Friday, September 30, 2011

Movies: In Theaters Now!

Illness, new projects and a surfeit of pennant race baseball have kept me from my rounds. (Allow me to pause at this point and say that this past Wednesday was one of the greatest nights I’ve ever experienced as a sports fan. I’d also like to extend my congratulations to your 2011 National League batting champion, Jose Reyes of the New York Mets.) I have, however, been to the movies a few times.

Drive. This adaptation of James Sallis’ brief, brilliant novel, written by Hossein Amini and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, begins as a lost Michael Mann movie circa 1982, right down to the pink title font. But it soon develops a hypnotic, doomy rhythm all its own. Ryan Gosling is a wheelman of few words but eloquent, minimalist gestures. It’s a great film about Los Angeles as a capital of both self-invention and self-abnegation. (Future double bill: this and The Lincoln Lawyer, two movies set in L.A.’s less showier precincts featuring terrific Cliff Martinez soundtracks.) It’s a dream-like fantasia about vanishing into the bloodstream of a city punctuated by nightmarish bursts of graphic violence. For all the stylization and bravura performances – who knew Albert Brooks could be scary? – my favorite moment is a quiet conversation between Gosling and Oscar Isaac in an Echo Park hallway.

Moneyball. As referenced above, I am a baseball fan. And as I’ve stated more than once, Michael Lewis’ look at the rise of sabermetrics is one of the three greatest books of all time. (The others, if you’re interested, are Nick Tosches’ Dean Martin biography Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, and The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook.) I was rooting for the movie before the lights dimmed, so you won’t be surprised to hear I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lewis’ sprawling story is smartly condensed to focus on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his (then) unconventional approach to running the Oakland A’s. I apologize to everyone at the screening I attended for laughing hysterically whenever Philip Seymour Hoffman turned up as A’s manager Art Howe, but Hoffman absolutely nails the face Art regularly made during his two dismal seasons as skipper of the Mets.

Also still in a handful of theaters, the excellent and sorely neglected Warrior, which I reviewed for Crimespree.

Want more? Fine. At the work blog I write about Electronic Detective, a treasured game of my youth. Or you could just watch this commercial featuring paid endorser Don Adams.