Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Two very different movies

Anyone who reads this blog knows I lean toward indie movies with strong stories, but not TOO artsy (I'm looking at you, "Inland Empire"). I'm not big on fantasy, sci-fi, or loud blockbusters.

So I'm not the prime audience for "Batman: The Dark Knight" and indeed had not planned on seeing it. But at the NYT forum lunch Sunday, neighbor J had a guest spot available for a SAG movie club showing Monday. In that case, why not?

I got to the Directors Guild Theater early and waited on an already long line. A former co-worker was leaving the previous showing (turns out the movie club is for WGA East as well as SAG), and caught me up on his news. The line started moving, but J hadn't shown up by the time I reached the door so I waited there. Soon I saw her (I don't know if I missed her when I was busy talking or if she came after my part of the line went in), and we found seats in the back of the balcony of the packed house. She said they have 4 showings Mondays and 4 Tuesday of each film, and they're usually about 2/3 full so this crowd was unusual. Sure enough, there was a long line waiting for the next showing when we exited.

The movie? Sigh, not for me. Unrelentingly violent - gunshots, explosions, maiming, or other mayhem almost every minute. The atmosphere was dark, with a feeling of hopelessness and fear. Not a lot of character development (it's possible that occurred in other installments). Maybe this was supposed to be cartoonish, but to me it was just somber and scary. Yes, Heath Ledger's performance was a tour-de-force and he'll deserve at least a nomination. But I'm surprised this movie is such a mammoth hit. Then again, I'm not the intended audience.

For a completely different experience, I saw "Frozen River" tonight through the Museum of the Moving Image, which I'm a member of via membership in IFP.

Brief vent: I'm not impressed with the Museum's clerical staff. IFP members have to reserve by phone. On Thursday at "Man on Wire," they said my credit card hadn't gone through (that event was $10 extra for members), which I assume was due to mishearing or miswriting the number since I've had no problems with any cards. When I asked why they didn't inform me, they claimed they tried to reach me (huh? No evidence of that. If the Museum doesn't have my info, IFP does). I paid in cash at the door. Thankfully, they didn't try to collect the $2 pay-at-the-door fee. If they'd tried, I would have been obnoxious and probably stormed out since it wasn't MY fault I couldn't prepay - and missed a great movie, but boy I would have been RIGHT. Tonight they had my name as Helen which caused no problem, but I hate errors. The IFP member database has it correct, so the Museum person either heard wrong and didn't carefully match the name to the member list, or just wrote it wrong for the door list.

Back to the movie. I've talked about movies with a strong sense of place, and the place here is depressed, upstate NY near the Canadian border. A newly single mom struggles to make ends meet, and finds smuggling immigrants across the title river via an Indian reservation with a native accomplice beats working in a discount store. The story is absorbing and moving, with strong lead actresses. Fairly dark and sometimes a bit violent, it felt more cohesive than the Batman film. Afterward, director/writer Courtney Hunt and star Melissa Leo (looking much younger than her haggard character in the movie) were interviewed. The film started out as a short, and has had a long journey, winning prizes at Sundance and opening theatrically this week.

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