The past year has been discussed as a marvelous year for cinema, one that showcased some of the finest work that’s been done since the banner year of…2007. That’s a five year gap between epic years of celluloid, with ’07 bringing forth such spectacles as No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Into the Wild, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Longest Movie Title in History, Ratatouille, Juno, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Tim Burton’s Mind…okay, so the first two were fantastic, and there were a bunch of other great movies, and something about a guy who can only blink through the entire movie, but his blinks are in French! which makes it awesome. Oh, and that was also the year that gave us Academy Award nominee Norbit.
(Note: The following reactions are recorded here because somehow myself, Andrew, and Alex all went and saw this movie on the same date. Needless to say, we all had differing reactions and viewpoints. Andrew’s response can be found here. I have since taken the liberties of providing Alex’s response, for reasons that should be immediately understandable. You’re welcome, Earth.)
1) I came into Les Mis a complete virgin to the musical. I was aware of the plot, and had seen the 1997 movie with Liam Neeson, Geoffery Rush, and Uma Thurman, or as it’s collectively known amongst theatre people, the one based on the book that otherwise has nothing to do with the stage show. (Work that out in your heads as you will.)
Consequently, I approached this with a fresh eye and a mostly fresh ear. I must admit, I’ve heard “I Dreamed a Dream” before several times, but I knew that it dealt with how sucky it gets to be Fantine during that first third of the movie. In addition, I’d had the epic trailer shoved down my throat several times as I took in several movies this year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having Anne Hathaway shoved down your throat, but there’s only so much of a starving waifling that I can take before it starts to get mildly irritating. Because of this, I feel like I came into the movie with a mindset prejudiced against any possibility the film had of succeeding.
Getting out to the movies at this time of year can feel a bit like a crapshoot. It can also feel immensely overwhelming because of the glut of studio product that gets dumped out in time for Oscar consideration. Consequently, those of us who are less on the affluent side are forced to pick and choose between the wealth of cinematic offerings available at your local multiplex. (Similar to what happened with Chicago theatre in the fall season, where at any given point, Sunday in the Park with George, Black Watch, Sweet Bird of Youth, Metamorphoses, and Good People were all playing, amongst dozens of other offerings. Chris Jones attributed the outpouring of high quality theatre to there being ‘something in the water’. I attribute it to a bunch of quality theatre artists working in concert all at once in an effort to collectively blow the minds of the patrons attending these wonderful institutions, all the while dynamiting my checking account with discount offers that are just fine if you’re seeing one or two shows, but not between five and ten. Coincidentally, there will be spaghetti for dinner at my household for the next week and a half.)
Therefore, when I was presented with both a day off and a discounted price for attending a matinee and not just one but TWO high profile releases, I was presented with my first conundrum of the fall season: should I attend Steven Spielberg’s latest docudrama Lincoln, featuring Daniel Day-Lewis and a host of character actors reenacting the last third of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wonderful biography Team of Rivals? or should I attend the 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall, featuring Daniel Craig as the venerable 007 going up against the psychotic Javier Bardem on an island off of Macao?
The short answer was simple: why not both? And so that is what I did. Tickets in hand, I stepped into the River East multiplex in Downtown Chicago, popcorn at the ready, to take in these two winter offerings.
“I’m going to tell you a story and it’s true… I always have to tell people that.”
WARNING: This will contain spoilers, although knowing them does not spoil the movie. (Trust me.)
So begins the precious gem of an indie comedy that is Mike Birbiglia’s feature debut as a lead actor, screenwriter, and director, Sleepwalk with Me. The introduction to the film, featuring Mike Birbiglia driving along in his car stopping at a toll booth, immediately recalls Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the seminal John Hughes classic which featured Matthew Broderick continually breaking the 4th wall as a means providing the audience with a narrative fixture. As a device, it also gives the audience a means by which to relate to the protagonist of the film, which in the case of Sleepwalk With Me is exceptionally important. This is a tough little film, hilarious at times, that refuses to ask simple questions or provide easy answers to its viewers while still entertaining the hell out of its audience. But we’ll get there.