There are many revelatory benefits to snow days—freedom from class preparation; not having to put on teacher-appropriate clothing; eating meals from a plate rather than a tupperware container. [There are of course, drawbacks as well: revising carefully crafted syllabi; fielding panicked emails; etc.] As ice blanketed the Capital Region and the Saint Rose campus, however, what I hadn’t expected was the way in which calling off classes would equate to catching up on missed movies.
I was in my office writing an exam when the school cancelled class from 2:30 onward on Wednesday. What a lark! Wednesday afternoon? What better time to go to the movies? K. and I shared the theatre with exactly 3 other people who were brave enough to face the rain/ice bonanza in the Northeast. And few things were a better corrective to all of that water runoff than the desert terrain in No Country for Old Men. [How did I go this long without seeing it? Don’t get me started…]
It goes without saying that the film is phenomenal, yes? I’ve come to associate the Coens primarily with their gonzo sense of humor in The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona, so the starkness of this film was a bit of a shock. Sure there are some moments of humorous dialogue, but those are sandwiched in between stretches of dark and impending doom that they barely make a dent in the tone. For all that’s been written about the movie (much of it focused on the characterization of Javier Bardem’s Chigurh), I found myself constantly coming back to the scenes with Kelly McDonald (whom I haven’t seen since Gosford Park, and wouldn’t have recognized unless someone tipped me off). For all that this film is about inexplicable and random violence, and largely in a man’s world, her character is invested in holding people accountable for their involvement. Even as the dominant voices in the film (Tommy Lee Jones’ monologues that bookend the action) gesture toward the helplessness of the law, of humans in this landscape, her voice is the one that sticks with me. [As a sidenote, her early scene with Josh Brolin is taking on the quotability factor of Lebowski in this household. “Kim, where are the vacuum cleaner bags?” “You don’t gotta know everything, Carla Jean.” “But I gotta know that…”]
Once you’re in the cinematic groove, there’s no stopping. We took in Persepolis last night, which was touching and visually exciting and bittersweet. I have to confess to having never read the graphic novels, so I can’t comment on the correlation between the two, but the film was charming. How it manages to blend a short history of Iran with a coming-of-age story with the pain of transnational migration and exile with the story of a family—-all done effortlessly—has something to do, I think, with the visual style. I’d love to see Scott McCloud take a whack at an interpretation of how the animation works in this film. And without spoiling it for everyone, you’ll never think of “Eye of the Tiger” the same way again.
Next up? Michael Gondry’s Be Kind, Rewind. Because what’s better than Mos Def and Jack Black acting out popular movies? Here’s to bad weather!