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Cafe Society

Woody Allen’s latest feels very familiar and not terribly original. It’s like he has a drawer full of ideas for film scenes and he just grabbed a hand full and shot. It has a bittersweet love story at the center, set in Golden Age Hollywood and New York, and the usual Woody stand-in character. This time it’s Jesse Eisenberg playing Bobby Dorfman, a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who comes to LA to work for his “Agent to the Stars” Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) and falls for his beautiful secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), but eventually returns heart-broken to New York, takes a job with his mobster brother, and marries shiksa goddess Veronica (Blake Lively). The first part in Hollywood is kind of fun, but sadly it runs out of steam when it gets back to New York, almost like it’s two different movies.

Trumbo

Trumbo is set in Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s during the Red Scare, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was convinced that there were Commie spies planting propaganda in movies, and a lot of once bright careers were destroyed as a blacklist kept them from getting any work. The film centers on Dalton Trumbo, one of the highest paid screenwriters in town who begins the film at the height of his career. But after refusing to testify in front of the HUAC, he’s sent to jail and once released has to find creative ways to continue his craft. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays Trumbo, and his Oscar-worthy performance elevates a less than exciting script.

And the Award goes to…

It has begun. The film awards season is upon us. The Academy Awards aren’t until March 7, but in the past couple of days, the film societies have begun releasing their picks for 2009. (The Oscar nominations don’t come out until Feb. 2.) Now, I really wish I’d seen The Hurt Locker when it was here, but I blinked and missed it. There seem to be a lot of nominees and/or winners that have not come out yet, or have only opened in limited release. I guess that is the way they always do it, so the voters remember the films.  But it makes it hard for those of us not in LA or NY to know if they are right when we haven’t been able to see the films yet. Then again, it makes the holiday film season all the more fun, trying to see all the nominees in theaters in the coming weeks.