Cranky Hankes Weekly Reeler November 14-20: A Late Breaking Lincoln Session

In Theaters

OK, we have four movies opening this week—everything from old Honest Abe to twinkly vampires. I haven’t seen those—though I already saw one movie about Lincoln this year (which maybe doesn’t count). I have seen the two art titles, but you will be surprised to learn than only one of them has thus far been reviewed. The one thing I can pretty well assure you—even without seeing two of the movies—is that there’s nothing opening this week that’s apt to get you as high as last week’s Holy Motors.

The big deal in the art titles this week — at least theoretically — is The Sessions. It’s the movie with John Hawkes as a fellow in an iron lung (from polio) attempting to have sex with the help of a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). If all the people who’ve told me they want to see this actually follow through, it ought to do very well. It’s a nice little movie — good-hearted and well-intentioned. It’s full of nice people (maybe a little too full of them). Probably the best thing about it is that it doesn’t seem all that interested in manipulating your sympathy. I only wish I was more excited about it than I am. I thought at first that it may have had something to do with seeing it on the same day that I saw the visual feast that is Anna Karenina, but, no. The fact is that while The Sessions is on the pedestrian side where the direction is concerned, I think there are more reasons it doesn’t entirely engage me. Buy, hey, read the review and realize that an awful lot of people are absolutely gaga over it. You may be, too. You can find out at The Carolina and Fine Arts come Friday.

The other film that I’ve seen is A Late Quartet. I didn’t get it reviwed for the simple reason that the damned thing wasn’t actually supposed to open this week. That changed about noon today, so it won’t be reviewed till next week. It’s a film about the cellist (Christopher Walken) in a famous, highly-regarded string quartet who finds out he has Parkinson’s — and the impact his impending departure has on the group. Two of the others are Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, which is to say the film’s biggest draw lies in its cast. And there’s no denying they all handle the material well — especially Walken — but the film itself isn’t as good as they are. I’ll have more to say on this in next week’s review. In the meantime, it hits the Fine Arts on Friday.

This brings us to the movies I have yet to see, and first up is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator. And that’s really the case here from what I understand, because the central drama to the movie lies in Lincoln getting the 13th Amendment passed — for both ideological and political reasons. That’s wise. Most of the best biographical films concentrate on a fairly contained portion of their subjects’ lives — with allowances for flashbacks, of course. But what of the film itself? Well, if we are to believe the reviews, it’s supposed to be very good indeed. Not surprisingly Day-Lewis is coming in for the most praise — to the point where the gushing is … well, embarassing. One scribe noted that it’s “a performance that will have you seriously questioning if what you’re watching is a documentary shot in the 1860s.” (I have told Mr. Souther that he is to have me put to sleep if I ever get that carried away.)

Then there’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2. Here’s a movie that almost everyone is waiting for with Bated Breath — half because they actually want to see the thing and half because it means an end to this mediocrity fest.(Seriously, can you believe that the picture to the right is for a vampire movie?) Yes, I’ll be there. I’ve seen all the others, so I’m not bailing now. Oh, it won’t be any good. That’s not even open to serious consideration. All right, so few things are more campy fun than Michael Sheen as the big cheese vampire. I’m hoping against hope that the wintry battle that presumably climaxes the movie is director Bill Condon’s tribute to the “Battle on the Ice” in Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, but that may be asking too much.

The notable departure this week are Holy Motors (Fine Arts) — an announcement that causes me no joy — and The Paperboy (Carolina). Also leaving The Carolina is The Other Dream Team (hands up, everyone who’s surprised by this). That said, I wouldn’t wait any longer to catch Seven Psychopaths or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. There’s just too much stuff coming and room will have to be made.

Special Scrennings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate (1999) on Thu., Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Pedro Almodovar’s Volver (2006) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 16 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Roger Moore in ffolkes (1978) on Sun., Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville, The Asheville Film Society is running David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees (2004) on Tue., Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s paper—with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD
The best things out this week are 2 Days in New York and Dark Horse—maybe they’ll do better on DVD. The first, in particular, ought to. Also out is Brave, The Queen of Versailles, Savages, and (oh, my God) The Watch.

Notable TV Screenings

On Wed., Nov. 14 at 8 a.m. TCM is running the very odd early Bette Davis movie Fog Over Frisco (1934), which is probably more interesting for William Dieterle’s stylish directiion than anything else. Right after it (at 9:15) is Double Wedding (1937), which is easily the wildest of all the William Powell-Myrna Loy pictures. And if you missed the AFS showing of Michael Curtiz’s The Kennel Murder Case (1933) last month, you can catch it on TCM at 6:30 a.m. on Thu., Nov. 15.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

8 thoughts on “Cranky Hankes Weekly Reeler November 14-20: A Late Breaking Lincoln Session

  1. Orbit DVD

    Also out is the PBS documentary HALF THE SKY and on Criterion Pasolini’s TRILOGY OF LIFE and Godard’s WEEKEND. Oh, Dr. Who Season 7 Pt. 1.

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    “a performance that will have you seriously questioning if what you’re watching is a documentary shot in the 1860s.”

    It’s shot at 5fps and features a galloping horse?

  3. Ken Hanke

    It probably won’t last — and they mostly seem to be on a sliding scale — but right now Breaking Dawn — Part 2 has gotten generally good reviews.

  4. DrSerizawa

    THE SESSIONS sounds like it would be fatal for diabetics.

    I’m interested in seeing LINCOLN but I haven’t yet tecovered from DDL’s overwrought THERE WILL BE BLOOD. I know, I’ll watch LAST OF THE MOHICANS, that might be a good antidote. At least there was a point to it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Oh, my friend, we have a sharp divergence over whether There Will Be Blood or Last of the Mohicans has more point.

  6. Big Al

    The Friday 4pm showing of “A Late Quartet” actually drew a round of applause from the audience of a dozen or so. Very fine acting from all players. Not all of the conflicts that arose between the quartet were resolved in the end, but I would argue that is reflective of real life. A more tidy ending would have been too formulaic, I suppose.

    I was also immensely impressed with the production elements: clothing, sets, set dressing, and the locations both in NYC and the upstate mountains. This was a gorgeous film to watch, and I heard whispered comments of the same from around me.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I’m afraid not enough of you were taken with it to put it over. It’s being dropped after Thursday and Holy Motors (7:20) and Samsara (1:20, 4:20, Late show Fri-Sat 9:30) are being brought back for a week.

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