Tuesday, July 29, 2008
You know how, when you go see a Shakespeare play, you spend the first five or ten minutes just trying to figure out what everyone's saying; then your brain clicks into Elizabethan mode and the dialogue becomes clear as daylight? Same thing happens with "Juno."
Fifteen year old Juno speaks in the deeply idiomatic parlance of adolescence, a language so particular to time and place that it's nearly a foreign tongue to everyone not of it. Once we attune to that parlance, however, we find her dealing with some of the most serious issues a young person can face with a healthy mixture of style, brains, and staggering immaturity. In other words, she's a reasonably together teenager, one I'd be happy to call my daughter.
Yes, this is a "teenage pregnancy" movie, but it's a sharp teenage pregnancy movie, one willing to style the teenager in question as (within the range of a 15-yr-old) mistress of her own destiny. Further, it's willing to play with our conceptions of its characters, finding sympathy in some unexpected places and blinding selfishness in others, and charting those journeys in unique and interesting ways.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody is being heralded as the next big thing. I don't know if that's the case, but I do know that she's written a sharp, funny, good movie with "Juno." After five or ten minutes, I could even figure out what everyone was saying.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Oh, how I adore "Finding Nemo."
My two-year-old has just discovered it, and it's now on nearly constant rotation on the enormovision. I never tire of the film, and I suspect that's because of three reasons: compelling story, fine performances, and beautiful images.
The story is delightfully dad-centric, a rarity in this or any other genre. Marlin the clownfish is overprotective of his little Nemo and his worst fears are realized on the very first day of school: Nemo is captured by scuba divers and taken far away, and it's up to dad to find him and save him. As a dad, how can I not respond to that? How can I not relate to the conflict between Marlin's desire to shield his son from harm and his duty to expose him to risk? How can I not relate to his desperation, his determination, his no-choice-but-to-see-this-thing-through? And when Nemo learns that his dad is, in fact, supercool, well, what father doesn't want to be a hero in the eyes of his children?
This story is brought to life through well-written situations and dialogue, performed by first-class actors such as Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, and Geoffrey Rush. They hit not a single sour note, and they manage to immerse me in the goings on from start to finish.
And speaking of immersion, "Finding Nemo" immerses us in a beautiful world with a stricking color palette. It's bright and rich and endlessly interesting, and when it's on it lights up the whole basement. In fact, I have one of the DVD's special features, a virtual aquarium, going right now. This world is so captivating that it makes me want to dust off my old scuba card, fly somewhere nice, and take a plunge. This is a beautiful, beautiful film. I don't think I'll ever tire of it.