Setter’s ‘Spectives: Assessing the Virtues of ‘Calvary’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Whenever I see a good movie, I become happy. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. My mood changes … for the better.

I experienced that transformation last night after watching director John Michael McDonagh’s powerful, upsetting film Calvary, which concerns the self-reflection of a priest in Ireland who has been told during confession that he will be killed. There’s a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock mystery in this story, but much more Ingmar Bergman-esque philosophical rumination, and that suited me just fine. I like a picture that can think on Big Ideas without becoming pretentious. Calvary accomplished that. It pondered questions surrounding faith, good deeds and revenge. And it didn’t pull any punches. All while maintaining a good pace and strong dialogue.

Then there were the performances. Led by Brendan Gleeson as the priest, the cast was quite good, presenting a host of unpleasant characters with problems of their own. I think there were some credibility issues that were a bit difficult to believe (that Gleeson’s Father James wouldn’t immediately reveal his situation to the authorities didn’t make a lot of sense to me), but on the whole, Calvary presented an unusual situation realistically … and sympathetically. Perhaps it’s not a movie that I’d want to see again; parts were difficult to watch, and it wasn’t what I’d call cheerful. Still, it had a lot to offer, and I’m glad I got a chance to see it.

After all, it made me happy last night. And that’s not easy from a cinematic perspective.

Skip’s Quips: What Happened to ‘The Angriest Man in Brooklyn’?

Blog Sketch 082813Most movies that start viewers off with narration bother me.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is no exception, and I had to turn it off last night before getting past the first half hour or so.

Narration is a crutch frequently used, it seems, to offset the fact that a story somehow isn’t told traditionally through the action onscreen. The problem is, it usually winds up being tiresome and suspense-killing, which you don’t want in a movie. That’s what happened in TAMiB.

But what really happened there? A lot of talent was wasted in this film – including Robin Williams, Peter Dinklage and Mila Kunis – which had something to do with a very peeved lawyer (played by Williams) being told erroneously that he has 90 minutes to live. Oh, goody, that plot device. No wonder I couldn’t watch the picture.

The script was a mess, to say the least. It was hard to say what it was going for: a comedy or a drama. Or perhaps both. It didn’t matter; I lost interest. And I don’t expect to resume watching it soon.

If only there wasn’t any narration. Maybe things would’ve been a little better.

Maybe.

Skip’s Quips: Picking Apart ‘The Oranges’

Blog Sketch 082813There’s a lot of good stuff in The Oranges – so much that I wonder why it got such a low rating on IMDb.

This tale of adultery with your New Jersey neighbor has a pretty tight script, some good direction by Julian Farino and fine casting that results in sparkling turns by the likes of Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Alia Shawkat, Catherine Keener and Allison Janney. The plot features some not-so-credible points, and I feel everything wrapped up in an all-too-pat manner, but there’s humor and drama in hefty amounts along the way, plus sensitive treatment of a familiar subject.

And no, I didn’t turn it off halfway through. That’s something in itself.

OK, it’s not a great film. I don’t think it tries to be, though. Surprisingly, it’s quite unpretentious; I think that’s partly why I enjoyed much of it.

Director Farino has done a lot of TV work in the past. Perhaps that’s one reason why it felt so crisp. Maybe the ending was a little TV-esque, too, but there’s potential here.

Good show.

From Skip and Setter’s Creator: My Next Opus on CURNBLOG … This Time With Susan Seidelman

Blog Sketch of Me 092213Hi, folks! My new interview on CURNBLOG is up, and it’s a good one: I talk to Susan Seidelman, director of films such as Desperately Seeking Susan, about balancing comedy and drama, Hollywood’s treatment of female talent, and her own cinematic influences. You can read more here:

http://curnblog.com/2014/03/07/interviewing-susan-seidelman-madonna-menopause/

I hope you like it.