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HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO(INE)

November 7, 2008

The Fabulous Stains is a bit ragged in the scripting, but has an integrity that keeps you watching as does its lead character Corinne Burns, played by the then and still fabulous Diane Lane. Surprisingly warm and fuzzy moments amid the bitter growing pains, and a reggae thread wrapped around Barry Ford’s Lawn Boy that almost steals the punk rock thunder.

Well, not warm and fuzzy necessarily, but moments when you have to reconsider what you’ve assumed about characters. It’s a bit messy around the edges with everyone splashing through the edge of the betrayal puddle(ok, so I’m having an outbreak of metaphors; it happens) but that rawness grounds it to a level of realism that gives you even more respect for Lane’s character as she discovers how far she can push herself and others.

Excellent music; excellent performances (acting and musical) by punk rock stalwarts Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and Paul Simonon of The Clash — Ray Winstone leads his fellow Looters well as Billy. John ‘Fee” Waybill of The Tubes does a good confused turn as lead singer of the Metal Corpses. The Looters bring a real rock feel to the screen when they’re onstage and the on the bus realism is enough to convince you that touring with a band registers more gross than glam.

Second heroine of the night: yes, I dove into the anime pool and braved Howl’s Moving Castle. And it was a wonder. Sophie, the central character, just draws everyone, keeping her humor, energy and spirit even when transformed by a curse into a 90 year old woman. The characters are a wonderful and quirky menagerie; Howl is an enigma, but you see what Sophie senses in him. The story and Sophie’s interaction with them make Mr. Turniphead, the helpful scarecrow, and Calcifer, the fire demon, real. One of the glories is that Sophie flips through the whole progression of ages from teen to ninety, but by the end you don’t care if she’s shaken off the curse because she’s always Sophie, the girl who gave you your heart. Jean Simmons and Emily Mortimer do a stellar job of Sophie between them, voicing her humor and strength.

SIDENOTE: If the Academy is going to give out an Oscar for animated films, they should give one for exceptional voice work — Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo deserved one and probably the rookie who voices the hamster in Bolt; he’s almost got me interested. And Jean Simmons brings excellent depth to Sophie with no regret at her cursed fate. Sophie muddles through; bringing everyone up to her level. Lauren Bacall also brings character and texture to the villianous Witch of the Waste.

Howl’s is knit of some complicated themes about war, beauty, transformation, power and maturity but they don’t knot the basic themes: true love can brave any danger and a warm heart(h) is the best home.

Watch ’em both; they’ve got me revved up about movies I can be surprised by. The Fabulous Stains (apparently the musical excellence is thanks to director Lou Adler)goes on my favorite band movies list, right after A Hard Day’s Night.

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From → movies, music

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