You know that feeling you get upon reading a great novel or watching a great film? I know the feeling well, because I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies and try to catch the good ones. Movies like the following (listed most recent first) just exhilarate me: "The Human Stain," "Breach," "For Your Consideration," "Déjà Vu," "Blood Diamond," "Hollywoodland," "Infamous," "The Last King of Scotland," "The Good Shepherd," "Keeping Mum," "Running with Scissors," "The World's Fastest Indian," and "The Devil Wears Prada." I just tingle and come alive while watching movies like these. I clap my hands, fidget, make side remarks (thank God that my wife tolerates this and also shares my taste in movies).
But when we see two movies in a row of the caliber I'm talking about, wow! We actually saw "Breach" and "The Human Stain" back-to-back, and over the past two days we've had this glorious experience again. The first movie was the taut, dramatic, perfectly plotted, utterly gripping tale, "Notes on a Scandal," directed by Richard Eyre and starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. I was struck by the remark of Zoe Heller, the author of the book on which the movie was based, that she deliberately concocted a "bait and switch" with the sophisticated narrative device of employing an apparently reliable narrator who later proves to be unreliable....
The second was a brilliant twist on the fictional device of having characters literally take on a life of their own and become unruly, which was exploited so well in novels by Flann O'Brien (At Swim-Two-Birds, 1939—James Joyce read it and said he was delighted) and Gilbert Sorrentino (Mulligan Stew, 1979). The movie is "Stranger Than Fiction," directed by Marc Forster and starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifa, with Tom Hulce (who played Mozart in "Amadeus") in a delicious small part.
Put these films on your see list!