Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgabbing Day

Werth: Happy Thanksgiving, Wise!

Wise: Happy Thanksgiving, Werth! I take it you chowed down on platters and platters of edible delights.

Werth: Chowed and chowed. Did you create one of your infamous Wise Family spreads?

Wise: Did I ever: three kinds of pie, sweet potato gratin, roasted corn and red peppers, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and a turkey that almost made me weep with gluttonous joy. 

Werth: You know, in between the courses of white and red wine, I thought to myself how thankful I am.

Wise: Friends, family and food on our tables are good reasons for thanks.

Werth: I meant thankful for some of the movies I've seen this year.

Wise: But I thought Adam Sandler only made one film this year. 

Werth: There was a lot to be thankful for—Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011), Bette Davis in a black wig in Beyond the Forest (1949), Olivia de Haviland playing twins with name tag necklaces so you can tell them apart in Dark Mirror (1946)

Wise: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011), a finale that was thrilling, yet deeply tender; the salute to fashion photographer icon Bill Cunningham New York (2011); and Tangled (2010), Disney's return to making fairy tales that are both gorgeous and full of spunk. 

Werth: But the film I saw this year that I was most thankful for was Tim Burton's 2003 grown-up fantasy, Big Fish.

Wise: Fish for Thanksgiving. Interesting...  

Werth: Based on Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel of the same name, Big Fish basically tells the story of a storyteller. Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) comes home to visit his ailing father Ed (Albert Finney) after years of estrangement. Ed is a habitual yarn-spinner of epic proportion who can't even tell the truth about what happened the day his son was born. 
He ignores the fact that he was in Wichita selling one of his Handi-matic gadgets, blows by exaggeration and heads straight for a tall-tale about wrestling with a legendary giant fish.  

 Wise: Wallace has written several well-received novels that playfully reconsider Southern traditions and storytelling.  

Werth: The film goes back and forth between the present and the imagined past of Ed's tales with Ewan McGregor filling in as the irresistibly charming younger Albert Finney. Burton has always been an expert at creating odd, macabre childhood visions, but what he does here is unique even for him. The delightful circus, neighborhood soothsaying witch and barefoot town trapped in a folk-sy past aren't viewed from the perspective of a child, but from that of an adult. 
In Big Fish, Burton takes a step away from his kiddie-flick roots and melds a touching father-son melodrama with a celebration of artists who create imaginative stories, larger-than-life characters and captivating places—in short, directors like himself.  

Wise: It certainly was a departure from his usual carnival funhouse and an embrace of a more mature, though no less wondrous, vision.  

Werth: Packed with gorgeous visuals, intimate un-Burton-like close-ups and a cast of greats including Finney, McGregor, Jessica Lange, Marion Cotillard, Helena Bonham Carter and Robert Guillaume, Big Fish did not make a splash with critics (only garnering one Oscar nom for Danny Elfman's soundtrack), but this Film Gabber was boo-hoo'ing like a baby by the end—and as far as I'm concerned, that makes Big Fish a must-see.  

Wise: Although I can't say I had the same reaction to Big Fish, I do agree that the films I'm most thankful for are the ones that affect us most personally.  For me, that film this year was Weekend (2011), written, directed and edited by Andrew Haigh.  The film follows Russell (Tom Cullen), a shy, circumspect  man who exists at the fringes of his friends' lives.  Slipping away from a house party one night, he wends his way to a bar where he meets Glen (Chris New), and, after a few spectacularly awkward flirtations, they end up spending the night together.  

Werth: I have a couple stories that wind-up like that...  

Wise: I think almost everyone does, but the unusual thing about Russell and Glen is that they can't seem to allow their night of drunken fumbling to fade into the past. A few hours turns into an entire weekend as they battle preconceived ideas, pry open each others' deepest secrets, and eventually forge new selves.  

Werth: Sounds like a weekend-long love hangover.  

Wise: It's actually the exact opposite of a hangover.  At the start of the movie, neither man believes in love—Russell because he doesn't trust himself; Glen because he doesn't trust others—but by the end, each has surrendered himself to the other.  

Werth: Are you sure this isn't one of the Twilight movies? 

Wise: Weekend doesn't offer the glib melodramatics of adolescent infatuation.  Instead it addresses anxieties, loneliness, and the possibility of finding happiness with another person through work, vulnerability and luck.  

Werth: It sounds like it's a movie that made you very thankful. 

Wise: Almost as thankful as I am that I'll still be eating turkey leftovers during next week's Film Gab. 

Werth: Happy Thanksgiving Film Gabbers! 

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