Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How wonderful to be WILD

Spike Jonze, who imaginatively gave us ADAPTATION and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, has paid an amazingly creative and emotional version of Maurice Sendak's classic tale WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. How to expand a short, practically perfect children's book with indelibly unique illustrations and very few words? Jonze has expanded the story particularly at the start of the film. Max's wildness is established through a screaming dog chase caught by hand-held camera. Later Max attacks his older sister's boy friends with snow balls. In turn, they destroy his precious snow fort. Later in another rage he bites his single mother. It's obvious this child is out of control, or is he? Jonze has the uncanny knack of remembering what a boy's childhood is often like, particularly if his parents are recently divorced.
Max runs into the night all the way to a shore where he takes a small sailboat into unknown stormy seas and eventually finds the island of the Wild Things. The huge, furry creatures make Max their king. And the wild rumpus begins. Fun and free and just a bit violent, the games quickly develop into fights, jealousies, and petty bickering. The action and dialogue subtly matches Max's conflicts in real life, as do the characters and their voices. Eventually Max must leave the island and confront those contests at home.
Jonze' s directorial

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some worthwhile TV at last.

This is my second attempt to get this out, so I created a new blog to do it. This fall has brought welcome cool weather and cool tv. Let me recommend a few worthy entries, old and new.

1. THE GOOD WIFE is yet another law show but without the smarminess of THE PRACTICE and its off-shoot BOSTON LEGAL. Its contemporary catch is a cheating, lying public official facing the press with his long-suffering wife (think Elliot Spitzer), but there the similarity ends. Juliana Margules, who steamed up ER 20 years ago with the original Dr. McDreamy George Clooney, is now a mature woman with two teens who must go back to her law firm after being a homemaker for many years. She faces the hidden sneers of her younger co-workers, her mother, and the press, but she hangs tough and makes her case each week. Margules has the grit and lived-in quality of woman betrayed but ready to do battle.

2. Even if you hate musicals or teen emotional crises, give GLEE several chances. In this fantasy high school dramedy, kids in musical rehearsal suddenly expand to the football field or a Broadway stage as they purvey their personal problems (oh so many problems)into show-stopping numbers. The cast is nigh-perfect, and Jane Lynch as the obsessed cheerleader coach determined to crush the nerdy glee clubers is worth all your reservations. And Broadway veteran Matthew Morrison, a fine actor and singer/dancer, shines as the glee club sponsor and Spanish teacher. All the classic stereotypes are here: nerds, feckless principal and teachers, jocks, etc. But in this new wrapper, they do rock.

3. MODERN FAMILY throws together some delightful clashes for its new take on an old format. We have dad with his new Latino hottie wife and her child, dad's son who is married to an over-achiever wife who doesn't want her teen daughter to be the high school slut she was, and dad's other son who is gay and has just adopted an Asian baby with his partner. These people love each other, but each is very touchy, which makes for some great comedy.