Thursday, September 29, 2005


I was lucky enough to catch a screening of Joss Whedon's Serenity last night. I'm definitely seeing it again this weekend, and I'll probably do another post about it then. But here are my initial thoughts. I'm not bothering to spare people for spoilers, but I'll try not to give anything too huge away (yes, there are huge things to be given away). Almost all of it is from the first few minutes of the film, if that makes a difference.


I've heard some pretty bold statements about this movie, like "It's what Star Wars should have been" and whatnot, and while I wouldn't go that far, I do believe that Serenity is right up there with the original Star Wars trilogy in awesomeness and strong storytelling. And I will say that some aspects - such as the action and battle scenes - are (in my opinion) better than those of the Star Wars franchise.

If you're not a "Browncoat" (i.e., you're not so deeply invested in this film and the original series Firefly that you know this already), I'll give you the basics. The setting is 500 years in the future. The concept is a mix of Western and Sci-Fi. The culture is a mix of American and Chinese. "The Establishment" is represented by The Alliance - a core group of central planets whose mission in life is to create a kind of Utopia. Our heroes - the crew of the spaceship Serenity, led by Capt. Mal Reynolds - are part of the other folk, those who refuse allegiance to The Alliance and who fought a losing war against it. Gosh, this is sounding boring. :P I promise it gets better.

Aboard Serenity are Mal (the captain), Zoe (first mate), Wash (pilot and husband to Zoe), Kaylee (mechanic and resident sweetheart), Jayne (ambiguous badass), Simon (a doctor), and River (his sister with special needs who he smuggled aboard). River is quite gifted and her mind has been meddled with by The Alliance. There is quite a bit of tension between Mal and Simon because River is a handful, and Simon doesn't like that she's constantly in danger (he thinks). It turns out that, as part of her brainwashing, River has been conditioned and trained against her will as a skilled assassin. Think Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. To further complicate matters, The Alliance has hired an assassin of their own to collect River and keep her from telling Alliance secrets.

All of this is set up rather brilliantly in the first few minutes. I was concerned about how they would introduce all the characters without seeming like they were, you know, introducing all the characters. I think the movie probably could have done without some of the exposition - particularly the voice over at the very beginning - but it's not too distracting, and things get interesting soon enough. The film's first major sequence is a (sort of) flashback to Simon rescuing River from The Alliance, and it was great to see Simon be the Hero for a change.

Soon after this, we meet a man we only know as The Operative. This guy was my one major complaint with the movie. He seemed like a fairly boring villain, and one of those bad guys that has to tell you why they're bad, which is just a copout to me. But by the end of the movie I had changed my mind about him, because the real villain of the piece is The Alliance. They control The Operative just like they control River. So if The Operative seems like he's playing a "bad guy" character it's because, well, he is playing a character of sorts.

The plot with River and The Operative is certainly the major arc in the film, but I was amazed at how much of the other relationships among the crew Whedon was able to cram into the rest of it. One of the things I loved best about the show was the sense of family among all of them, and I think that absolutely translates into the film. There were a lot of great emotional moments. As it was in the show, I think the greatest relationship in the story is that between Simon and River. I mean, there's some great stuff with Simon and Kaylee, too (and Mal and Inara), but that fraternal love is just so pure and heart-grabbing.

I won't go into specifics, but the reveal of the big mystery is probably my favorite thing about the movie. Just outstanding. And you can completely buy that this is the kind of thing that Mal would stand up and fight for. It just really, really works. There are so many good things about the movie. I was worried about the action sequences - River's fighting in the trailer seemed a tad Patrick-Swayze-in-Road-House to me - but it's very exciting, edge-of-your-seat stuff. The flying and battle sequences leave Star Wars in the dust, as far as I'm concerned. And any qualms I had about the fight scenes with River were more than allayed by the time she went Black Mamba on a room full of Reavers.

Above all, I think the film really succeeds at being much more than just a longer episode of the show. The show could afford to take it's time, but the movie has no problem moving the story along a good little clip. It is very much a film, and doesn't for a moment get swallowed by the big screen.

I realize a couple of things as I type this. One, that I'm preaching to the choir with any Firefly fans that read this. You guys love the show, and you will no doubt love this movie. And two, that for the rest of you, I'm probably not the best person to be trying to give you an objective point of view about this movie. I'm head over heels in love with this story and the characters, and my opinion is severely biased. But I've really tried to look at it as a film and not just an extension of the fandom experience.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Jodie Foster is my favorite living actress. Period. She starred in my favorite movie of all time and she's had a very interesting career. She only does projects she really wants to do, because she values spending time with her kids much more highly. This is frustrating for a fan, though, because it means she only does a movie every once in a while.

The plot is pretty solid thriller stuff. Woman loses her daughter on a plane, which means there's a very finite number of places she could be. The problem is, she's nowhere to be found, and the crew and passengers - and ultimately the woman herself - start to question whether the girl was ever on the plane. I won't say anymore about it, because the surprises are what keep the movie exciting. Well, that and the sheer cinematic force of Foster. There are several great actors in supporting roles - Sean Bean as the captain, Peter Sarsgaard as an air marshall, and Erika Christenson as a sympathetic flight attendant - but the film's impact rests squarely on Foster's shoulders. She plays the duality of her character well, and until about two-thirds of the way through the movie you're really not sure whether she's insane or not.

There's only one tiny cheat in the film, but I can forgive it because the plot works so well and is so involving. This is a really engaging movie and truly an edge-of-your-seat experience. "Inside the Actors' Studio" had Jodie Foster on last night and she talked a bit about it. Apparently, the character she played was originally supposed to be a man, and she convinced the filmmakers to make it a woman instead. Foster's reasoning for this was the scene where Kyle doubts his sanity and believes that the daughter is dead - that she has hallucinated this whole thing in the anguish of losing his wife and daughter. Foster said that a man would not do that. Men blame outward, while women blame inward. That it's why men are the serial killers and women kill their children. I think that's the key to that character and what makes her vulnerability so believable.

I think one of the best things I could say about Flightplan is that it's always a step ahead of you. Foster's character, Kyle, is an engineer who designed the very plane she's flying on. So she knows every inch of the plane, and is always a little smarter than the audience. This makes her neither a trembling victim nor an impossibly knowledgable hero. Not to mention the perfect action movie protagonist.

Corpse Bride

This movie was delightful. This is the kind of story that stop-motion animation was meant for. I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have, though, and I don't think that's the movie's fault. I think all my years of debating fictional romances and overanalyzing made me think way to much about how the marriage plot was going to be resolved. Then again, I think it's Burton's intention to make the Corpse Bride a sympathetic character and to therefore make it a bit ambiguous as to who we're supposed to root for.

I loved the look of the movie. I loved that the World of the Living is painted in very drab colors - blacks, grays, browns, whites - and that the World of the Dead is very vibrant and colorful, like a tropical getaway. It would be easy to associate this film with Burton's other stop-motion hit, The Nightmare Before Christmas, but I think it's a lot more reminiscent of what I think might be his masterpiece (at least visually), Sleepy Hollow. There are a lot of little details in Corpse Bride that filled me with geekish glee. Most notably the scene where Victor sits down to play a piano with a brand name of "Harryhausen" (20 extra geek points if you know why that's so cool). Also, the Bride's veil is just about the most remarkable bit of animation in the movie. I could watch it for hours, like that plastic bag in American Beauty.

The story was a bit predictable, and I guessed the little plot twist very early on. But it's charming nonetheless. The best part of the movie, I think, is the last 20 minutes or so when the Dead walk among the Living. It's horrifying at first for the Living characters until they start to recognize their dearly departed loved ones among the Dead. And Pastor Galswells trying to fend off the Dead from the church is perhaps the funniest thing in the movie.

There's LOTS of great voice talent in the movie. Besides Depp and Bonham-Carter, there's Emily Watson, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Richard E. Grant, Tracey Ullman, Albert Finney, and the amazing Jane Horrocks.

This is, as you may have surmised from the advertising, a characteristic Tim Burton movie, in the manner of Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There's a real sense of play and humor amid all the gothic imagery that is so uniquely his. Not everyone likes these kinds of movies, and I confess that I sometimes have a problem with the afterlife elements. But for those who love his movies and have a semi-morbid sense of humor, Corpse Bride is a real jewel.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Official Dancing-For-the-Man Post

Having been consumed with the desire to see Joss Whedon's Serenity and observing an opportunity to see it a couple of days early and at a remarkable discount (read: free), I now find myself having to do a bit of singing for my supper. I had every intention of writing about this film after seeing it, but apparently my chances for seeing it early and freely will be significantly increased by posting the text below.

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE [SLAYER], ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

Hm. Well, that doesn't make me want to see it anymore than I did before. But if you're one of the roughly two people that read this blog on a regular basis and you need convincing, I'll add that if this movie is anything like the short-lived television show that inspired it, it's going to be well-written, funny, smart, poignant, sexy, exciting, and fun with lots of good eye candy for everyone. (hooray for Captain Tightpants!). (ETA: And yes, the bracketed word "Slayer" was missing from the official summary.)

Serenity opens this Friday (September 30).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Highly Overrated Movies

A few so-called great films that I don't think are all that great:

Saving Private Ryan
I do think this is mostly a good film, but it's status as a masterpiece is puzzling to me and I was pretty disapointed when I saw it. The main reason for this, I think, is that there's a pretty huge plot hole at the end. We find out that the man who's visiting Captain Miller's grave is, in fact, the eponymous Private Ryan. Which is bull, because he's flashing back to Charlie Company's experiences at Normandy, and he wasn't with Charlie Company at Normandy. Heck, we don't know if he even was at Normandy. So that whole breathtaking first 20 minutes is a con. That ticked me off. Also, I felt Spielberg pulled a little too hard on the heartstrings at the end, and it came off very forced. Obviously, it's a great tribute to the veterans of WW2, but as a film it's kind of underwhelming.

I don't get what's so great about this movie. And I certainly don't get why people think this is Hitchcock's greatest work. I think Psycho and Rear Window are much more involving and cinematic. A lot of the effects seem cheesy to me and take me right out of the story, and it feels like it drags on and on and on. I do think that Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak have some pretty smokin' chemistry - and Barbara Bel Geddes is too cute to be allowed - but it seems like they're wasted here.

Maybe I was born too late to appreciate it. Or maybe it's that I don't understand why the world of boxing has inspired so many movies. Or maybe I simply can't get over being annoyed by Stallone. But I'm not that fond of this movie at all. I think this is one of those movies that was very much a product of its time. When it was released in 1976, there must have been something in the water that made it such a culturally significant work. But I was one year old back then, and I'm afraid whatever it was is lost on me. Also, I can't believe that this flick won Best Picture when it was up against Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President's Men. I mean, come ON!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Splendor in the Grass

When you think of Elia Kazan movies, there are a few landmarks - On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named Desire, Gentleman's Agreement, etc. But my favorites of his are some of the less heralded films, especially Splendor in the Grass and A Face in the Crowd. There's some really great eye candy in Splendor in the Grass (for guys and gals) in the persons of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. And it's supposedly the first US film to show French kissing.

The movie at first seems to be a generic story about young love, but that's really not the point. It's really about two young people struggling to escape the fate their oppressive parents have carved out for them. Deanie and Budd each have one overbearing parental figure and one fairly supportive (though far less vocal) parental figure. Budd's father pushes him to excel at football and won't even listen when Budd says he wants to be a rancher. It's so sad when Budd sits down with his father to talk about the future and has to listen to a pep talk where his father tells him what he's going to do after graduation. Poor Budd keeps trying to interject, and all he can get out is "I want--" before his father butts in again and again and again.

Deanie's situation is barely more tolerable. She has some rather intense feelings for Budd, and being a female in Iowa in the 1920s just doesn't allow for that kind of thing. Early in the film her mother tells her that "no nice girl" has *those* kinds of feelings about a boy, and that a woman doesn't enjoy those things the way a man does ("She just lets her husband ... come near her ... in order to have children.") So not only is Deanie not allowed to entertain any of these feelings, but she's also being told it's wrong to *have* those feelings in the first place.

But Deanie's and Budd's relationship progresses fairly normally, until Budd decides he wants to marry her. He tells his father and does his best effort yet at speaking his mind, but unfortunately the father wins out again and persuades Budd to go to Yale instead, with a promise that if he still wants to marry Deanie after graduation he'll have Dad's blessing. Now real life is officially in the way of Budd's and Deanie's romance.

Budd and Deanie each hit rock bottom and spend the rest of the movie learning life's lessons apart from one another. When Deanie comes home at the end, the romantic viewer will be expecting a passionate reunion. But Wordsworth's lines about "splendor in the grass" are just as true in 20th century Iowa as they were in 19th century England. Life just doesn't work that way.

Natalie Wood was nominated for an Oscar for this movie (this was the same year she played Maria in West Side Story), and for good reason. She's far more than just an attractive young woman. The scene in the bathtub where she finally snaps is almost scary. And Warren Beatty does an excellent job as well, especially in the scene where he tells his father he wants to go to an agricultural school. He's so desperate to be heard that he's almost crying when he says "I'd really like to do that, Dad!" Of course, having a director like Kazan didn't do Wood or Beatty any harm.

There's a great supporting cast as well, and all of them have great moments. Pat Hingle plays Budd's father with all the necessary self-loathing. Joanna Roos is my hero as Budd's mother and utters my favorite randomly funny line in the movie ("Oh dear. Neither of my children gets any real nourishment."). Audrey Christie plays Deanie's mother to puritanical perfection, and Fred Stewart is wonderfully understated as Deanie's common sense dad. And Barbara Loden eats up every scene she's in as Budd's wayward sister.

It's just a heart-breakingly real and profound movie, and I check it out four or five times a year. Good, good stuff.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

I enjoy the South Park television show... when I get a chance to watch it, which is rarely. But it's not one of my favorites. Some of the early episodes were iconic for myself and my friends in college - the "pink eye" episode, the one with Starvin' Marvin', the first one with Mr. Hanky. I loved that there was actually a show on television that pushed the boundaries of what you could and couldn't say, what you could and couldn't talk about and who you could and couldn't make fun of.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was released in the middle of a huge brouhaha with the MPAA Ratings Board over more than just this one movie. The original title was "South Park: All Hell Breaks Loose", but the ratings board told creators Parker and Stone that movie titles were required to be G-rated, not matter what the movie was rated. Bullpoo, obviously, since a couple of years later no one had any problems releasing a movie called "Hellboy." Of course, South Park has long been the whipping boy of the MPAA, and there's been no love lost on either side. And, after being smacked down by the MPAA, Parker and Stone sort of had the last laugh with the new title.

And that's basically what the South Park movie is about. It's the story of a popular TV show (in the movie, "Terrence and Philip") which gets made into a feature film. The fictional film draws a lot of children - despite the R rating - and causes a huge controversy over what kids can be exposed to with regard to violence and obscenity. This should sound vaguely familiar. The South Park television show deals with current issues on a weekly basis, but the movie has a broader scope and is actually quite a significant bit of writing. It tackles the touchy issue of censorship in a way that doesn't evoke images of soap-boxes.

As much as I love the movie, there are things I don't like about it. It's an interesting social commentary, but there's no real message. A lot of it is funny, but some of it is offensive. And I don't care for the idea that Satan is a hero, of sorts. But there's enough I like about it to make repeated viewings worthwhile.

And the music! I love the soundtrack - "Mountain Town", "Uncle F***a", "Blame Canada", "What Would Brian Boitano Do?", "It's Easy, Mmmmkay" and the CLASSIC "Kyle's Mom's a B***h". You can't walk out of this film and not be humming the songs.

The movie may not be your cup of tea, but if you haven't seen it, don't discount it just based on the TV show. The movie is another animal altogether. But I'm not going to lie to you - there's quite a bit of foul language.

Oh, and this movie has the most hilarious portrayal of a young man's quest for the clitoris you will EVER see.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

This movie is not The Exorcist. That is neither a criticism nor a compliment. Just a fact. Having said that, I think The Exorcist is superior to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I wanted to like Emily Rose, and parts of it were good, but it was ultimately unsatisfying.

The story goes thusly. Emily dies after an ill-fated exorcism. Father Moore, who performed the ritual, is put on trial for negligent homicide. Up-and-coming defense attorney, Erin Bruner, is assigned to the case against her protestations. The prosecution claims that Emily suffered from a psychotic-epileptic disorder, which doctors were treating with medicine, and that Father Moore urged her to stop taking the medicine, thus leading to her death. Father Moore's version of the story is that Emily was possessed by the devil. Not the best scenario for a defense, but the movie makes it work.

The thing I really like about this movie is that it doesn't take sides. It presents both sides equally, so that each version of the story is convincing. Or rather, that either is believable, depending on what you bring to the movie yourself. Emily could have been possessed. Or she could have been just a very sick girl. I think the trial portion of the film and the eventual outcome are well-done. Good performances, good and plausible situations, good good good.

Where the film fails, though, is when it forgets that it's a courtroom drama and tries to be scary. I'm not talking about the circumstances of Emily's possession/sickness. That, too, is well-done - at least from an acting standpoint (though I feel very sorry for Jennifer Carpenter's throat nodes). What annoyed me was the arbitrary, pasted-on suspense. The overdone "scary" music. The concept of demons surrounding the trial and the whole superstition about 3am being the "Witching Hour." To me, the idea of an innocent girl like Emily being possessed by Lucifer is quite frightening enough, thanks. There's really no need for all the bells and whistles, as if the movie is asking you "Oooooh, aren't you scared?". I don't like movies that tell me what to feel. The scariness just seemed so fake, and when a movie pushes so hard to make you scared, it's usually working against itself.

Something I like about The Exorcist is that it never goes for the cheap, conventional scare. No chair-jumper moments, no villain hiding behind a door, no plot twist. And everything - even the absurd head-spinning - is played for realism. It's so rooted in reality that you actually buy what happens in the climax. As much as Emily Rose was trying to distance itself from The Exorcist, there were some lessons that could have been learned from the prior film.

But perhaps the thing that ticked me off the most about the film is how it tries to pass as a "true story." Yes, it's based on a true story - one that happened 30 years ago in Germany - but Emily Rose and the other characters in the film are complete works of fiction. Yet the film closes with a few "where are they now" credits, as if these people are real. And the film's website has a bunch of fake news clippings and pictures to try and add authenticity. I realize this kind of thing worked for The Blair Witch Project, but surely there are only so many times people will allow themselves to be duped by such a thing. A similar thing happened with the re-release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a couple of years ago. I heard people talking about "the real Leatherface", and theaters were actually handing out copies of the fake news article that appeared in the film. I mean, I know these are movies and they want to sell tickets, but this casual approach to the truth is just sickening. And it's a ridiculous way to promote a movie.

Anyway, all that was basically to say that, while The Exorcism of Emily Rose has its good points, overall it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And a desire to see The Exorcist again.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Me and You and Everyone We Know

In short, this is the best movie I've seen this year. It won't get any Oscar recognition because it's a very small film, but it's as good or better than anything out there. This movie is a poem, a work of art, a love song to humanity, and an absolute joy. Hyperbole? I don't think so.

First, let me get this out of the way, because if you look into it at all, you'll come across this bull from the MPAA. It's R-rated for "disturbing sexual content involving children". Whatever. The worst thing in the film is the description of an invented sexual act. Admittedly, it is both invented and described by a seven-year-old. But ... it's exactly the kind of thing a kid that age would say if he was trying to be perverted and had no actual knowledge of sex. I've been seven, I know this, and I was not disturbed in the slightest. The moment is delightfully hysterical (to me, at least, but I'm rather perverse myself), and


will live in my memory long after I forget the characters names. I am not ashamed of this at all.

There's no one in the film you've ever heard of. The director, writer, and star is a performance artist named Miranda July. Her character is a budding artist herself and spends the length of the film trying to achieve two goals - 1)to get her digital video art into a museum, and 2)to strike up a relationship with the shoe salesman. She might seem a bit weird, but then so does everyone else in the movie. They share a common emotional language, and if the film has a message it's that this is true for all of us in our relationships with other people. Each one of us travels to the beat of our own drum and we spend our lives looking for people dancing to that same beat.

Gosh, this is a wonderful movie. I can't even describe it properly. Let me just tell you about one of the scenes. Christine (the artist) catches up to Richard (the shoe salesman) as he's walking to his car. They exchange information on where they are each parked, and it turns out that after a couple of blocks they'll have to walk in opposite directions. Richard mentions that a certain business up ahead is the halfway mark to the turnoff point. Christine says that's kind of like the point in a relationship when you realize it's not going to work out. That if that couple of blocks is their relationship, the "Ice House" is that moment when you can see the end. Richard interjects "But we're not even there yet", adding that they're not even at the point where they'd be sick of each other. They talk about how long this "relationship" is - 18 months, 20 years, the rest of their lives. As they approach the street where they must part company, they get quiet, almost like an old couple who are comfortable in each other's company and peacefully awaiting the end. They stand at the turnoff point for a few moments and sadly part ways.

I probably didn't describe it well, but I've never seen a scene like that before. It was completely and totally unique. The movie is chock full of those unique scenes, and they don't seem weird or anything because they're an extension of these wonderfully eccentric characters.

This movie comes out on DVD/video October 11, and I would highly, highly recommend checking it out. It will bless your life.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Okay, so the story is that Madeline, owner of a Chicago art gallery, goes with her new (and younger) husband George to North Carolina to visit an unknown artist and try to sign him to her gallery. While they're there, they decide to drop in on George's family, who lives close by. This could be just a generic fish out of water, let's-make-fun-of-Southerners movie. But it's not that at all. This is an extremely unconventional comedy, and it's very charming.

George and Madeline are played by Alessandro Nivola (who is too handsome for his own good) and Embeth Davidtz. These two played Henry and Mary Crawford in the recent adaptation of Mansfield Park, and it was a bit weird at first to see them in a decidedly non-fraternal capacity. But they have a great chemistry and they really sell the relationship. In George's parents' house are his mother and father (Celia Weston and Scott Wilson, respectively), his younger brother Johnny (O.C.'s Benjamin McKenzie), and Johnny's wife Ashley (Amy Adams). What's great about this movie is that it never goes where you expect it to, and the characters never act like they're in a movie. They're very real people, and they make refreshingly realistic decisions.

The standout in this movie is Amy Adams. Her performance as Ashley is so energetic, so sincere, and so sweet I just wanted to hug her and take her home with me. And I loved Frank Hoyt Taylor as the eccentric artist. Funny, endearing, and with just the right amount of slightly creepy.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Constant Gardener

Fernando Meirelles directed one of the best films of 2002 that I didn't get to see until 2004 - City of God. His follow-up film, The Constant Gardener, is possibly even better. Ralph Fiennes plays Justin, a British diplomat who is investigating the circumstances of his wife's (Rachel Weisz) death. A good chunk of the movie is told in flashback. I suppose the movie is technically a suspense thriller, but ultimately it's a love story about this man and his wife.

They meet in classic romantic style. Justin is very reserved; Tessa is incredibly passionate. Sparks fly immediately, and they are soon married. They have an understanding that he's not to interfere with her work as an activist, to which he mostly adheres. She's somewhat frustrated by what she sees as attempts to "reign her in", but for the most part they have a very happy marriage. When Tessa turns up dead, suspicious circumstances and rumors of Tessa's infidelity lead Justin to embark on a search for the truth, and he gets much more than he bargained for in the process.

Ralph Fiennes is "wow" here, as usual. I think this is an even better performance than he gave in The English Patient - though perhaps I just like the character more. He plays Justin's grief, jealousy, suspicion and fear at just the right volume - very understated, which is so perfect for his character's unassuming nature. I loved how the movie made me root for Justin, feel betrayed for him, and hope along with him that the rumors of Tessa's extramarital affairs had been greatly exaggerated. Tessa was a woman with many secrets, and Justin spends the movie learning them, and in the process falling more and more in love with her.

The look of the film is really wonderful, too. Meirelles has a way of making people look raw and real and good all at the same time. This is a great movie - great actors, great camera work, great music, great writing. Really amazing movie.