Six Degrees of Boys' Club

A while ago… okay, a long while ago - I sought help in a project I called Six Degrees of the Lord of the Rings. The idea was to take the actors who played the lead characters of LOTR, find other movies they'd been in and post a review. I've come upon a snag. Namely that my local video store cleaned out their library of older movies to a quite alarming degree, to leave room for games and then expand its new releases library. It's very frustrating when you love old movies. Yes, they have a mail order thing much like Netflix, but I tend to watch movies based on my mood, not what pops into my mailbox next. I mean, what if you're in the mood for a Bergman movie and Scary Movie XXVII is in your mailbox (or vice versa)? So all your hard work finding the movies to watch resulted in a list of really good flicks, most of which I can't find at the video store. Argh!

But I have a plan B! Since my primary dissing of LOTR - and by the way? I lost about 20% of my readers in the week where I did that post and can only think the masses who left were really dedicated fans - related to the Boys' Club aspect, with women mainly being an afterthought, I've decided that I'm going to do reviews of movies that are primarily about and for men. Luckily, with the dearth of female-oriented movies coming out of Hollywood, this was not a problem whatsoever! I've had a real hankering for good movies lately instead of the mindless dreck that serves as entertainment these days (I just made myself sound 87 again, didn't I?), but have managed to find some gems.

And really, no six degrees of anyone or anything in particular, except a rather tortured connection between my original idea and what actually happened. Life is what happens when you're making other plans and apparently, that goes for blogging, too.

Charlie Wilson's War. Intelligent, witty, entertaining and meaningful. And only 90 minutes long! I cannot tell you how much I love a good, tight movie. I know I’ve said it before once or twice (or 63 times), but just because you can make it 2 1/2 hours doesn't mean you should! Loved to see Philip Seymour Hoffman do something other than still, passive and dejected (which he does very well – rent The Savages if you haven’t seen it already), Tom Hanks was roguish and charming and Julia Roberts was delightful in a different role than her usual thing. Plus, I actually learned something about our recent history I hadn't known - I can highly recommend watching the special features, as well.

In Bruges. After a botched job, two hitmen get sent to a small Belgian town to cool off. And then there's a complication. Profane, bloody, funny and it makes your heart ache when you least expect it. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ray Fiennes all clearly have an absolute blast and so did I. The special features are also good, especially the one entitled “f*cking Bruges”. That one is f*cking hysterical.

The Dancer Upstairs. Quietly mesmerizing, this is the story of an honest policeman trying to catch a terrorist, using his mind instead of violence. About corruption and justice, freedom and dictatorship, thought and emotion, war and love, The Dancer Upstairs is a contemplative voyage through the paths of two men much alike. Javier Bardem is as usual phenomenal and so is the rest of the cast - Latin actors speaking in English, which works much better than you’d think and it's directed by John Malkovich. Based on a book by Nicholas Shakespeare (who also wrote the screenplay), fictionalizing his search for and obsession by The Shining Path movement in Peru and the hunt for and capture of Guzman. I watched this more than once in the past year or two and am captivated every time.

Shoot 'Em Up. I finally got around to seeing this, having waited until I was in a mood for extreme gunplay (and why is it called gunplay? Aside from a fictional setting, I think it's obscene to pair the word play with something designed to kill. Or is it just me?). This is a fantastic movie. It's played completely straight, which makes it not just a good thriller, but also very funny. Clive Owen is terrific, Monica Bellucci is sultry and heartbreaking and Paul Giamatti has the time of his life playing a thoroughly despicable, yet not one-dimensional, villain. Fantastic fun and for those of us living in Toronto, there's extra fun in spotting local places, many of them around my extended neighbourhood.

And because I've decided to follow this post by an estrogen edition, the last movie is a sort of bridge between the two.

Jindabyne. An Australian movie, directed by Ray Lawrence, who also directed Lantana (another favorite of mine). Based on the Raymond Carver short story "So Much Water So Close to Home", the movie is about a group of men from a small town near the Smokey Snowy (thanks, WT) Mountains who go on a fishing trip, make a bad decision and the fallout following that decision. The movie takes its time, alternating between being a bit of a mess and sucking you completely into the story. The catalyst for action is the decision made by the men, although in many ways, this is a film about women. Laura Linney burns through your TV with a fantastic performance and there is a scene in a meadow where smoke dances like a thing alive, a spirit visitation that is so moving, it had me in tears. Despite being uneven, I recommend it

I'm almost afraid to ask, but does anyone want to venture a recommendation of a (recent) women-oriented movie for the next edition?