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A Movie A Day (#110 of 98)

A Movie a Day, Day 100: If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise

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A Movie a Day, Day 100: If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise
A Movie a Day, Day 100: If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise

Whew. When I started doing this Movie a Day thing, one of my sisters said it was like I’d given myself my ideal job, only without pay. She’s right, but doing anything every day for 100 days can to be a grind sometimes, even if it’s something you love. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, but first for that 100th movie.

If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise, a two-part documentary that premiered yesterday and the day before on HBO, is Spike Lee’s follow-up to When the Levees Broke, his excellent two-part documentary on the causes and effects of Hurricane Katrina. In If God is Willing, he goes back to New Orleans—with side trips to Houston and Mississippi—to see how the people who fled or got trapped by the flood are doing four or five years later. Spike and crew initially had a pretty upbeat movie in the can, capped off by joyful footage of the city’s miraculous Super Bowl win this year. Then the BP well started gushing crude and they went back to shoot more, revamping the movie to create a jeremiad about corporate and governmental greed and duplicity crossed with a tribute to the resilience and smarts of the people of New Orleans.

A Movie a Day, Day 99: Nanny McPhee Returns and Hubble 3D

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A Movie a Day, Day 99: <em>Nanny McPhee Returns</em> and <em>Hubble 3D</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 99: <em>Nanny McPhee Returns</em> and <em>Hubble 3D</em>

There’s still time before school starts to get the kids to Nanny McPhee Returns and Hubble 3D, two good movies in theaters at the moment (though Hubble is in limited release). Here’s my TimeOFF review.

Elise Nakhnikian has been writing about movies since the best way to learn about them was through alternative weeklies. She is currently the movie reviewer for TimeOFF. She also has her own blog, Girls Can Play, and a Twitter account.

A Movie a Day, Day 98: Nobody Knows

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A Movie a Day, Day 98: <em>Nobody Knows</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 98: <em>Nobody Knows</em>

I’d had this movie in my Netflix queue for months before I finally clicked on it last night. I mean, how often are you in the mood for a movie that’s not only long (140 minutes) but depressing? The based-on-a true-story tale of a bunch of kids, the oldest just 12 and the youngest not yet 5, whose mother abandons them in their Tokyo apartment, Nobody Knows is one of those real-life horror stories about the dark side of urban anonymity.

The slow pace takes a little getting used to, but it pays off as this near-silent movie tells us about the kids and their environment by following them in what feels like real time. Most of the talk is in the first few minutes, when the children’s mother is still around. A petite, cheery woman with a voice like a little girl’s, she acts almost like a kid herself, charming the youngest girl and boy, Yuki and Shigeru, with her playful chatter. But nearly everything she says turns out to be a lie, concocted to make her look like the loving mother of a happy family.

A Movie a Day, Day 96: Romántico

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A Movie a Day, Day 96: Romántico
A Movie a Day, Day 96: Romántico

“Silence has been destroyed, but also the idea that it’s important to learn how another person thinks, to enter the mind of another person,” said Gary Shteyngart in a recent interview with the New York Times Magazine. “The whole idea of empathy is gone. We are now part of this giant machine where every second we have to take out a device and contribute our thoughts and opinions.” He’s exaggerating for effect, I suppose, and writers who are frustrated because they don’t have more readers aren’t exactly unbiased reporters of cultural decline. Why should expressing your opinion make you care less about what other people have to say? Isn’t it possible that oversharing is making us more sensitive to all the different perspectives out there?

A Movie a Day, Day 95: Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1

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A Movie a Day, Day 95: <em>Mesrine: Killer Instinct</em> and <em>Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 95: <em>Mesrine: Killer Instinct</em> and <em>Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1</em>

Gangster movies usually come in one of three flavors. In the first kind, the filmmakers identify with their glamorized protagonists (think Coppola’s Corleones or Michael Mann’s Dillinger in Public Enemies), portraying them as admirable, even honorable men who abide by a strict moral code in an immoral world. The second show no love to their gangsters, thugs without remorse like the ugly brutes in last year’s Gomorrah. The third—and probably most common—play it both ways, making their gangsters charismatic enough to appeal to our love of rebels without a cause (think Tony Soprano) while showing enough of the damage they inflict to remind us that bad-boy infatuations work best as fantasy.

A Movie a Day, Day 94: Swing Time

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A Movie a Day, Day 94: <em>Swing Time</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 94: <em>Swing Time</em>

There’s a contradiction at the heart of even the best of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies. When those two dance, or when Astaire sings (the rhythm that made him such a great dancer also makes him an excellent singer, although his voice was nothing special), they’re as elegantly expressive as anything ever captured on film, and as perfectly suited to their medium as Shakespeare was to his. But when they’re just acting, their movies go flat, as earthbound as the song and dance numbers are airy and uplifting.

A Movie a Day, Day 93: Q&A

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A Movie a Day, Day 93: Q&A
A Movie a Day, Day 93: Q&A

Several of my closest relatives, including my father, have Asperger’s syndrome. I’m sure that colored my reaction to Q&A, but then how many neurotypicals don’t know and love at least one person who’s wired differently than they are?

Q&A is the first in a series of animated shorts StoryCorps is creating from DIY interviews that have been collected since 2003. More than 60,000 people so far have contributed half that many stories, going in pairs to a StoryCorps booth (there are permanent ones in New York City, San Francisco and Atlanta and a van that travels around the rest of the country), where one person interviews the other about whatever they want to talk about. A number of animated StoryCorps movies began airing on PBS’s POV series starting today.

A Movie a Day, Day 92: Eat Pray Love and Cairo Time

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A Movie a Day, Day 92: <em>Eat Pray Love</em> and <em>Cairo Time</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 92: <em>Eat Pray Love</em> and <em>Cairo Time</em>

This has been a good summer for something we haven’t seen much in the movies: the female midlife crisis. (Could this be the next wave of Baby Boomer self-analysis?) Here’s what I wrote today for TimeOFF about two of the latest, Eat Pray Love and Cairo Time.

Elise Nakhnikian has been writing about movies since the best way to learn about them was through alternative weeklies. She is currently the movie reviewer for TimeOFF. She also has her own blog, Girls Can Play, and a Twitter account.

A Movie a Day, Day 91: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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A Movie a Day, Day 91: <em>Scott Pilgrim vs. the World</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 91: <em>Scott Pilgrim vs. the World</em>

If Inception is a video game that becomes interactive only after it’s over, when you compare notes with other fans, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a video game you watch someone else play. That might not sound like much fun, but this movie is an upper, thanks to its inventive video game/cartoon visuals, crisp editing and constant stream of wry observational barbs.

Director Edgar Wright found his own way to animate the black-and-white graphic novels his movie is based on, adding bright colors but keeping a comic-book look. Figures are frequently silhouetted or shot in very bright or dark lighting, and cartoonish graphics often pop up on the screen, like the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” and lightning bolts that emanate from Scott’s band when they play; the pink hearts that float up from their lips as he kisses Ramona, the girl of his dreams; and the way the snow melts in Ramona’s wake as she rollerblades down Toronto sidewalks. The dreamlike editing helps too, as characters move from one setting to another without comment or cuts, the conversation or background music simply continuing as the background changes.