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The Bottom Shelf #116

07.12.2007

Well, it's been a year. Not quite sure if that's something I should get sentimental over or not. I've just decided to review a couple of movies that I've really, really liked recently. I wish I could say the same thing about the summer box office thus far.

EYE OF GOD (1997)
Directed by: Tim Blake Nelson
Starring: Martha Plimpton, Nick Stahl

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I'm beginning to wonder if I should have a film directed by Tim Blake Nelson featured every month. I'm also feeling rather sad that that could only go on for 4 months before I would have to hunt the man down and plead for him to direct more. While I didn't have as strong of an opinion about THE GREY ZONE, Nelson's movie I featured last month, I can't deny that the man is a great story teller. This was a point every more potent with EYE OF GOD, a movie that should be simple in every manner, from the easy dialog to the natural flow with which all of the actors approach their roles to the perfect hand that Nelson uses when approaching all of this.

The movie centers around a good Oklahoman woman who is about to meet up with a man that she's been writing to in prison for the past 6 months. He's set to get out and is coming to live with her, shackled by an electronic monitoring device as a part of his probation. He is, according to the state, rehabilitated from his former crime. We're left in the dark as to what that crime was, as is Martha Plimpton, his devoted and sweet and yet characteristically strong willed wife. The story jumps around in its time frame, so where you think you're starting is also where you're ending. Something that makes perfect sense by the time that the film comes full circle.

For something so quiet, this movie is enormously engaging. While erratic time frames have been know to be highly effective (something that is proven here) most of the time they just end up being annoying. However, it adds rather than detracts from the film. It also contains one of the biggest questions that I have about humanity: Are we just meant to be who we are, or is there the possibility of redemption or rehabilitation? Can we fix what is broken inside of us or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past? And in the long run... isn't that the point? That bad people are supposed to exist as a means of balancing out the universe? I won't even go into how amazing Plimpton is in this role since I have long held an opinion of her where I just can't bring myself to openly praising her as an actress. So *mumble mumble* Plimpton is f*cking incredible in this *mumble mumble.* This is, quite possibly, one of the best films that you didn't know existed.

Favorite Scene:

While this is a very serious film, making the choosing of a "favorite scene" hard to do without making light of the subject matter, I think I would have to go with the scene where Stahl's aunt is trying to entice him into watching television with her by mentioning that the show "Knight Rider" is going to be on.

Favorite Line:

"Faith. God tells a man to sacrifice his own son. The man has faith, and he will do it. He doesn't ask why. Maybe Abraham, as he binds his son, knows why they are there. I don't anymore."

Trivia Tidbit:

This was the first feature film written and directed by Nelson.

See if you liked:

THE GOOD GIRL, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, CHILDREN OF HEAVEN

MOSTLY MARTHA (2001)
Directed by: Sandra Nettelbeck
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I think I want to become a European filmmaker. That way my movies could be respected by the people in my country and those surrounding it and I'd have the pleasure of getting American audiences to one day watch it as well. Granted, they'd remake it with their own director, their own actors, usually thinner and more elegant than the realistic ones I'd chosen, and they'd give it more punch and pizazz so that it could wow the fickle movie goers of late. The other great thing is that I might get notice from some snooty American movie reviewer who frequently shows detest for the activities and habits of her fellow Americans and scribes up some glowing praise for the Canadian owned and operated website that she writes for. Yeah, that's what I'm gonna do.

MOSTLY MARTHA is the movie that Catherine Zeta-Jones better be repeating voodoo chants that you don't see. It's the movie which her NO RESERVATIONS was remade from, and with absolutely no need other than the fact that while Americans love to sit on their asses and watch movies, they just can't be bothered to read subtitles. Following the life of a German chef who sees life through how she cooks her meals and later must learn how to incorporate her 8 year old niece into that equation when her sister is killed in a traffic accident. Yes, there's a fellow chef, and he's Italian to boot, but this is a story that is about a woman who slowly comes to terms with exactly who she is. That old adage of being unable to allow someone else to love you until you can learn to love yourself.

I know that I haven't seen the remake yet and I most likely will catch it at some point so that I can compare (plus Eckhart is a favorite of mine - although I wish he'd stick to a more LaBute stance in his roles), but this version will always strike deeper with me. I was raised with a precise German grandmother who had very specific ways of baking (the scene at the end of the movie where Martha says that she can't tell which brand of sugar was used but she can tell which one WASN'T used is straight out of my Grandmother's handbook). She just so happened to be married to a lively Italian man who believed it was more important to have fun and make things up as you go along if you're going to learn anything. I don't think you need my background to appreciate this movie, though. It's surely quieter than the American version will be, requiring a little more of your time and attention, and while it has a happy ending, that isn't its goal. It's just something that happens to occur along the way. You can only be so precise. You can only be so unplanned. But you can always be too American.

Favorite Scene:

When Martha discovers the mess that's been left in her kitchen after Mario and Lina cook dinner.

Favorite Line:

"It's your restaurant, but her kitchen. Without her, it's just a pile of metal. It's for her to decide."

Trivia Tidbit:

While I'm sure that most English speakers are going to be reading the titles and not notice,Sergio Castellitto was actually dubbed throughout most of the movie because his German was too poor.

See if you liked:

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, CHOCOLAT, FRIDA

While we're on the topic of things that I really, really like, don't forget to check out The White Stripes' "Icky Thump." Great disc. And while you're out there in the world, pick up a copy of Jack Ketchum's book Offspring. Then you'll be all set for the AwesomeZara set of Summer essentials. If you care. If not... *pffft*.

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