Saturday, February 13, 2010

Popcorn and the Oscars: Movies Based on Books (or I Couldn't be Talking about Them)

I never write about movies, but the Oscars approach, and since a number of the nominated movies are based on books, I'll venture to review them. I should be fine. I should be "cool," within my bookworm limitations. Or never cool, but able to articulate my feelings within a bookish context.


Err, that means Crazy Heart or Up in the Air, because these are the two I've seen.

Crazy Heart is a brilliant, moving film about a down-and-out country singer, Bad Blake, who is drinking and smoking himself to death while playing in an underworld network of bowling alleys and bars. Down, down, and downer he goes. Throwing up between songs when he isn't sitting around drinking in motel rooms. Bridges disappears inside the part. Have you ever known an alcoholic? Bad is that charming drunk guy you can't count on. The one who's so crazy he really will drive hundreds of miles for you, but ends up having an accident on the way. In the singing world he's been shat on hard: the guy he gave a start to, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), has transcended him on the charts (Bad is no longer on ANY chart), and is now asking Bad to open for him, though he really seems mainly to want Bad to write songs for him.

But in Santa Fe, a few nights before the Tommy Sweet concert, Bad meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a smart reporter who knows music and falls for him. He has a thing for her, too, but, in this brilliant movie, Bridges shows us how the women appear to musicians: any time he's on stage, there's some rocking woman in the audience who's giving him that special look. So he would like to get laid, but he's already BEEN laid. The romance is at the core of the movie, and we see a really nice, charming side of Bad, but there's also music and business. Well, maybe mostly music. I was fascinated, because it seemed real. And Jean has ties--she has a young son--so she's really acting out a dream of having a romance with a musician.

I loved this movie! And I hope to God the gorgeous, talented Jeff Bridges gets that Oscar, because he's been doing amazing work since Cutter's Way (the first film I saw him in), has been nominated for four (or five?) Oscars, and it isn't going to get any better than this. No one could have done this better than Bridges. Is it possible that he hasn't gotten an Oscar because he's too beautiful? (Those "surfer good looks" as my friend in L.A. says, but I'm not familiar with surfer looks.) Is beauty an asset for women but not so much for men? Bridges is looking a bit craggy these days. Maybe it will be his lucky night!

Oh, and the novel Crazy Heart is by Thomas Cobb and was well-reviewed.

The other movie I loved is Up in the Air (based on a novel by Walter Kirn). Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) flies around the country and fires people for corporations. He lives in airports and hotel rooms and has no close contacts. He likes it that way. But then Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a young, smart, apparently tough but vulnerable woman, comes to work for the company and wants to "ground" the flying fire-ers. On a trip with Ryan to see what the firing is like in person, she softens and also convinces Ryan to look differently at his casual relationship with a similarly unattached businesswoman (Vera Farmiga). And...

Very, very moving. Brilliant acting. Somebody should get an Oscar for this. George Clooney is nominated.

But I am still crossing my fingers for Jeff Bridges for Best Actor.

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Anna Kendrick are also nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Somebody has to win!

P.S. Did you see Apollo Ohno speed-skate tonight? He's won gold and silver medals at his previous Olympics, but I've never seen him before, and have NEVER seen a race this beautiful and graceful. He started in the back--we were anxious--but then amazingly he breezed ahead and easily LAPPED the others. This is just a qualifying race, but It was a piece of art.

I'm being obnoxious, but I must say:

U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A!

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