Thursday, February 16, 2006

Movies: Grab Bag

Worthy movies always get overlooked in the year-end awards derby. Here’s a trio of films not fated for Oscar glory that still deserve an audience:

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Tommy Lee Jones’s feature directing debut took home acting and writing prizes from last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but wasn’t picked up for distribution until several months later. It’s a grim, intense fable about a West Texas ranch hand (Jones) determined to return the body of his only friend to Mexico in the company of the Border Patrol agent (Barry Pepper) who killed him. The movie’s an odd fusion of Sam Peckinpah, Cormac McCarthy, and hallucinogenic westerns like The Shooting, but with a deadpan humor all its own. Tough, compelling stuff. Jones should get back behind the camera as soon as possible. (Although considering that he’s set to star in the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, I’m willing to wait.)

The World’s Fastest Indian. Anthony Hopkins stars as Burt Munro, the odd duck New Zealander who set a land speed record on his 40-year-old Indian Scout motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1962. Grade-A hokum; you know exactly where the movie’s going, but it’s so charming you can’t wait to get there. Hopkins is clearly having a blast.

Caché. Michael Haneke lives to make middle-class bourgeois types uncomfortable. He would no doubt be disappointed to hear that while I enjoyed his thriller about a couple who find themselves under surveillance, I also coveted everything about the life of Daniel Auteuil’s character, from his book-lined dining room to his sensible wife Juliette Binoche. I’ve read that the closing shot contains a clue that reveals the identity of the villain. If that’s true, I missed it.

Miscellaneous: Snow Flakes

This Slate piece saluting American oddballs in the Winter Olympics – particularly that last paragraph – actually got me to chant “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” like Homer Simpson.