Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" (aka, "The Decline and Fall of the Wild Thing Empire") is not Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." It's only fair you should know that in advance. The book's illustrations and nine sentences have been turned into a surprisingly (some might even say shockingly) literal-minded 90-minute motion picture about the misery of being a kid. Jonze and co-scenarist Dave Eggers are clearly in touch with their inner-miserable child; they seem to vividly remember all the daily turmoil that childhood is heir to -- the tantrums, fights, scrapes, bruises, fears, anxieties, insults, hurt feelings, bossiness, cruelty, rejection, confusion, heckling, bullying, bragging, pouting, moping, testing, haggling, crying, rage...
Those aspects of childhood trauma are acutely and accurately portrayed in the movie. Every time the fun starts, somebody goes too far (like a puppy who hasn't learned his soft mouth yet), and someone gets hurt or scared or angry or sad or all of those things. The movie's adulterated sensibility is that of an alienated grown-up looking back at the (somewhat romanticized, over-intellectualized) misery of childhood and denying or downplaying the equally real fun stuff -- the in-the-moment joy, the exhilaration of being and imagining and doing and playing. So, in some sense it's a corrective to all those stupid "Isn't it wonderful being a kid?" movies that remember childhood through equally distorted rose-tinted lenses.
View image Matt Damon and Julia Stiles scope out the situation in "The Bourne Ultimatum."
Kathleen Murphy and Richard T. Jameson present their much-anticipated annual list of indelible memories-at-24-fps, Moments Out of Time, at MSN Movies. They've been sifting through the fragments of movie-time for these shining moments for many years, beginning in Movietone News and continuing through the 1990s in Film Comment.
Beginning when I was in high school, I would read through them religiously, looking for moments I'd treasured, too -- or maybe even ones I hadn't spotted or properly appreciated. Then I'd re-read, again and again, as if I were holding gems to the light and examining them through a magnifying glass, for the sheer pleasure of how they caught the rays. I'd pore over every turn of phrase, teasing out the meanings, even for the movies I hadn't seen with my own eyes (yet).
Here are a few of my favorites for 2007: In "Ratatouille," the remembrance of things past courtesy of the eponymous dish: the critic's flashback to childhood
When Bourne (Matt Damon) wonders why the CIA operative (Julia Stiles) who once set him up is helping him now, she answers with what passes for a declaration of love in the killing environs of "The Bourne Ultimatum": "You were ... hard for me." ...
In "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," the pebbles sliding away from the vibrating rail as Jesse's boot rests there, waiting to stop his last train
Leaving her friend to wait out her abortion, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) attends an obligatory birthday party in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." The camera holds and holds as she sits frozen, claustrophobically hemmed by babbling guests, until she and we nearly explode with tension
The first getting-to-know-you-and-your-music duet in "Once," one of the purest distillations of rapport ever
In "Starting Out in the Evening," confronted by a redheaded beauty (Lauren Ambrose), the elderly gentleman (Frank Langella) involuntarily covers his face with his hand -- to hide his age or to shield his eyes from her bright heat
Night birds: Chigurh, the raven, and the gunshot reverberating off the otherwise deserted bridge, after which the two bend their separate ways in "No Country for Old Men" ...
"There Will Be Blood": Killing God in a two-lane bowling alley: "I'm finished."... Hungry for more? Devour all of 'em here.
TORONTO, Ont. -- I don’t know when I’ve heard a standing ovation so long, loud and warm as the one after Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” which I predict will become quickly beloved when it opens at Christmas time, and win a best actress nomination for its 20- year old star, Ellen Page.
TORONTO, Ont. -- And now the ecstasy and madness begins. The 32nd Toronto Film Festival opens Thursday with no fewer than 15 films, and that’s before it gets up to speed. The Trail Mix Brigade is armed with their knapsacks, bottled water, instant snacks, text messengers and a determination to see, who knows, six, seven, eight films a day.