Thursday, December 14, 2006


I'm a cinephile. I like to watch movies. My tastes are eclectic but I try to prescreen selections to pick ones that appeal to me because of a general consensus that they're good, or there are certain actors involved, or they have certain style. Mrs. Contendere and I rent them and watch at home; I haven't been in a movie theater in twenty years. There are so many on DVD now that sometimes it takes awhile to get around to some titles.

As it was for Transamerica which I watched last night. So much has been said about Felicity Huffman's performance that I'll just jump on the bandwagon and say that it's as good as it gets. Gender bending stories are common enough but it takes real acting chops to pull off a triple role - a woman playing a man turning into a woman. In this one it's done with deft poignancy as a vehicle to get to the heart of the matter - two people together on a physical and inner road trip of self discovery. It could have been easy to trivialize this topic and stumble with self parody, but never does.

A League of Ordinary Gentlemen is a good documentary about some Microsoft retirees who bought the ailing Professional Bowlers Association and their efforts to revitalize the sport. As with all good documentaries there isn't narration, the camera seems invisible as it follows the pro bowlers and it follows the tried and true buildup to a championship event. It starts off with a bang with great old footage and graphics but falters a bit while the principles are fleshed out. If they had stayed with the format used during the first fifteen minutes it would have been a real treat, otherwise it's a just a solid documentary that the hidden bowler in us will appreciate.

One of my goals is to catch every oscar winner from when the awards first were given out. Double Indemnity won a bunch, including best picture, in 1944. It takes a certain mindset to appreciate a sixty year old movie as something more than a curiosity, after all our society has changed so much. But I think if a flick concentrates on universal understanding, those timeless archtypes, then everybody can resonate with it's story regardless of it's age. This one is tight Billy Wilder film noire with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson all caught up in murder for an insurance scam. Every great film starts with casting and this team is perfect. It was cutting edge material back in production code days and the tension gets so thick you could slice it up with Wilder's sharp dialogue.

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