Published on: July 24, 2015
I've seen three movies recently, and for once, I can recommend all of them ... albeit for different reasons.Mr. Holmes
is a good movie with a great performance at its core - Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes later in life - at 93, when he is retired, suffering from the early stages of dementia, struggling to recall facts of an earlier case, and in flashbacks in his sixties, conducting the investigation that led to his retirement.
McKellen is splendid in the part, in equal parts imperious and intelligent, in many ways blissfully unaware of his inability to connect with most people on a personal level. Dr. Watson is gone, and as we know, Watson was his link to more basic human emotions, and this has in many ways isolated Holmes. In his sixties, Holmes was self-satisfied enough to find sufficient refuge in his intellect; in his nineties, as he begins to feel his mind slipping away, he's no longer sure that's enough.
McKellen, as always, completely inhabits the part, and he is ably complemented by Laura Linney as his housekeeper, and Milo Parker as her very smart, very precocious son. If I have a complaint about the script by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, is that it doesn't seem quite up to Holmes' talents. But the movie, directed by Bill Condon, looks great, and I think it is a great way to spend an evening if you want to avoid explosions, aliens and superheroes.
Speaking of superheroes ... I have to admit like that liked Ant-Man
, maybe more than I usually like these sorts of movies. It does exactly what you expect as Marvel movie to do - deliver lots of action, leavened by knowing jokes, and heightened by sly performances by the likes of Paul Rudd (charming as the electrical engineer-turned-thief who becomes Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (gruff and knowing as the scientist who created the Ant-Man suit), and Corey Stoll (as the evil scientist who wants to use the suit for financial gain rather than good). Like I said, it touches all the beats you'd expect.
What makes Ant-Man
different is that much of the action takes place on a small, even microscopic scale ... and so the movie avoids all the massive amounts of death and destruction that typify these sorts of films. I've always hated it when movies like The Avengers
destroy entire cities and kill thousands of people ... and then Iron-Man makes a joke. Ant-Man
keeps the action at a proper scale, and I liked it for that restraint.
There is, however, no restraint when it comes to the use of imagination in the new Pixar animated movie, Inside Out
. This has been wildly lauded as one of the best movies of the year, but I'll go farther than that. I think it is one of the most original and innovative movies I've ever seen.
The majority of Inside Out
takes place inside the mind of Riley, an 11-year-old girl uprooted by her parents from their Minnesota home to San Francisco. What we spend the movie seeing are her personified and conflicted emotions - Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Indeed, these emotions live in a vast inner world where core and tangential memories are stored and where major personality facets are islands that are kept alive by the emotions. And, these emotions are in constant conflict with each other - Riley is 11, so Joy has dominated for much of her life, but the move has unleashed the rest of them, with Sadness becoming more and more dominant, and more confusing.
I don't want to give the plot away, so suffice it to say that the story involves a journey that Joy and Sadness have to take together to help Riley find some sort of emotional stability (or at least as much as can be achieved by an 11 year old girl). In doing so, director Pete Docter (who gave us Up
and who dreamed up this entire concept) has created an entirely new universe. It is familiar in some ways, but also startlingly original, and with every twist and turn we find ourselves navigating an emotional minefield that is far more interesting and honestly precarious than can be found in most movies made these days.
There are so many business lessons to be found in Inside Out
, especially if you see all these various emotions as organizational components. Sometimes, if the components are working at cross purposes, it can mean the disenfranchisement of core values (which, in this case, are the islands of personality). Balance is critical ... in people, in businesses, in virtually every organization.
But let's not get bogged down in lessons. Inside Out
is an utter delight - funny, touching, and and absolutely real, which is kind of ironic. See it ....and you don't even have to bring the kids.
One of the pleasures of being in Portland is that there are so many places to choose from if you want something to eat and drink. Not necessarily anything fancy ... just delicious.
For example ... last weekend I wandered over to a brewpub I'd never been to before - 10 Barrel Brewing Co, where I enjoyed two wonderful beer - Cerveza Negra, a dark beer that was spicy and perfect on a hot day, and Costa Rican Lager, which is lighter, but no less refreshing. I enjoyed it with one of the best vegetarian pizzas I've ever had ... and it made me grateful for the opportunity to just wander around the corner, walk up a couple of blocks, and find a bit of gastronomic nirvana.
Sometimes, though, it is worth going a little farther. For example, last weekend I drove down to Carlton, to the Carlton Cellars vineyards, for an absolutely delightful lunch and wine tasting. Lunch was from the estimable Portland chef John Taboada, and I have to tell you that it was the best steak, topped with salsa verde, and potato salad I've ever eaten. And the wine...well. it was a hot day, but the Carlton Cellar wines - especially the 2014 Auxerrois and the 2014 Robin's Block blend, which consists of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris - were delicious ... perfect and tasty and a perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon.
Just some of the pleasures of being in Portland.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.