Little Miss Sunshine (actually seen in a theater!)

As you might have heard, or seen in the previews, Little Miss Sunshine is a road movie. In the subgenre that includes movies from Rain Man (oddly not noted in this extensive list or indeed other rosters I’ve checked) to last year’s Transamerica, a bunch of disparate people come together and learn something about each other at the end. The fact that these folks are actually related to each other does not preclude the initial mutual alienation from each other.

Little Miss Sunshine is such a film. Whether it works or not depends on the acting and script, and for this movie, both are quite good. Some of the analyses of the movie I’ve read is that it’s a bunch of “quirky” characters, which I did not find at all. Greg Kinnear, who plays the father, is a guy who thinks he knows all the answers, but doesn’t have a clue, just like a former relative of mine. Toni Collette, who plays the mom, is denial about her bad habit. Paul Dano plays the teenager who won’t talk; I can relate. I’ve known salty old men like the grandfather, played by Alan Arkin. Certainly, the desire to fit in of Olive, played by young Abigail Breslin, is a universal theme. Finally, don’t we all know a gay, suicidal Proust scholar after a failed romance, such as Olive’s uncle, played by Steve Carell? You don’t? Yet, he too rang true.

Moreover, this movie is intelligently FUNNY. Sometimes, laugh-out-loud FUNNY, especially in the second half, yet touching without being preachy or saccharine.

I must admit that when the family makes it to the contest, I was slightly weirded out. All the contestants, save for Olive, reminded me of slightly older JonBenet Ramseys.

Still, this critically acclaimed film is a must-see.
The Conversation (on TV)

There were two very good Francis Ford Coppola films in 1974. One was The Godfather, Part 2, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won 6, including 3 for Coppola (best picture, directing and writing: screenplay adapted from other material, with Mario Puzo). The other was The Conversation, which was merely nominated for best picture and writing: original screenplay (both Coppola), as well as sound (Walter Murch, Arthur Rochester).

I’d heard about this movie for decades, but never saw it in the movies or on tape or DVD. So when TCM was showing films by independent movie directors back in July, I made a point to record it. but I didn’t get a chance to actually watch it until a couple weeks ago.

This movie, I thought, started off slowly, with me trying to decipher just what the heck is going on beyond Gene Hackman’s character following around a young couple; the young woman was played by Cindy Williams, then recently seen in American Graffiti, pre-Laverne & Shirley. Another American Graffiti alum, Harrison Ford, comes in and plays a pivotal role. I think this review gets it right: “slowly-gripping, bleak study of electronic surveillance and threat of new technologies that is examined through the private, internalized life of a lonely and detached expert ‘bugger.’ ” The movie becomes more compelling by the second half, as the pieces comes together. Also, one can certainly discuss the film in terms of the current (lack of) privacy conversation.
Invincible (another in the theaters)

We had babysitting grandparents, so we went to see ANOTHER movie with Greg Kinnear, the Rocky meets The Rookie football film with Mark Wahlberg. If I say it was “pleasant”, “inoffensive”, “competent” or even “enjoyable”, it seems to damn the movie with faint praise. It’s a true story, I knew how it was going to end, one plot line was WAY too transparent, and there was TOO MUCH ’70’s music to no particular end. But you know what? I bought into the story anyway. It’s a movie I could take my mother and my niece to, even though neither of them are particularly football fans. Not a must-see, but worthy of a rental.
From e-week:

There they go again. Ulanoff and Dvorak are fighting it out on the web, over – can you believe it – Snakes on a Plane.
Lance Ulanoff thinks that the over-blogged SOAP, which bombed at the box office, is a perfect example of why the blogosphere is over hyped and can’t even deliver a movie audience. Dvorak is incredulous. He accuses Lance of all sorts of things, mainly centering around his clueless misunderstanding of blogs, and how they actually worked in this case. The gloves are off. You’ve got to read this back and forth, it’s hilarious. Start with Lance’s column on blogs and SOAP, and then move on to Dvorak’s stinging rebuttal. Now that’s entertainment!

Blogs Fail Snakes On A Plane
Dvorak Thinks Lance is Clueless.
Or, if they don’t work, go here.

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