Just some thoughts on the movies out in theaters, if you're wondering what to see.
Sherrybaby -- Maggie Gylenhaal's best performance yet. She really elevates this familiar material, but there isn't quite enough there to put this in a league with Half-Nelson.
Half Nelson-- the best thing out there right now. Ryan Gosling is sensational as a crack-addicted teacher who befriends a young female student. Pure Afterschool Special, if it weren't so honest and direct. In one late scene, the student sees Gosling doing drugs and he just looks at her. Gosling could have played it angry or ashamed or devil-may-care-ish or a million other ways, but he looks at her with the slightest hint of defiance. This is who am I, he seems to insist. It would be so much easier for him to give in if she would give up on him, too, I think. A dozen other scenes are just as absorbing and -- rare for an American film -- ambiguous.
The Protector -- someone here gave me shit for not respecting the genius of "Ong-Bak" and its star Tony Jaa, the heir apparent to Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. I enjoyed "The Protector" more, though it remains defiantly, absurdly un-cinematic, maybe even post-cinematic. Sure, it's on a super low Thai budget. But you'll find scene after scene where, for example, our hero is running down a street away from bad guys and in the next cut he's in a speed boat and they're in speed boats behind him trying to catch up. Why waste time showing him finding a boat and jumping in (and perhaps tossing out the owner) and then speeding away, etc.? What you want is the CHASE and what they give you is the chase and nothing but the chase. You'll catch up. It's almost bold, though I think it's more lazy. Unlike "Ong-Bak" Jaa's every spectacular stunt isn't replayed three times in super-slo-mo, thank God. And the stunts are spectacular, though Jaa breaks so many bones in so many opponents that it too almost became comical. I also enjoyed the fact that Jaa is too-pretty and they acknowledge it with a wry comment or two. Good, silly fun.
A Cantor's Tale -- I haven't seen it but it comes highly recommended from fellow IRA-member George Robinson.
Mizoguchi at Film Forum -- apparently I'm a fool and a rube for never having seen Mizoguchi. Only a peasant would prefer Kurosawa. We'll see.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated -- Half a very entertaining documentary on the wily-nily inconsistencies of the MPAA and their bias against sex (and especially gay sex) and their perverse love of violence; the other half is a creepy stalker film where they out the secret members of the ratings board. An excessive reaction to a silly group.
Lassie -- better than you'd think; not as good as you'd hope.
The Illusionist -- not a success, but a much better failure than I appreciated, thanks to Edward Norton, a plummy Paul Giamatti and the appealing world of Victorian stage magicians.