and journals – think of the talk around and about Andrew Bujalski’s films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation.  These aren’t terribly well known to the general public, but to critics and a certain hipster filmgoing public they are the embodiment of 2000s cinema.  Hannah Takes the Stairs, in which Bujalski acted, helped propel screenwriter and actress Greta Gerwig into prominence (She’s currently starring in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg).  But still, these films were not the most influential, at least not for most filmgoers.

What would I propose for how we should consider the “best” film of the year?  I understand why many people want to recognize films that are well-done: well-executed in their visuals, sound, and editing, and finely written, acted, and directed.  And that’s The Hurt Locker.  But I’d really like us to do a better job of identifying films that change the way we see.  Film, after all, is in a primary sense, a visual medium.  Few films actually help us see “better.”  But some do, and the very best actually help us see something we haven’t before, or – to put it in a different way – to actually change how, as well as what, we see.  This might suggest to many readers that I’m seeking to make a case for Avatar as the best film of last year, but actually I’m not.  It is a movie that will have a great deal of influence in terms of how films are shot and the evolution of 3D technology, and there are certain shots and moments that the film’s visuals are both subtle and breathtaking.  But it wasn’t a great movie, to be sure (the limitations of the acting and especially the writing hampered what it was able to dramatize).  And while it helped us see in something of a new way, I also feel that it didn’t do as much as I had hoped.  In a way, it didn’t feel as revolutionary as I expected it to.

Don’t get me wrong, Avatar a groundbreaking film in some ways and it does point us in some as-of-yet-unknown directions, but it’s no Where the Wild Things Are.  That’s right – that was the best film of 2009, and one of the best of the past decade.  Awards?  Not any that I can think of, but that’s of no concern.  What makes this film wonderful, powerful, and devastating is just how similar and dissimilar it is to other films.  As a narrative, it is both deeply familiar yet utterly odd; as a story it is funny yet terribly sad; in its tone it is both frightening and reassuring, dark yet ultimately optimistic.  The score is haunting and the visuals – while strikingly clean and devoid of any semblance of special effects – are otherworldly.  As with all of Spike Jonze’s films, he has taken us into a world that looks exactly like our world but which does not actually exist.

I am going to exert a lot of time or space extolling the film’s virtues.  A number of critics have already done so to great effect – I heartily recommend what A.O. Scott has written on it, for instance.  I just want to say this: Where the Wild Things Are places us in a world that doesn’t seem at all like ours, and yet is.  As such it is a brilliant counterpoint to his 1999 masterwork, Being John Malkovich, which envisioned a world that looked exactly like ours, but wasn’t.  I am not sure I’ve ever been so excited as I was that night I walked out the theater after seeing Malkovich.  It was as if I had been introduced to someone I had been waiting to meet for thirty years.  In the past ten years, I have rarely had that same feeling, but Where the Wild Things Are brought it back with a vengeance.  It’s that exciting, in my mind.  It treats the extraordinary as ordinary – not as in fantasy films like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, where the fantastical is seemingly presented as normal but is spotlighted in order to broadcast the brilliant special effects that have enabled the director to show it on screen.  Joze does the opposite: he always seeks to hide the apparatus of the filmmaker and to let the story, the characters, and the action develop organically.  His films, his characters, his stories do not call attention to themselves.  They just are.  This is his great gift, is what makes him unlike virtually any other filmmaker, and is why he is so valuable.

But I believe that others have seen and will see what his films do and how they point to a different style of filmmaking.  And if so, we can look forward to some new avenues in cinema beyond and outside of 3D that can help us see our world, see film as a medium, and even see the act of seeing in ways we have not yet imagined..

The Killer in Me (is the Killer in You)

killerinside

Yesterday, I stumbled on the fact that there is a film of The Killer Inside Me in the works.  (I guess there was a 1976 version starring Stacy Keach, but I haven’t seen it.)

I am so excited to see this film.  This is one of my favorite books, written of course by Jim Thompson, who wrote so many great novels.  The film stars Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Elias Koteas, Bill Pullman, Ned Beatty, and Simon Baker.  The director is Michael Winterbottom.  They’ve been filming in Oklahoma, to match up with the look of Texas in the 1950s (when it was published), and the release date is in 2010.

If you haven’t read it, do so.  Do so soon.  Today.  It’s one of the great first-person narrations out there, a weird mixture of Sigmund Freud, Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Frederic Wertham, and Groucho Marx.  Seriously.

Thompson is usually called a pulp writer.  I’m not always sure what that means, but I can tell you this – The Killer Inside Me is a great read – fun, crazy, fast – but also an interesting read.  When I say he’s similar to James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity), I mean it as a compliment.  A big compliment.  Thompson is a good writer, and one who bears re-reading.

So, yes, I’m super-excited to see this film.  Winterbottom has done some interesting films – I really enjoyed his Tristram Shandy – and Affleck has become a stronger actor with age.  I’m not a big Hudson fan, and don’t know if Alba is much of an actress, but the supporting actors listed above are all outstanding.

This is a story that deserves a wider audience.  I’ve taught it, and my students were both confounded by the novel and really enjoyed it at the same time.  I’m interested to see how they translate it to the screen.  I won’t give away any spoilers – I just recommend you read the book, or at worst plan to see this one.  I’m sure it won’t win any awards, but it has the potential to be a great film.

Bottle Shock!

So, the kids are in bed, and now you’re wondering what to do tonight?

J. and I just watched Bottle Shock, after some friends of ours suggested we might enjoy it.  It’s the story of how Napa Valley came to prominence in the late 1970s in the wine business, focusing on a few of the players involved and a well-known wine tasting that took place in Paris that catapulted California wines into the standing it now holds.  It’s fiction, based on actual events, with some liberties taken with actual events and characters.

Having said that, though, it’s a fun movie, lacking special effects or extraneous nudity or discomfiting scenes that make you wish you were anywhere but right there at that point because gosh that was embarrassing to witness.

I’m not saying that it’s a great film – there were times when I wasn’t quite sure where the focus was supposed to be. The film meanders at times and gets caught up in some of the characters in such a way that left me a bit foggy as to the point of the story, but with the great cast it has who can blame them?  (It stars Alan Rickman, Dennis Farina, Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriguez – you remember him from Six Feet Under -, Rachael Hunter, and Captain Kirk himself: Chris Pine!)

Still, it makes for a very good date night at home.  Order it up on Netflix, open a bottle of wine or two – we were tasting a Joel Gott 2006 and a Hoopla 2006 – from Napa! – both very nice.  I don’t know a lot about wine, but I enjoyed my three glasses of it and I certainly had a nice time watching film that stars and focuses on adults.  It’s so rare nowadays!