The Good Life

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DVD Spotlight - March 16

Brief capsules on new DVDs worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


What impressed me most about "Precious," aside from the astounding, Oscar-winning performance from Mo'Nique and the transformative, Oscar-nominated lead turn from debut talent Gabourey Sidibe, was the manner in which director and West Philly native Lee Daniels (also an Oscar nominee) chose to visualize Oscar winner Geoffrey Fletcher's bold adaptation of Sapphire's groundbreaking novel. One walks into this movie expecting to be shaken (the tremendous buzz took care of that over a year ago), but the rich texture of Daniels' accomplished filmmaking style -- the urban grit, the imaginative transitions, Precious's vivid fantasies -- make it a truly distinct and absorbing work. Daniels's artisitic point of view positions him as quite possibly the most noteworthy black American auteur since Spike Lee. (Now available)


At last, the oft-ingratiating Wes Anderson takes a break from fashioning live-action narratives into pretentious, hipper-than-thou, wannabe cartoons, and simply jumps right in and makes an animated film -- an excellent one, no less. Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, "Fox," like "Precious," has an extraordinary texture -- this one so tactile you may find yourself compelled to reach out and touch the screen (take that, 3-D!). Made in a furry, herky-jerky stop-motion style, and bolstered by additional old-school creative touches like an ant-farm perspective, this weird and exceedingly whimsical adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's novel is a loopy laugh riot, eliciting the feeling of being drunk on harebrained joy. Well done, Mr. Anderson. (Available March 23)


Though it walked away empty-handed at the Academy Awards, writer/director Jason Reitman's beautifully mature and delectably witty adult dramedy "Up in the Air" is my favorite film of 2009. Featuring perfect perfomances from Oscar nominees George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, this tragicomedy about a corporate axeman with no ties except the ones he wears while firing underlings across the country has unmatched relevance, but never shoves it down your gullet. I remember trying my hardest to keep up with the movie's brilliant wit in my notes, but was firmly defeated, so relentless is the greatness of its scenes. Few people realize how difficult it is to craft a film that so accurately and directly speaks to the time in which it's made, and fewer still, it seems, recognize how rare it is for an American comedy to lack a single dumb joke. With "Up in the Air," Reitman shows us how it's done. (Now Available)


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