The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I went into this with rather high expectations: it's a Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by Tim Burton (omg), starring the ever-awesome Johnny Depp. I was also warned (by my friend feliciakw, who has been in a stage production of Sweeney Todd, that this film would be macabre and gory in the extreme. She wasn't kidding; it's about a serial killer, and cannibalism, and Tim Burton goes as far as he can with the gross-out and blood without screwing up the gloomy aura of the film. It is essentially a horror musical, and like many horror stories, it's a powerful morality tale.
Don't see this if you're squeamish. Do see it if you're a fan of Burton's work, or of horror in general, or if you love really excellent music--the harmonies and the vocal interweaving blew my mind, even without professional singers in some of the roles.
Visually stunning, as well.
A quiet, snarky, intelligent independent film. I'd love to read the original script, because I felt there was a slight off-balance to some elements of the story, but so trivial that it could either have been script or directing that caused this.
The story is simple: a teenager who is bright, smartmouthed, and still naive (Ellen Page is wonderful in the title role, making this witty dialogue believable as a teenager's rebellious snark) finds herself pregnant after having sex ONE time. It's realistic, painful, and sweet in a non-cloying sort of way. Excellent writing (if you're a writer, you should probably see it), a lot of humor, and some excruciatingly real moments.
Even a happy ending, inasmuch as our world gets happy endings.
"Here is the church and here is the steeple,
We sure are cute for two ugly people;
I don't know what anyone can see
in anyone else
Well, this film has been kept all hush-hush by J.J. Abrams and Co., so of course a lot of my geeky local friends were madly excited to see it, and we all trooped out to do so on Friday night.
It is, indeed, a monster movie. I should perhaps not say too much more than that, except that this is the first time I've seen a film done completely hand-held (yeah, yeah, I know, Blair Witch Project, I never watched it) in a narratively justified way. I thought it worked terrifically well, but warning: If you get motion-sick, this film will probably make you pretty ill. I don't get motion sick, and I had a few moments where my stomach kind of lurched, while one of my friends had to leave the room at a couple of points.
For the genre, it's solid and intriguing; but I enjoyed it most, I think, for the attention paid to detail, to the realism we're handed, which really, really sold it. Gorgeous.
And now, the book recommendation.
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
by Anne Rice
Just so you all know, I've been aware of Rice's work for a while, but never read any of it. Vampires have never been my favorite horror critter, and it seemed to me from what I heard that her take on the vamps went into territory I did not care to visit. Even if I was also told that she was an excellent writer.
I remember being considerably startled at news of Rice's conversion back to Catholic Christianity, a few years ago; and even more so when she published her next book, the one I'm reviewing here. I was leery of reading it, or at least nervous enough that I never quite got around to it. And that was despite having seen an interview with her where she detailed the intersection of faith and art in her life in a way a lot of Christian artists struggle to.
Finally, my book group got around to reading it over this Christmas season.
Let me just say one thing: you need to read this, if you have not. Rice creates a solidly historical world (she's done her research, and there's a lengthy author's note/bibliography at the back), and the tale she's telling is that of the Jesus of the Gospels. For my fellow Protestants, yes, she does bring in some extra-Biblical (Catholic) tradition and use (and acknowledges that she does) some apocryphal literature as well.
But I can tell you this: the eight-year-old Jesus she writes in this book is so, so close to how I would have written him, so, so close to how the Christ I know might have been when he was a human child living with a human family and growing and learning. This is one of the best artistic conceptions of the Incarnation we have. I encourage you to read it especially if you are a Christian already and want to think more about your faith, more about Jesus. Or if you're curious about the Christian faith and where it springs from.
It's not preachy (though Rice is, in her afterword), it's an experience. And one I think I shall cherish, and pass on to others. It will make you think, and it will move you, and it is wonderfully real and holds a lot of truth.
If I ever doubted Rice's conversion, I don't now. It must have been pretty profound.