Still Mine (2012)

stillmine1This is not a powerhouse film, but it’s bolstered by a powerhouse performance from James Cromwell. His career has always been one worth watching. He’s been prolific for many years now in films like Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Queen, The Artist, and so on. And yet he’s never been a star, simply a wonderful character actor making each film he appears in all the more interesting. He has an imposing frame, often a quiet persona, and a relatable quality.

Still Mine is certainly a romance film, but it’s about one man almost as much as it’s about a couple. Craig Morrison (Cromwell) is well into his 80s now and he is still living in a farmhouse with his wife of 60s years. Her health and memory are quickly deteriorating and he, along with all his children, knows it. He resolves to build her a newer, smaller farmhouse that will be easier to manage.

We like him as an individual because he still has ties to the old world and the way it used to be. He doesn’t beat around the bush, and he gets fed up with the impracticality of modern-day bureaucracy. He’s proud and independent. His idol was Babe Ruth, and he has a great passion for lumber because he father was a shipbuilder long ago.

That’s why when his new project hits roadblock after roadblock in the form of building code violations, he’s peeved and annoyed. But he tries to push through, going past them, because that’s his way. His main opposition is building inspector Mr. Daigle, who although he might be a sour apple and a stickler for rules, is by no means a villain.

stillmine2So in a sense, this story is twofold. We get to see the ties that bind two people together even after so many years of marriage. They are so closely knit. They can have their tiffs, they can get frustrated, but ultimately there is an almost insurmountable amount of faith and affection that holds them together. It makes the mundane beautiful and yet at times, it becomes difficult to watch because Craig knows that his other half is slowly losing her edge, and yet he still loves her so deeply. He gets angry with her, but he has an extraordinary capacity to love her still.

But also this film is interesting because we get to watch the resolve of a man on another front. He wants to keep busy. Despite his advanced years, he wants to do this on his own. It’s the principle of the thing, and he sticks with his convictions no matter what children, neighbors, or members of the bureaucracy say. Although Cromwell still feels fairly young and spry, I didn’t mind him playing a man quite a bit older than himself. Also, the ending including Mumford’s “After the Storm,” was a rather surprising inclusion, but not a bad thing. It adds a contemplative tone to this film’s resolution.

3.5/5 Stars

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, and a great supporting cast, the film takes place in Los Angeles in 1953 where the police force is trying to get rid of crime. Pearce is the promising newcomer who will do whatever it takes to move up. Spacey on the other hand is the technical adviser a cop show and makes money on the side supplying a gossip journalist. Crowe is simply a hardened strong man. Despite their mutual dislike for each other, they must ultimately work together to uncover the mystery behind the murders at the Night Owl Cafe. Their investigation leads them nearer than they ever expected. In a heated finale they must fight for justice while struggling to stay alive. Although quite violent, this film has a good period setting, and the interesting story is reminiscent of classic film-noir.

4.5/5 Stars

The Artist (2011)

7cfee-the-artist-posterWith a cast of all nationalities and backgrounds, this film is a breath of fresh air for many reasons. Ironically, this freshness comes in a contemporary age thanks to a look back at a former age. In black and white and almost completely silent, the movie begins in 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a Hollywood star of the silent era. Quite by accident he makes an up and coming star out of Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Soon she makes the transition to stardom in talkies as Valentin slowly fades away. However, Peppy never truly forgets him and in different ways she tries to help him. Unfortunately, George is a proud man who loses his wife, sends his loyal chauffeur away, and will not accept the charity of Peppy. Eventually her kindness pays off however and George is no longer forgotten. All the cast including John Goodman and James Cromwell do a wonderful job at expressing emotion since this film is so unique. Because there is hardly any spoken dialogue, the score takes center stage and I think it succeeds wonderfully in setting the scene whether it is playful, dramatic, or simply silent. There are also many devices used by the director Michael Hazanavicius that help convey the story without a need for words whether it is staircases, sinking quicksand, or a trampled film poster. Furthermore, he draws great influence from films like Sunset Boulevard and Singin’ in the Rain to give this new film a touch of nostalgia. In fact, The Artist brings up so many names and films in my mind it’s wonderful. Douglas Fairbanks, Jean Harlow, the dog from The Thin Man and The Awful Truth, The Dueling Cavaliers and Lena Lumont, just to name a few. Perhaps most importantly of all the film causes me to be empathetic towards the forgotten stars like Buster Keaton and Norma Desmond. It makes Chaplin’s ability to make silent pictures during the talkie revolution seem even more impressive as well. In a year that also gave us Midnight in Paris, this film also revels in the past history of the 1920s, but perhaps more importantly it too is able to suggest a certain hopefulness in the future. In a world that is often loud and busy this film was a nice respite.

 5/5 Stars