Monday, July 21, 2008

Arts and Entertainment

A rollicking conversation took place in my family room few nights ago. My favorite cousin and his wife were in town for a visit and we were all discussing recent movies we’d seen, each person offering up their own critiques. It seemed that one after another, my favorite movies of the past year were on the “most hated” list of my cousin’s wife, a fact which we all found completely funny. I thought Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in There Will Be Blood was one of the most fascinating portraits of narcissistic greed ever captured in any art form. And, to me there could not be a better illustration of the truth, “the love of money is the root of all evil”, than that contained in No Country For Old Men. But to her, these were movies to be endured, not enjoyed. She wanted happy endings, and I had to concede, these had none. Laughingly we talked about the differences in what we seek from movies. She wanted entertainment, and I wanted illumination. She looked for happily ever after, I looked for truth. Now, before I portray myself as a brooding old bluestocking, dark and devoid of humor or fun, let me be the first to admit that I love a light, happy story as much as anyone. Babe is on my top ten list, Harvey the white pooka, pictured above with his friend Elwood P. Dowd, is quite real to me, and The Wizard of Oz changed my life as a child. However, while I will buy my ticket to see beautiful Meryl in Mamma Mia , I am waiting with bated breath to see her in the upcoming film version of the play, Doubt. I will enjoy both, I am sure, but the latter will more likely be the one I carry with me and ponder for days to come.

It’s amazing how many movies are released every month, every year. Incredible really, when you think of the money and time involved in each. But how many actually leave us with something to take home? Ideas, truths, revelations of ourselves and the world around us, controversies to argue over. Film is a powerful art form, and truly great acting is such a transcendent thing. Compare the performance of Dame Judi Dench in Ladies in Lavender with the one in Notes on a Scandal, for example. How does she do that? To create such complete portraits of two such diametrically opposed characters and to do it so believably. One doesn’t see her acting, she has become the women in the stories so completely. The first heartbreaking, the other diabolical, but both amazingly real. How is it that the aftorementioned Meryl Streep could have followed up Sophie’s Choice with Silkwood? Or, gorgeously sexy Helen Mirren could actually morph seamlessly into Queen Elizabeth II? It just fascinates me. The true art found in these performances is, to me, that they allow us to see into the lives of other people and, in turn, see better into ourselves and how we fit into the sphere of humanity. Little Miss Sunshine was so funny to me because it was so painfully true. Each character was someone I knew in one way or another.

Ah well, it seems my sweet cousin-in-law is in for more of these art versus entertainment conversations, as her eldest son is currently studying for a career in film-making. However, I can’t think about that now, I’m off to an afternoon showing of Batman!
Oh, but do share some of your favorite recent films, won’t you?