I have been a bad blogger. My excuse is much holiday activity -- which included a lot of movies. Here is my take on three of them:
WAR HORSE: I didn't much like this. It's really two movies. One is a sentimental boy-and-his-horse story that could have used some of Harlan Ellison's tartness from "A Boy and His Dog" (although there is nobody here to feed to the horse, which is a herbivore anyway, so maybe not THAT much tartness.) The second, far more interesting movie is the trench warfare of World War I, here depicted in appalling, riveting detail. I wanted to see more of that story, with its human courage and cowardice. In fact, the best scene in the movie involves a German and a British soldier (not the horse's owner) who tentatively, carefully, both emerge from their trenches to join in freeing the horse from barbed wire. The tension shoots up as you wonder if anyone will shoot. In contrast, I could have done with fewer endless scenes of the horse cantering against a setting sun, a rising sun, or a noonday sun. This will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar, but let's hope it doesn't win.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN: This one pretty much lacks any substantial story, but I liked it for the performances. Kenneth Branaugh is Lawrence Olivier, immensely frustrated by trying to direct a movie with a female star who doesn't show up for work on time, doesn't show up at all, can't get her lines right, and nonetheless lights up the screen in a way that he knows he does not. Michelle Williams is a credible Marilyn Monroe, maybe not as voluptuous (my father was disappointed) but with all the ultra-feminine tricks down pat. Zoe Wannamaker plays Paula Strassberg, Marilyn's "method" coach, and she is a repulsive spider of a woman feeding off Marilyn, who in turn feeds desperately off whatever adoration she can create in anyone at all. My companion at the movies said that the film added nothing to his knowledge of Monroe, but I thought it at least brought that knowledge to life.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2: When you go to the movies in a clump of family, you don't always get to choose the movie. I fought against this choice, lost, and ended up glad to see it anyway. It is a movie without pretensions (unlike WAR HORSE). It's ridiculous and over-the-top and doesn't pretend to be anything else. That lets the viewer just laugh and gasp along: at the plot twists, the derring-do, the silly tech, the gorgeous and absurdly deadly actors. I was not bored. On the other hand, an hour after I left the theater, the plot had mostly vanished from my mind. What were they trying to do again? Why? But -- a lot of fun while it lasted.