The Non-Summer Summer Movies
With the lackluster summer movie season officially past, I come to briefly sing the praises of three decidedly "small" films that were among the best we saw. While I dug the big popcorn fare, particularly Batman Begins and War of the Worlds, I want to pay special tribute to ...
This documentary should have been the sleeper hit of the summer. One can only guess, however, that its exploration of the world of quadriplegic rugby didn't exactly translate into a fun Saturday night date movie in Sioux City. That's a shame, because Murderball is hands-down the best documentary I've seen in recent memory.
Neither a depressing look at those with handicaps nor a feel-good tale of spirit overcoming adversity, filmmakers Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro find some amazing characters in quad rugby player Mark Zupan and Canadian quad rugby coach Joe Soares -- hyper-competitive, athletic, self-possessed, surprisingly sensitive -- and lets their obsessive drive take center stage as their respective teams roll toward the Paralympics in Athens, Greece.
And the filmmakers have the good sense to answer things you probably wondered about but dared never ask, like: How do quadriplegics have sex?
The Constant Gardener
This adaptation of the John Le Carre novel defies being pigeonholed by genre. Directed by the gifted Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener is very much a visually told story that still achieves the rich, multilayered tapestry of literature. Ralph Fiennes is a British diplomat in Africa who slowly unravels what really resulted in the death of his wife (a radiant Rachel Weisz) and, in so doing, falls in love with her all over again.
Love story, geopolitical thriller or socially conscious drama, the movie succeeds marvelously at all three.
Along with Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic, this Jim Jarmusch film (surely his most commercially accessible, which really isn't saying so much) might conclude the Bill Murray trilogy of hollow-eyed men going through an existential crisis involving Fatherhood, Lost Love and The Meaning of It All.
Murray is Don Johnston, a past-his-prime womanizer who grudgingly sets out on a road trip -- prodded by his pal Winston (Jeffrey Wright) -- to find out whether there's any truth to an anonymous letter that indicates he fathered a son some 20 years ago. In his investigation, he revisits four old flames, a quartet played by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.
Lyrical, quiet and open-ended, the picture reminds you of why indie cinema can be so important.