I don't have a "Movies" Icon so I'm using the "Music" one. The post covers both topics.
My (belated) New Year's Resolution for 2008 was to see more movies this year. I so resolved when I realized I had not seen one of the Best Picture Oscar-nominated films that came out in 2007. In the grand tradition of New Year's Resolutions, I've been failing miserably. Until this last weekend I had seen exactly one movie in 2008 - Juno. But I saw a movie on Saturday night and another on Sunday, so my total tripled in a weekend. I enjoyed them both. Some info behind the cuts, but it does contain spoilers.
Vicki and I went to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall on Saturday night. I have been so amused by the marketing campaign - particularly the websites for Sarah's TV show and Aldous Snow's music video - that I wasn't sure the movie would live up to the hype. But as it turned out, it's really funny, has hilarious songs, and even some good character development along the way.
Peter Bretter, the main character (played by Jason Segel, who also wrote the script) is an average-looking guy with an average kind of job in a relationship with a beautiful and famous woman. She (the Sarah Marshall of the title, played by Kristen Bell) is the lead actress of a popular (and completely cheesy) TV show called "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime." Peter writes the incidental music for the show - a bunch of ominous tones, mostly. They've been together for five years and five minutes into the movie she dumps him, unceremoniously and while he is completely naked. Jason Segel claims that he was once dumped by a girlfriend while naked and thought it was such a funny idea he had to use it in a movie! Peter, however, does not see the humorous aspects and is shocked and broken-hearted.
Sarah has left Peter for Aldous Snow, a self-important English rock star of outrageous demeanor and appearance. Devastated, Peter first tries to deal with his grief through meaningless sex with strangers, but when that doesn't work he decides to go on vacation to Hawaii, not realizing that Sarah and Aldous are vacationing at the same resort. Hijinks ensue as Peter befriends a number of resort staff members (including the beautiful Rachel Jansen, played by Mila Kunis, who may turn out to be more than a friend) and Sarah and Aldous find out that they have widely divergent views on issues like monogamy and disclosure of infection with STDs. The ending is predictable (and as A.O. Scott points out in the NY Times review, it's only in the movies that pasty underachieving men are fought over by beautiful women, and it never happens - even in the movies - in reverse gender roles) but the ride is great fun.
Peter is a complete mess when Sarah dumps him, and his whiny misery is played for laughs with the audience, even as we grow to sympathize with him. It's a hard balance, but Segel plays it perfectly. As the movie progresses all of the characters become more than the flat "types" they seem at the beginning. A clearer and more in depth view of Sarah's and Peter's relationship is shown in flashbacks as they both have memories of the relationship triggered by current events in an extraordinarily realistic and evocative way. Over time he remembers more of what wasn't satisfying about the relationship as she remembers a lot of what was good about it. The characters become credible and achieve depth without ever getting in the way of non-stop laugh out loud humor. It's quite an achievement.
Doran and I went to see Iron Man Saturday night - second time for him, first for me. We both loved it! I think Robert Downey, Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark, as well cast as Toby Maguire as Spider-Man. The movie is exciting and funny and just plain fun. They do a great job of updating the story (I think it would have worked fine as a period piece, too). The effects are magnificent. Gwyneth Paltrow makes a wonderful Pepper; Jeff Bridges is completely credible (and completely unrecognizable, except for his voice) as Obadiah; and Terence Howard (of whom I'd never heard) makes a charming Rhodey. The plot has holes you can drive a truck through, but I didn't care. I never lost willing suspension of disbelief. Btw, the slash potential is all Tony/Rhodey, I think.
Doran asked me yesterday if I think it's a sexist movie (prompted by a friend of his, who had that complaint). I don't, and in fact I'd say for a comic book movie it's pretty remarkably respectful of women. Tony Stark is a sexist, but that certainly is not shown as a positive or morally neutral characteristic of his, and his character growth is demonstrated as much in his growing recognition of Pepper as more than just an object as in his recognition of the moral ambiguity of his weapons business.
All in all a fun evening! Stay for the credits.
And just to round out this Dale Entertainment Recap, I want to plug a singer/songwriter I recently discovered: James McMurtry. I heard him interviewed on NPR a couple of weeks ago. He sounded really interesting and I loved the one song of his he sang: Hurricane Party. (Hey, does anyone else ever wonder on radio interview shows whether the singers are really singing or just playing a recording?) The NPR interviewer compared McMurtry to Kris Kristofferson and McMurtry acknowledged the Kristofferson was one of his early influences. I also would say that he could be compared to early Dylan and to current Steve Earle. He writes a sort of rock/folk/country blend with complex lyrics and interesting melodies and has a distinctive and (to me, anyway) appealing kind of rough/tender voice. Since I have unlimited music through Rhapsody I immediately downloaded two of his albums and have been enjoying them a lot!