You can read Part I here.
The Kid With A Bike
This is a story that very could have become all cliche. A young boy is in an orphan home. He constantly tries to escape to find his father. When he does, the father callously rejects him. He clings to a woman in a counselor’s office. She takes him in temporarily. He falls in with the wrong crowd in her neighborhood. He turns out okay. She becomes his mother.
How fraught with saccharine peril is that plotline. There are any number of such films that become cloying early. Like, oh, “The Blind Side.”
Except this Belgian-made gem avoids all that. It tells the tale in a naturalistic manner, steeped in reality. The characters are never caricatures. Even the disengaged father is portrayed with compassion for his situation and his inability to act with love toward his son. The situations feel real.
Thomas Doyet is a discovery as the kid. Cecile de France is exquisite as the hairdresser who takes him in.
There is an absolutely stunning scene in a car. de France and her boyfriend are having an argument. The kid is in the back seat. In essence, it is the moment when she must choose between these two. The scene is handled with astonishing delicacy. And perfectly place cameras. The editing is a work of art.
The film won a grand jury prize at Cannes. So I’m not the only one who considers it extraordinary cinema.
I don’t know much about modern dance . . . except that when it’s good, I’m entranced.
I’d never heard of Pina Bausch, the choreographer to whom this Wim Wenders film is homage.
I’m a believer. In her. And, yet again, in Wenders, who is one of the great filmmakers of our time.
Here we experience Bausch’s extraordinary dance troupe and choreography on stage and in the real world. I was sucked in from the get go. Dancers in a line on a hillside, meandering forward to Satchmo’s “West End Blues.” There are dances whimsical in industrial settings. In a white room. On a bus. At a bus stop.
This is simply film and dance at its most engaging and exhilarating.
Dance is about motion, angularity and perspective. Therefore it is the perfect subject for 3D . . . if done right. Last year, I opined that Wender’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” was far and away the best use of 3D I’d ever seen.
Searching for Sugar Man
Until I saw this film, I’d never heard of Sixto Rodriguez.
I’d never heard his music.
I didn’t know the frankly unbelievable tale of this humble talent from Detroit who, unbeknownst to him, became a superstar in Australia and South Africa. A reality of which he only became aware decades after he’d long given up his music career. And long after those who grew up hanging on his every lyric in those foreign lands thought him dead.
The whole entrancing story is revealed in this marvelous documentary.
More haunting than the dumfounding history is the man himself, his nascent humility.
Somebody won’t allow me to embed the trailer, but you can view it here.
Silver Lingings Playbook
I have a couple of close friends who are therapists, but also serious movie buffs. They absolutely loathed this film, which tells the love story of a bipolar guy just out of the hospital (Bradley Cooper) who falls in love with a young widow with plenty of baggage herself (Jennifer Lawrence).
When I asked one of them why, she mentioned the scene where a shrink plays a song over his office’s waiting room system that has previously triggered severe reaction in Cooper. She said, to paraphrase, “There’s nothing more unprofessional than that. Nothing as unrealistic. I just couldn’t enjoy any of the movie.”
To which I replied, “Now you know how lawyers and doctors feel, when they watch some totally fallacious take on their profession in a movie.”
Fortunately, I’m not a therapist. I realized that some of David O. Russell’s film was outside of reality. But I loved it nonetheless. It propels from scene to scene in a manner quite unusual for a personal movie like this.
And it confirms once and for all that Ms. Lawrence is on a collision course with turning into the next Meryl Streep.
Yes, this tale of guy who grows up as best friend with a potty-mouthed, talking teddy bear is wicked stupid.
To which I say, as Ted would say, “So fuckin’ what!”
This film — the creation of director/ writer Seth McFarlane, who I think may be hosting the Oscars this year — was simply the funniest of the year.
All Mark Wahlberg wants for Christmas as a kid is a pal. He gets one in spades. One, with whom, as they “grow up,” he smokes dope and watches stupid TV and does guy things. Which is fine, until love finds its way into Marky Mark’s life in the form of comely Mila Kunis.
But, all that aside, I loved Ted for the same reasons I love Triumph the Insult Dog. Constant totally insensitive, politically incorrect bon mots and invective spewing from the bear’s mouth. Well, also, because he bags the babes.
There is a place in the movie house for films without any redeeming social value. In 2012 Ted filled that spot for me.
Other flicks that almost made this list: “The Sessions.” “Smashed.” “Hysteria.” “End of Watch.” “Headhunters.” “Bernie.”