Sunday, October 20, 2013


Obviously, I wasn't impressed at all by "The Congress," the first film I had seen at the Philadelphia Film Society this year. Things picked up, a bit, with my viewings of "August: Osage County," starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and the Palme d'Or-winning "Blue is the Warmest Color." A slight technical hiccup interrupted the screening of "August" (the screen went blank), and I kind of wish that happened to "Blue."

August: Osage County 

Adapting his Tony-winning play of the same name, Tracy Letts writes an incredible vehicle for Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale, who play sisters Violet and Mattie Fae, in the story of a family coping with a loss in the fiery summer hells of Oklahoma.

Violet's husband has killed himself and her family comes back to console her, opening up a barrage of posionous words on her three girls Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis), and their respective families and loved ones. The relationship among the daughters and their mother isn't the best, but it makes for absolutely gritty and, at times, hilarious moments.

I didn't think bad of this movie at all except for the fact that this still felt like a stage play. You know those plays that are recorded for TV specials? This is what "August" felt like for the first half hour. Part of it is the script, the other part the actors, since the dialogue was originally written for the stage, I could tell how the lines would have been delivered on the Great White Way.

However, the acting on a whole was impeccable, especially Meryl and Margo. They can spout off some of the most hurtful things without batting an eye and you truly believe them, but damn if their delivery wasn't some of the funniest things I had heard in a while. Their first time working side-by-side was a truly successful one. Their chemistry as old grumpy sisters was remarkable. I found that everyone could hold their own against this dynamic duo except Julia Roberts, who seemed like a struggling acting student trying to hold her own. Just because you can scream and shout doesn't make you any better an actor.

"August" shows a true family that doesn't sidestep issues or thoughts, everything comes out in the open. Walking into that family could be worse punishment than hell itself. This is a gritty, real and incredibly funny and true film.

Rating: B+

Blue is the Warmest Color

I've been reading about this French-language film since it caused strong buzz at Cannes in May. What was the buzz? The fact that there were lengthy and "graphic" lesbian sex scenes in the film. It may have helped the three-hour long film win the fest's top prize, but why?

Adèle meets the blue-haired Emma at lesbian bar one night. They had traded glances in passing on the street before when Adèle was having a brief fling with a fellow student. Adèle and Emma go through the usual stages of romance; flirting, attraction, cute awkwardness, sex, love, heartache, etc. Not a whole lot of story goes on in the three hours of screentime, and boy does it struggle to keep the film moving.

The sex is the true selling point of this movie. Period. When someone asks about the movie I'm sure someone will say "the lesbian one with all of the sex in it," or something to that effect. And with an NC-17 rating, that's how the film is being marketed. The sex was just OK to watch. With everyone noting how graphic it was I was expecting close up shots of vaginas being licked and played with. Not so. All there was to see was a whole bunch of shots of the girls grinding on each other. Their mouths and fingers went all over but nothing explicit.

Among three scenes, there was probably 15-20 minutes of sex, but after a while it got annoying. How many scenes of girls scissoring do we need to see? One is just fine. The first one was interesting and passionate enough, but to keep going back to it was so tiresome and desperate.

Along with 10 minutes of sex that could have been cut should have come another 30 or 40 minutes of other footage. The last hour is filled with long and necessary showings of classroom teaching, conversations that go nowhere, and SPOILER ALERT!!!!! Director Abdellatif Kechiche trying to drag out a relationship that had ended long.

"Blue is the Warmest Color" gets boring after the first 90 minutes, but that first half there is truly interesting and wonderful, showing all of the cuteness and awkwardness that comes with a blossoming romance.

Rating: C

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