The Year in Kate
Everyone else is doing "Best Books of 2006" roundups. Which I admire, but can't get my head around, personally. So instead I give you a brief roundup of my viewing of films starring Kate Winslet.
The Holiday: Yes, I saw "The Holiday." It's not my usual fare--well, at least it's not my usual fare when I'm paying ten bucks for a ticket and not having a mild bout with insomnia and some cheesy-but-high-gloss romantic comedy comes on TBS--but Kate was in it. And she was great. The movie as a whole, however, took too long to get going, and was annoying along the way. I mean, it's a romantic comedy, so you have to adjust your expectations accordingly, right? And I did. But still, there are some things that just should not be done. Instapoll: how many of you are sitting at your computers READING THIS POST ALOUD TO YOURSELVES? Do you also do this with email and chat? If you answered no, congratulations! You are not a character in "The Holiday." Now, once it got going there were things to like; Jude Law, despite his penchant for babysitters, can be seriously charming onscreen, and Jack Black subdued his manic impulses for long enough to be a credible romantic interest for Kate. (Note to the haters: Sometimes people fall for people who are less conventionally attractive than themselves. I realize that some of the "OMG JACK BLACK NO WAY" stuff is rooted in resentment that in movies it's rarely a schlubby gal who gets the dreamy guy, but come on. It ain't Jack's fault that Hollywood is stupid.) The weak link in this film was definitely Cameron Diaz. Nothing against Cameron, who can be charming in more straightforward roles, but she had a big arc to handle in this movie and she just wasn't up to it. In her scenes with Jude Law I found that I wasn't watching her at all, 'cause wow was she boring. Perhaps I am developing some sort of Jude Law crush. That loveable cad. GRADE FOR "THE HOLIDAY": Watch it on TBS sometime when you have nothing better to do, but make sure to forget it's on until it's a half hour in.
Flushed Away: Kate's not exactly in the film in the physical sense, but she's the voice of Rita, the sewer-rat/salvage boat captain. Is it wrong that I found her attractive as a rat? Yeah, it probably is. (I'm sorry.) This movie got some minor flack for taking the Aardman claymation techniques and computerizing them, but while some of the images are smoothed over the story wasn't. I saw this at the budget cinema with a bunch of kids and their parents, but most of the time I was the only one laughing. And then the movie started! (Kidding.) Really, it was quite entertaining, although not as much for kids as I suspect everyone thinks. Speaking of man-crushes, I really do have one on Hugh Jackman. He voices Roddy in this flick, a pet rat who lives alone in a posh London home until he gets flushed down into the sewers. He stumbles into the middle of some trouble between Rita and the mis-rat-thropic Toad (voiced by Ian McKellen). The voice talent here is really great, especially Bill Nighy as an albino rat-thug and Jean Reno as a ridiculous frog ninja. There are about a zillion silly singing slugs passing through the film, and Rita's family is great, and the underground rat city is a prime opportunity for some little satirical touches. And Kate is wonderful. GRADE FOR "FLUSHED AWAY": H--for Hilarious! (Rex Reed, look out!)
Little Children: Quite different, and quite good. My major quibble is that there was really no need for the narration--for every bit of humor it brought in there were two or three head-shakingly obvious observations. Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta: here Kate plays a suburban mom with a background in academia, who finds herself falling into a domestic cliché of infidelity and ennui. Patrick Wilson plays her opposite number, a stay-at-home dad who's supposed to be studying for his third shot at the Bar exam but instead spends his time wishing he was a kid and feeling emasculated by his working wife (Jennifer Connelly). I'm usually extremely unsympathetic to tales of adultery, but the wronged parties here are a creep and an ice queen, so it's not hard to sympathize to some extent. The secondary plot concerns a recently freed sex offender--he's done time for exposing himself to a minor--who's living with his mother in the same neighborhood. I haven't read Perrotta's book, but between him and director Todd Field there seems to be a conviction that, first of all, we are all basically childish at our worst moments, and secondly that we all have our own sexual quirks; some are just more acceptable than others. We're all a bit hinky, whether we're talking about Mr. Kate's internet porn fixation or Connelly's creepy adoration of her son or the simple transgressive thrills that the protagonists indulge in. It's not a perfect film; it's a bit long and not all the performances work; Noah Emmerich's turn as an obsessive former cop is just slightly off-key, and sometimes it's difficult to decide whether some of the minor characters are meant to be taken seriously or as caricatures. But overall it's a surprising and thought-provoking piece, and I recommend it. GRADE FOR "LITTLE CHILDREN": Notice how I got through that whole review without mentioning the nudity? ... DAMMIT!
I didn't see All the King's Men, so I can't comment on that one. I did re-watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, though, so I can report that Clementine is still hot. In case you were wondering.