Lars and the Real Girl (A-)
Vicky Christina Barcelona (B)
Vicky Christina Barcelona - Woody Allen's latest film is intelligent and charming, but carries a faint whiff of misogyny. Penelope Cruz is terrific. Very deserving of the Best Supporting Actress Award at this year's Oscars. Nothing against her English language skills, but if you've only seen her in American films, you're doing yourself a disservice. She's a tremendously exciting actress, and while she carries a real sexual spark, it is more a feeling of electricity, or perpetual volatility and life that appears in every moment she's onscreen. Check her out when she's given the opportunity to work in her native language. Films such as Volver, All About My Mother, and other Spanish language films are best to really see her in her element.
Lars and the Real Girl - What could have been a debacle turns into an extremely touching humanistic parable. Treated with the utmost sincerity, but cognizant of the story's inherent absurdity (which allows for the humor to feel organic rather than cheap), Lars and the Real Girl is able to achieve a genuinely emotional impact. One moment that stands out to me: the Talking Heads' "This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)" playing during a party sequence. The expression on Lars' face, the joy and warmth evident in the other partygoers' willingness to treat him with compassion, the lyrics of the song, all perfectly encapsulate the main character's struggle and the town's response. Beautiful and uplifting, even if unrealistic.