Once




It finally happened. I finally saw a movie that is worthy of being referred to when I utter the phrase: “that was the best movie I saw in 2007”. I don’t know why it surprised me that it took so long for me to actually see a movie that made me immediately want to see it again as soon as the credits began to roll. A movie that made me want to stay in my seat and watch the credits roll not because I was being blackmailed into staying there by the promise of a post credits scene (I’m talking about you Pirates 3), but because it is the best way I know to express my admiration for the people involved in the production of the film.

The last two years perhaps filled me with false hope. True my favorite movie of 2006, “Pan’s Labyrinth” didn’t come out until late in the year. The same could be said about my second favorite “The Prestige”. However, my third favorite movie to come out last year was “Little Miss Sunshine”. That movie was released during the summer.

Perhaps even more amazing was 2005. All three of my favorite movies from 2005 came out in the summer. “Crash”, “Hustle & Flow”, and “The March of the Penguins” all came out in the summer. As I stare at that last sentence, I’m blown away. When I compare these movies to the flotsam that I’ve seen in the theaters thus far, it seems unfathomable.

This summer was the summer of the threes. It was a summer of sequels. It was a summer of disappointment. I never look forward to the summer movie season. I have often classified the movies that come out during the summer as being filled with “shiny things to entertain the stupid people”.

In my naivety, for the first time I can remember I had high expectation for the movies filled with shiny things that were coming to the local multiplex. True it was certainly a ton of sequels, but these were sequels in some of the best franchises that Hollywood had produced in the last 20 years. We are talking about Harry Potter, Jason Bourne, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spider-man. Plus there was the potential for makeup pictures. A sequel that could help make up for how dreadfully bad the previous sequel had been. “Shrek 3” could atone for the sins of “Shrek 2”. “Oceans 13” could wash the bad taste that “Oceans 12” had left behind.

Despite this potential, I left almost every movie this summer shrouded in disappointment. I don’t want to go into much detail, but I should have known that the summer was in trouble when “Spiderman 3” turned out to be so dreadful. I skipped “Shrek 3”, but Pirates of the Caribbean fell far short of expectations. Which was especially sad considering how well it started. “Oceans 13” was better than 12, but so is watching a bug zapper. “Transformers” confirmed my belief that Michael Bay will never make a movie that doesn’t suck. Harry Potter wasn’t bad, but was definitely the worst of the last 3 and took some real unnecessary liberties with the book.

The summer wasn’t completely devoid of entertainment. Two raunchy sex comedies provided me with plenty of laughter and guffaws and hearkened me back to my youth of watching “Porky’s” on HBO. “Knocked Up” was funny and sweet and only suffered when Seth Rogen was asked to do a little bit of acting. “Superbad” was perhaps even funnier, (which is to be expected, because Seth Rogen was back in a supporting comedic role and the kid from “Arrested Development” was in it) but really lacked a coherent story and the profanity really sounded forced and inauthentic at times. Similar to the swearing of Bill Wentworth if you know that cat.

There were two movies I saw that were actually worth dragging myself out of bed to go see. “Ratatouille” and “You Kill Me” both really hit the spot. “Ratatouille” was both beautifully animated and well written. Which of course is actually the most important part of the movie. You can have all the shiny things to entertain the stupid people you want, but without a well written story, you don’t really have anything at all. It is sad that Hollywood realizes this less and less. It is only a matter of time before screenwriting is relegated to a minor technical category at the Academy Awards.

“You Kill Me” is also well written and acted. Ben Kingsley plays a hitman attending AA meetings and falling in love with Tea Leoni. Although Kingsley is brilliant, Leoni is a slight miss as she spends large chunks of the movie staring off into space trying to look deep or tortured or something. She really looks just kind of vacant.

Then there was “Sicko”. I really hate Michael Moore movies. They are usually so filled with factual errors and his techniques are so sleazy that they are pretty much unbearable. Even if I agree with the political aim of his movie, I just can’t stand watching a propaganda whore like Moore manipulate facts even if I want to agree with where he is trying to go.

“Sicko” isn’t quite so bad. In fact I would say that it is easily his best film. Although the movie clearly has too much of Michael Moore’s “look at me I’m so clever” style. It isn’t as much as in previous movies. The movie does cloud the facts and praise everybody’s health care system a little too much and I was going to say bash our health care system a little too much, but the more I consider that statement I’m not sure you can bash our health care system too much. However, he was still playing fast and loose with the facts. Enough so that the Clinton News Network even called him on the carpet for it.

As entertainment, “Sicko” works. As propaganda, it hits the ball out of the park. As a documentary it falls short.

>Recently I’ve been to the theater to see “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Balls of Fury” and “Stardust”. The “Bourne Ultimatum” is the best of the “3”s to come out this year. However, it still isn’t as good as the first two. “Stardust” is very bland and boring fantasy. There is nothing to really hate about this movie (except for perhaps Robert DeNiro’s highly overrated performance which looks more like gay stereotype than full dimensional character) but there also isn’t anything to really love about this movie. It is bland city.

“Balls of Fury” on the other hand is absolutely dreadful. As I was sitting in the theater I began to wonder how one of my friends could have made a better ping pong-martial arts parody movie when they were 15 than whatever this was on the screen. There is nothing about “Balls of Fury” that doesn’t scream straight to video. Although I have no doubt that it is a future “Employee Pick” at my local Family Video.

It was a summer that made me awful happy that I don’t pay to see many movies.

My inside man at the Varsity leaked me some bad information on Sunday. He told me that “Once” was leaving after Thursday. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer. It had finally came to Ames and I was in danger of missing it because my schedule was not lining up to see it.

Fortunately I had Thursday night free and I made the way to the Varsity with my sister Teresa. As it turns out, this movie is staying another week along with “Becoming Jane”, but I didn’t know this fact and I’m glad I didn’t wait to see this movie.

I loved it. This is my favorite movie to come out this year. This is the type of movie I wish filmmakers like Tony Scott, Michael Bay, and Uwe Boll were tied down and forced to watch over and over again until they got it. “It” being that it doesn’t matter how many shiny things you have, the most important thing is the story. The production qualities in this movie are almost nothing, but you love the characters, you love the music, you love the story, and you don’t want it to end.

This movie cost barely over 100,000 dollars to make and it is exponentially better than big budget tripe like “Transformers”. You can’t stop thinking about this movie after you leave the theater. When I left “Transformers” the only thing I could think about is why Bumblebee let Even Stevens make out with that chick on top of him. Bumblebee is into some sick stuff and that was only for a fleeting moment.

“Once” is a love story crafted around the music being composed by the two people that are falling in love. The story begins with Guy standing on a street corner singing a song about the girlfriend that left him. Girl stops to listen and when he is done she begins asking him lots of questions about the song.

Even though guy is frustrated she keeps asking him questions until he reveals that he is a vacuum cleaner repairman. She asks him to fix her vacuum. The next day she shows up in front of him pulling her vacuum cleaner behind her.

A relationship forms and you learn that Guy lives with his dad and works for his dad. Girl is a Czech immigrant that has moved to Ireland fleeing a bad marriage with her daughter and her mother.

Guy is content to just play his songs on a street corner. Girl is also a musician and seems content to just play a piano in a local music store because she can’t afford a piano for herself.

Girl believes in Guy and pushes him to make a real recording of his music. He consents and forms a band with Girl and more street musicians. I think the key scene in the movie occurs when Guy and Girl go to the ocean. He asks her how to say “Do you love your husband in Czech?” She teaches him how. When he asks the question, she responds “Miluji tebe”.

I would tell you what that means and what happens afterwards, but I think it would spoil the movie for you and I wish for you to discover the beauty of this movie for yourself.

It is simply one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve seen in the movies in a long time. It is a movie when you can feel the longing between the characters. It is heart wrenching. It is beautiful. It reeks of desperation. It is like real life.

Great story. Great music. It is more than enough to make a great movie.

To see more, watch the trailer below:<



I’m just beginning to compile my list of movies I want to see in the fall. Tomorrow I cross “3:10 to Yuma” off my list. I’m attending this film with Russell as he is also a big fan of westerns, so he is just as excited to see this movie. Perhaps there will be another review in the near future.