I finally saw this flick while I was on vacation in Chicago this weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've generally avoided movie theaters lately (Too damn loud. I need to see The Dark Knight again, mostly because I feel like I couldn't pay attention to the movie because of the sheer volume.) but I really regretted not seeing this one, especially because it apparently didn't clear budget. Beyonce was pretty damn good. Adrian Brody was good. Eammon Walker kicked ass. Mos Def played Chuck Berry with a perfect mix of humor and pride.
Jeffrey Wright was Jeffrey Wright--which means he was not even himself, nor was he playing someone else, so much as he was walking in someone else's skin. Truly amazing. As always. But I was most surprised by Columbus Short's take on Little Walter, mostly because I'd never seen the kid. He really brought it.
It's weird, but the older I get, the less attuned I am to plot, and the more interested I become in character. The movies and TV shows I hate are the ones where I can feel the director reaching in and steering events in a particular direction or because the formula calls for a "twist." I'm much more interested in something more organic--watching actors inhabit interesting characters, and then watching those characters bump off of each other. I wasn't so much interested in what was going to happen, or how it was going to happen, as I was captivated by the chemistry of Wright, Gabrielle Union and Short. Ditto for Wright and Walker.
Right before we watched Cadillac Records, me and Kenyatta tried out Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and we cut it off, mostly because we could see the plot unfolding. My general sense is that if you find yourself calling out scenes before they happen, you're in trouble. I like the lead actors, but like a lot of film and television, I thought the plot was overpowering, the MacGuffin forced, and the whole exercise artificial. I'm not picking on Nick and Norah--perhaps it got better after the friend earled in the toilet, and then dropped her phone in. I guess I'll never know.
But seriously, we live in the era of the "twist ending," (The Sixth Sense fucked everybody up) and romantic comedies driven by gimmicks and device. Nothing wrong with that per se (40-Year-Old Virgin, for instance) but my personal taste leans toward an architecture that's concealed by characters, not the other way around.
UPDATE: My whole point in writing this was to note my shock that nothing in this film warranted an Oscar nod. Pretty amazing. I thought there was some really great acting. Maybe it was too small. I don't know.
UPDATE #2: I guess my objection is to art that needs to declare itself. I think Terrance Howard is a really good actor, and I liked him in Hustle And Flow. But ultimately, I felt like the "pimp with the heart of gold" device could only go so far. I wanted to see him bumping into and off of, detailed, precise, identifiable people. I wanted to see human beings.