“Small Time Crooks,” etc.

Deep Water — I’m slowly losing my taste for films about people who do adventurous but stupid things (e.g., Grizzly Man, Into The Wild). Deep Water is a documentary about a guy who enters a competition to sail across the world non-stop by himself, and fails. It’s mostly a sad story and not nearly as gripping as something like Touching the Void, but it’s interesting, especially for viewers who know anything about sailing. (Mar. 29/08)

Black Book — A story of a Jewish woman who, as an undercover operative for the Resistance, develops an intimate relationship with a high-ranking SS officer and falls in love with him. I took a look at this film because James Berardinelli selected it as one of his top 10 of 2007. He called it “a powerful and compelling World War II thriller that features note-perfect performances and an almost flawless screenplay.” But mostly it’s an excuse for director, Paul Verhoeven, to show off Carice van Houten‘s breasts whenever possible (fess up Berardinelli). For me, Black Book felt like a CBC mini-series: exactly the same sharp and clean cinematography, the same self-consciously emotional style of acting — TV, not cinema. I just got an email from someone who watched the movie with me: “The more I think about the movie we watched last night, the less I like it. It seems like manipulative and slick schlop.” I can’t argue with that. (Mar. 25/08)

Small Time Crooks — Here’s the set-up: Some small time crooks devise a plan to open a bakery next door to a bank and tunnel underground into the bank’s vault. But the bakery does such good business that they make more money from the bakery then they would have from robbing the bank. That’s the first 30 minutes of the movie and it’s funny as hell. These guys are completely incompetent criminals. The scene where they first try to dig the tunnel with a jack hammer in the basement of the bakery had me howling. After that the story drags and becomes too serious. Individual scenes work on their own, and Tracy Ullman gives an excellent performance as the baker (and Woody Allen’s wife), but the comedy loses it’s momentum long before the final credits. (Mar. 18/08)