Monday, January 30, 2012

From the archives: February 2008

Considering how much we normally suffer during the early months of each year, February 2008 was a bit stronger than most Februarys. To be sure, we endured some of Hollywood's typically awful winter cast-offs, such as Vantage Point, The Eye and Over Her Dead Body. The latter left so minimal an impression that I had (mercifully) forgotten all about it, and only vaguely remembered salient details after re-reading my own review.

Sometimes, memory loss is a blessing.

And, yes, the studios brought us the usual disposable romantic comedy, with Fool's Gold ... but fairness demands that I acknowledge having had a good time with it. Far from a classic, to be sure, but certainly an engaging way to spend a few hours.

The month was highlighted, though, by the long-awaited arrival — in our Sacramento Valley market — of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a simply mesmerizing, fact-based drama of courage and persistence in the face of truly dire circumstances. That it's a beautifully made film is mere icing on the cake.

Then, too, this month marked the debut of what has become an annual treat: the road show presentation of the 10 Academy Award-nominated short subjects (five live-action, five animated). I didn't even mind that the animated entries were rather weak; it was marvelous to simply see these films ... although, frustratingly, I'm not sure how you could track them all down at this late date. These programs don't yet achieve after-the-fact video release, although many do pop up on iTunes.

Another strong entry: the fascinating, superbly acted and thoroughly engrossing In Bruges (pictured above), as nifty a study of good and evil as I've ever seen. Part buddy comedy, part horrific crime drama, part fantasy and all parable, it's a twisty, compelling work of art.

Finally, it's always fun to watch what clearly can be recognized as a star-making performance, and that was the case with the darkly hilarious Charlie Bartlett. Anton Yelchin has gone far during the few years since this breakout role; so has co-star Kat Dennings. And being able to share the screen with Robert Downey Jr., in a smallish but equally memorable supporting role? Pure bonus.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and check 'em out:

Charlie Bartlett

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Eye

Fool's Gold

In Bruges

Oscar Short Subjects

Over Her Dead Body

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Vantage Point

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