Sunday, June 30, 2013

LINCOLN LAWYER, THE



(March 2011, U.S.)

It's rather unfortunate that the film adaptation of popular legal thrillers is a dying breed on the big screen. Not since John Grisham was all the rage in the 1990s has the legal thriller attracted very much attention in a world where the only thing on the big screen that seems to count anymore is the latest installment of the most popular comic book hero in digital 3D or whatever the common moviegoing public is willing to shell out excess dollars in movie ticket prices for. THE LINCOLN LAWYER, based on Michael Connelly's original novel was released in the Spring, where most films are likely destined to get lost in the shuffle of material as people eagerly countdown the weeks until the summer blockbuster season. That's really a shame, because it leaves nothing but luck and the popular word-of-mouth to get a great film like THE LINCOLN LAWYER its deserved attention.

This is the story of Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller (played by Matthew McConaughey) who operates around Los Angeles County out of his black Lincoln Town Car to avoid the hefty rent of an office. Mickey has spent most of his career defending garden-variety scumbag criminals until, by chance, he lands the case of his career: Louis Roulet (played by the rather irritating Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills playboy and son of real estate mogul Mary Windsor (played by Frances Fisher), is accused of brutally beating of beautiful prostitute he met at a club. His defense is that her wounds were self-inflicted and that he was targeted because of his known wealth. Louis truly believes his innocence, and for a time, it seems that Mickey does, as well, despite making a career by never asking or even caring about his client's true innocence. This particular case even bears a similarity to a past case of Haller that landed a previous client, Jesus Martinez (played by Michael Peña), in prison for life for murdering anothger prostitute, despite always proclaiming his innocence. As crime story cliches and predictability would have it, the innocence of some and the true evil of others begin to leave a bad taste and a dent in the conscience of the traditional bloodsucking lawyer who defends the scumbags of the Earth.

Time allows Mickey, as well as the audience, to realize what a vicious and guilty son-of-a-bitch Louis really is. Still, obliged to do his best for his client, guilty or not, Mickey ruthlessly cross-examines the prostitute in question and easily discredits her in the jury's eyes. However, he also sets up a known prison informant with information on the previous murder that Jesus is accused of. When the informant testifies, Mickey discredits him also and the state inevitably moves to dismiss all charges in the current case against Louis. He's set free, only to be immediately arrested for the previous murder based upon testimony Mickey had coaxed out of the informant. Like all legal thrillers, justice is always served in the end and the lawyer gains some degree of humanity he lost over the years. That's the way it is and that's usually the way fans of legal thrillers like it. On the more annoying side of films like this, one must keep their their eyes, their ears and theri memories in sharp focus because of the rather extensive list of characters one has to keep track of, just like an Agatha Christie novel. Matthew McConaughey leads a very solid cast and provides real enjoyable legal entertainment with a degress of charm that somehow makes him the perfect choice to play a young attorney, as he also did in A TIME TO KILL (1996). No wonder they keep choosing this guy to play the quintessential boyfriend in so many romantic comedies over the last decade.

Favorite line or dialouge:

Mickey Haller: "When do you retire, Lankford?"
Detective Lankford: "When do I retire?"
Mickey: "Yeah."
Lankford: "Eighteen months. Why?"
Mickey: "I wanna make sure I show up the next morning so I can kick your ass!"




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

LINCOLN



(November 2012, U.S.)

As an elementary school kid in the 1970s, my education and understanding of Abraham Lincoln were, at best, limited, dogmatic and just borderline short of folklore. You know...the poor kid who grew up in a log cabin, the bestowed title of "Honest Abe", the 16th President of the United States who ended slavery, the Emancipation Proclomation, the assassination by John Wilkes Booth...stuff like that. And despite what I've come to understand are great performances by such actors as Raymond Massey in ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1938) and Henry Fonda in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939), the only film I'd ever seen before about Lincoln was a rather forgettable 1977 piece of work called THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY which did nothing more than dramatize certain conspiracy theories concerning the infamous assassination of 1865. I also admit to not being an avid reader of historical non-fiction. So, add all of that with the fact that I never, ever miss a film by Steven Spielberg and you basically have what sums up to be the first real cinematic (and even educational) glimpse of Abraham Lincoln as the United States President and the man himself in LINCOLN. It's also due to the fact that I trust Mr. Spielberg to remain as accurate as possible with regard to history and facts that I'm willing to take his epic historical drama true to heart, whether it's all historically perfect or not (define perfect, anyway!)

Because the subject matter of Lincoln's life is one that could easily fill the screen ten times over, this particular film is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography called "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" and covers the final four months of Lincoln's life, focusing on the President's efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment which would formally ebolish slavery to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Expecting the Civil War to end very shortly but concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts once the war has concluded and the 13th Amendment defeated by the returning slave states, Lincoln feels considers it gravely imperative to pass the amendment by the end of January, thus removing any possibility that slaves who have already been freed may end up being re-enslaved. The Radical Republicans fear the amendment will merely be defeated by others who wish to delay its passage.

(are you getting all of this so far??)

The support of the amendment by Republicans in the border states is not yet assured either, since they prioritize the issue of ending the war. And even if all of them are ultimately brought on board, the amendment will still require the support of several Democratic congressmen if it's to inevitably pass. With dozens of Democrats having just become lame-ass ducks after losing their re-election campaigns in the fall of 1864, some of Lincoln's advisors believe that he should wait until the new Republican-heavy Congress is seated, presumably giving the amendment an easier road to passage. Lincoln, however, remains persistently adamant about having the amendment in place and the issue of slavery settled before the war is concluded and the southern states are readmitted into the Union. The amendment approaches the critical vote on the House floor and at the moment of truth, Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) decides to moderate his strict and passionate statements about racial equality to help the amendment's chances of passage. The vote proceeds and narrowly passes by a margin of only two votes. History is made and we've watched it happen because of a good man's and an effective President's dream.

All of this, of course, is history that any curious and tenacious person could look up for themselves and discover how much of it is truly accurate to the letter. LINCOLN as a film also serves to show us a little bit of who the man was a husband to an ill wife Mary Todd (played by Sally Field) and the father of two boys (you know, I'm not even sure I knew Lincoln had any children before this film!). The powerful performance by English actor Daniel Day-Lewis (replacing originally cast Liam Neeson) as President Lincoln shows us not only a stressful commander-in-cheif who must contend with the most challenging obstacle of his career but also a man who, at many times, is an avid storyteller with a sociable sense of humor. The long stretches of inspiring dialogue and the camera's close-up shots at each time may very well seem predictable when you're telling a historical tale like this one, but it's easily overlooked when you're watching Lewis on screen deeply immersed and invested in his character and you can actually feel like you have the legendary Mr. Lincoln sitting right in front of you. This is pure triumphant historical drama at its best...and its best is commanded by none other than the great Steven Spielberg. In today's cinematic world of comic book crap, one cannot avoid to take such artistic endeavors seriously (thank goodness I still do!).

But wait...even the great Spielberg is not without flaw in this film and I'll tell you why. The moment when we learn that Lincoln has been shot just doesn't sit right with me. The last time we see the man alive, he's won a great victory over the Representatives and over slavery. We watch him walk down a long corridor and slowly fade out of sight to what we already know will become his ultimate fate. Right then and there the film should have faded out and gone right to end credits. If, on the other hand, you're going to open "Pandora's Box" on his assassination and his death, then for Christ sakes, treat us to the big event in its entirety instead of only hinting at its occurrence. In other words, give me all or give me nothing!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Abraham Lincoln: "It was right after the revolution, right after peace had been concluded, and Ethan Allen went to London to help our new country conduct its business with the king. The English sneered at how rough we are and rude and simple-minded and on like that, everywhere he went. 'Til one day he was invited to the townhouse of a great English lord. Dinner was served, beverages imbibed, time passed as happens and Mr. Allen found he needed the privy. He was grateful to be directed to this. Relieved, you might say. Mr. Allen discovered on entering the water closet that the only decoration therein was a portrait of George Washington. Ethan Allen done what he came to do and returned to the drawing room. His host and the others were disappointed when he didn't mention Washington's portrait and finally his lordship couldn't resist and asked Mr. Allen had he noticed it. The picture of Washington. He had. Well what did he think of its placement? Did it seem appropriately located to Mr. Allen? And Mr. Allen said it did. The host was astounded. "Appropriate? George Washington's likeness in a water closet?" "Yes," said Mr. Allen, "where it will do good service. The world knows nothing will make an Englishman shit quicker than the sight of George Washington." I love that story."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE


(August 1992, U.S.)

Early in the Spanish film LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, we learn that it's governing forces are food and magical realism combined with the ordinary. Life for many may not have much magic in it, but I'd be willing to bet many of us (inlcuding myself) take a great deal of joy in the foods we eat or the foods we look forward to eating. How many of us, perhaps, had mothers, grandmothers or aunts who could make their kitchen come alive with the smells, the joys, the wisdom and the love of good, traditional family cooking (man, how I miss my Aunt Lillian's cooking!)? In fact, just last summer I was scrambling an egg for my six year-old son's breakfast and he asked me, "Daddy, to you make my breakfast with love?" I replied, "Sam, I always cook your food with love." Despite the fact that I honestly felt just a little stupid saying something so damn corny, it seemed pretty obvious that I was remembering LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. You see....movies inspire us more than we think!

The film follows a young, pretty girl, Tita (played by Lumi Cavazos) who is forbidden to marry because of a ridiculous family tradition that says as the youngest daughter, she is responsible to care for her mother until she dies. Therefore, when the boy she has been flirting with, Pedro (played by Marco Leonardi), and his father come to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage, Tita's mother, Mama Elena (a real ruthless bitch who makes Norman Bates' mother look like a fucking saint!), refuses. Mama Elena instead offers her other daughter, Rosaura, and Pedro accepts only for the purpose of being closer to Tita. The first sign of food combined with some supernatural magic is when Tita bakes the wedding cake with her own tears falling into the batter. Later, the cake causes vomiting, crying, and a longing for their true love in all the guests who have eaten it. Sometime later, Tita puts her feelings for her beloved Pedro in a meal of rose petals. Tita's sexual heat and passion transfers to Gertrudis upon eating the meal. Gertrudis attempts to cool down by taking a shower, but is overcome with lust and runs off naked with revolutionary soldiers (Oh sure, we all do THAT in extreme moments of horniness!). This moment is filmed rather well, because despite the fact that Gertrudis (played by Claudette Maillé, a woman who somewhat resembles a combination of Julia Louis-Dreyfus mixed with Tina Yothers of TV's "Family Ties") is not particularly beautiful and somewhat chunky, there is something, nonetheless, very desirable about her.

Life goes on, year after year, for this family that takes true solice in the food they prepare and eat. One can't help but feel that this family is probably lucky to have the passion they have for food in their lives because there's almost nothing happy about any of these characters and their lives. Everyone, be it Tita, Pedro, her sister, her servants, her doctor friend, everyone seems to be sad, depressed, confused or troubled about something. The only relief this family (and the audience) begins to feel at all is when Mama Elena finally dies. Yes, we're HAPPY when she dies because the entire time she's alive and making her daughters miserable, you can't help but constantly repeat the words, "What a bitch!" in your head.

As I said, time continues to move forward and its twenty years later that we learn of Rosaura death of "severe digestive problems". Pedro confesses to Tita that he still loves her, and wants to marry her. Tita and Pedro then make love, igniting their "matches" or passions too quickly, actually killing Pedro just as he has an incredibly sensuous orgasm. Tita then swallows matches, lighting the entire ranch on fire in the process. Rosaura's daughter returns to the ranch and finds only her Aunt Tita’s cookbook, which contained her recipes and told of her and Pedro’s love story. The film ends (as it also begins) with the decendant of this curious family and what her family's history and the magic behind the food they create has meant to her and what it will likely mean to future generations. There are some that believe food is love. Maybe so. LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE certainly makes a valid argument for such a claim.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Gertrudis: "Sergeant, can you cook cream fritters?"
Sargento Treviño: "To be honest... no. But if you want, I will try."
Gertrudis: "You have never let me down before. I hope this will not be the first time."
Sargento Treviño: "Yes, my general."






Tuesday, June 11, 2013

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL



(October 1998, U.S.)

There was something truly ironic about my watching LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL last night in order to get a fresh peprspective for my blog. The irony was that I'd had a real shitty day from the moment I woke up and it seemed to me, at that particular moment, that life really SUCKED! But anyway...

One of the things I miss most about movies during the 1990s was the mainstream popularity of many subtitled foreign films. Films like CINEMA PARADISO and LA FEMME NIKITA (both 1990), MEDITERRANEO and LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (both 1992) and IL POSTINO (1994) all captured the attention of American audiences and critics with strong word-of-mouth and solid television promotions. During the "heyday" of these films, I was living in Manhattan and accessibility to these films was everywhere and I tried to take advantage of it as much as I could. Today...well, ask yourself when was the last time you saw a TV commercial for a foreign subtitled film, even a relatively popular one? Studios are too busy pushing the latest comic book hero installment to give a shit about that kind of movie marketing anymore!

By the time I finally saw LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL in December 1998, the critical buzz on this Italian film was too unavoidable to ignore. By that time, my only real glimpse and knowledge of Roberto Benigni was a role he'd played as a cab driver in Rome in Jim Jarmusch's NIGHT ON EARTH (1991). Oh yeah, I'd heard he'd played Inspector Clouseau's son in SON OF THE PINK PANTHER (1993), but really, why would I bother to see crap like that?? So here I was about to get a real taste of the man's comedic and dramatic talent as writer, director and star. In this film, Benigni plays Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian book shop owner, who must employ his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. This powerful story doesn't even really take place until the second act of the film. During the first act, we follow Guido as he seeks to woo the attention of the woman he's fallen for Dora (played by Benigni's real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi). Through his charm, his playfulness, his on-the-spot timing and just a little bit of magic, we watch too would-be stranger fall madly in love with each other. And I must confess, his constant greeting of affection "Buongiorno Principessa!" to the woman he loves never seems to get old with me. It's especially adorable to hear their little boy burst our of a small side table and say the same thing to his mother. Just as in the spirit of Charlie Chaplin (whom Benigni is greatly influenced by), it's a joy to watch the otherwise simple man win the heart of the beautiful woman whom many other men would seek to win themselves.

The joy and happiness of simple and playful love turns to the harsh side of the coin years later when Guido and Dora are married and with a child. Without knowing how or why, Guido and his son Joshua are taken from their home by the Nazis and it's not long after that Dora insists she be placed on the same train with her husband and child that is headed for a concentration camp. Once in the camp, Guido hides their true situation from his son, convincing him that the camp is a complicated game in which Joshua must perform the tasks Guido gives him, earning him points; the first team to reach one thousand points will win a real-live tank. He explains that if he cries, complains that he wants his mother, or says that he is hungry, he will lose points, while quiet boys who hide from the camp guards earn extra points. Guido uses this game to explain features of the concentration camp that would otherwise be scary for a young child: the guards are mean only because they want the tank for themselves; the dwindling numbers of children (who are being killed by the camp guards) are only hiding in order to score more points than Joshua so they can win the game. Despite being surrounded by the misery, sickness, and death at the camp, Joshua does not question this outrageous fiction because of his father's convincing performance and his own childish innocence. This charade is maintained right up until the end, when Guido is tragically executed (away from his son's attention) and the camp is liberated by American soldiers at the end of the war.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is one of those rare films that takes on quite a different meaning for myself (and any other man, I imagine) since becoming a father. To witness the extents that a loving father would go through to shield his son from horrifying evil is absolutely intruiging to watch on screen. For this situation, love, family and the power of one's active imagination serve as the ultimate weapong again forces that seek to destroy good. In the end, Joshua survives the Holocaust and will grow up to manhood having no memory of the same events that will soon make world history. As Joshua himself narrates as a man in the end, his father's sacrifice left him with a priceless gift...and from that moment on, life will be beautiful.

Okay, storytime, boys and girls. Once upon a time, there was a young man who'd been on so many first and second dates for the last year and a half of his life that he was just about ready to give into his frustration and never date again. Then, in December 1998, he met a young woman in his office. "What the hell!", he said and decided to give it just one more try. He got up the balls to ask that young woman out on a date. They met for drinks at a popular restaurant that he (admitedly) had taken many other dates to. Drinks lead to dinner and dinner inevitably lead to a late movie. They went to see LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL at the Paris Theatre just next door to what was once the world famous Plaza Hotel. Here's what that theater looks like, by the way. It's one of the few single screen theaters left in New York City...



Anyway, the guy and girl both loved the movie. In fact, had she NOT loved the movie, the guy may have seriously questioned whether or not he'd go out with her again! They did go out again the very next night and in just two short weeks, the two of them were a full-fledged couple (go figure!). The rest of it was...well, you know how the story goes...guy meets girl, guy takes girl to great Italian film, guy cooks dinner for girl, girl brings over a toothbrush, girl sleeps over EVERY night, girl moves in, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes me pushing a baby carriage...yada yada yada! Well, my friends, the guy was "Yours Truly", me, ERIC. The girl was (and still is) BETH, my wife. And so it's with great humility (and a small degree of husbandly obligation!) that I dedicate LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL to my wife Beth. I love you.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Guido Orefice (carrying his son through the concentration camp): "You are such a good boy. You sleep now. Dream sweet dreams. Maybe we are both dreaming. Maybe this is all a dream, and in the morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies. Then, after we eat, I will make love to her two or three times. If I can."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

LIFEBOAT




(January 1944, U.S.)

LIFEBOAT may be the closest Alfred Hitchcock ever came to making a black and white combat war film. It's also one of several films that he made featuring a very limited setting. Others included ROPE (1948), DIAL M FOR MURDER and REAR WINDOW (both 1954). LIFEBOAT begins with wartime destruction at sea between a civilian ship and a German U-Boat and immediately sets the stage (or the sea) for the story that will take place only in a single lifeboat that slowly fills up with assorted characters.

The staging of the lifeboat begins simply enough with just one passenger; a very stylish, well-dressed and rather famous wartime columnist Connie Porter (played by Tallulah Bankhead). Well dressed is a key point in her physical character because one look at her with her well-set hair and fur coat and you immediately sense that this woman does not belong on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea. She actually appears amused at the thought of her potential strandedness and isolation, even taking full advantage of the movie camera she has with her to get some excellent footage of the entire event. A simple beginning doesn't last, though, because where there's one survivor of an exploding ship, there's bound to be another and another until we are faced with several British and U.S. civilians stuck together in a restricted lifeboat in the middle of the North Atlantic. A turning point occurs when one of the people they rescue is a German survivor of the U-Boat that sunk their ship. Wartime patriotism and anger demands that the German (the Nazi enemy!) be thrown overboard. However, cooler heads prevail and he's allowed to remain on board. The viewer is now left to question whether the German (who "appears" to not speak any English) will join forces with these people to survive or will he ultimately lead them into the jaws of other Germans at sea. As time progresses, we follow the lifeboat's inhabitants as they attempt to organize their rations, set a course for Bermuda, and coexist while trying to survive. The characters may start out being good-natured, cooperative, and optimistic about rescue but they inevitably descend into desperation, dehydration, and total frustration with each other. The back stories of the characters are examined, and divisions of race, religion, sex, class, and nationality are finally brought to the surface.

Through all of this drama, one constant remains; the German is very likely not to be trusted because enemies of war do not change their intentions. Suspicions are correct because the innocent survivors are subsequently spotted by the German supply ship to which the enemy on board had been steering them all along. Before a launch can pick them up, both the supply ship and rescue-lifeboat are sunk by an Allied warship. Subsequently, once again, a frightened young German seaman is pulled aboard the lifeboat. This one, however, is less of a mystery because he immediately pulls a gun on the boat occupants but is surprised and disarmed. He asks in German, "Aren't you going to kill me?". The film ends with surviving passengers arguing about keeping the new German sailor aboard or throwing him off to drown as they await the Allied vessel to rescue them, just as they had in the beginning. It would seem that even after the ongoing ordeal of struggle and survival, human doubts and rationals don't change very much.

It's important to pay attention to and appreciate the concept of human decay in this film. When we first meet our survivors, they're still filled with reasonable strength and hope of deliverance. Time, fear, stress, frustration and the harsh elements of the sea are slowly transforming these otherwise good people into potential savages, both in physical appearance and their ideas of their own humanity. Only when rescue finally seems a reality are they almost instantly transformed back into a small fraction of the people they were at the beginning of the film. Their drama is not even overshadowed by much of a background musical score in this film. We're meant to be on that lifeboat with them, through the decay and survival that, somehow, only the great Alfred Hitchcock could show us.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Gus Smith: "A guy can't help being a German if he's born a German, can he?"
John Kovac: "Neither can a snake help being a rattlesnake if he's born a rattlesnake! That don't make him a nightingale! Get him out of here!"


Monday, June 3, 2013

LIFE AS A HOUSE




(October 2001, U.S.)

In October 2001, just one month after the events of September 11th, I was seeking feelings of peace and serenity within the walls of the Hamptons beach house I'd grown up in since childhood; a house that has meant everything to me for the last thirty-five years. Upon learning of LIFE AS A HOUSE and it's deep meaning of spirituality between a dying man and the house he builds and loves, I didn't hesitate to rush to the movie theater to see it. I've mentioned this before (and I'll say it again) - I have a deep, personal appreciation for stories involving people and the homes they live in; THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) and UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003) being two prime examples. This film, which stars Kevin Kline as a divorced father dying quickly of cancer is, perhaps, the best I've seen under this specific story category. The house itself may be a simple and unassuming wood structure, but it's on a California cliff overlooking the ocean and the sunset, and that counts for so much in a tale of the human spirit.

George Monroe (Kline), a fabricator of architectural models (a function in the world of the architectural profession that virtually doesn't exist anymore), is fired from his job after twenty years on the same day he learns he has terminal cancer (that's got to be one of the worst double blows I've ever heard of!). There's a particularly enjoyable moment when, in a rather quiet fit of rage, George smashes all of the models he ever built for his firm as a sweet vengenace for being let go (you go, George!). As medical treatment is considered futile, he decides the time has come to demolish the ramshackle home left to him by his father and replace it with a house more in keeping with the ambiance of his upscale neighborhood. Although dying, George is now liberated from the job he hated and has the funds to finally make his dream house come true. On the dark side (other than dying!), his relationship with his teenage son Sam (played by a pre-Anakin Skywalker Hayden Christensen) has all-but completely fallen apart. Although George hasn't been the "perfect" father over the last ten years, one almost can't blame him from being alienated from his son. Sam is an angst-ridden, self-loathing, rebellious, pill-popping, glue-sniffing, grade A asshole with blue hair, makeup, a number of piercings and possesses an annoying tendancy to constantly whine and moan to the point of pathetic tears. In short, he's probably one of the best screen examples of a good reason NEVER to have children! And I have to say that somehow Christensen manages to pull off the character of an irriting "crybaby" quite effectively (no wonder George Lucas thought he'd turn to the dark side of the Force so easily!). As a last effort, George forces Sam to spend the summer with him and to help him build his house.

Now I'll be the first to admit that what takes place over the rest of the entire film is quite predictable and loaded with every cliche you'd expect...and I absolutely love it! The story ultimately fullfills everything we want to see happen with these characters. Slowly, George and Sam develop an understanding and a friendship as the house they're building progresses day-by-day. George redevelops a love and understanding with his ex-wife Robin (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) who has (rather conveniently) fallen out of love with her current husband. Friends and neighbors come to George's aid to help get the house finished before his time runs out. Yes, it seem that while George lives, triumph is destined to bless his existence and his efforts. Even when the local building inspector tries to cite George for having an open toilet in his living space without any enclosure, he solves the problem (in another fit of rage) by taking a chainsaw and cutting an armoire in half to enclose the toilet and then cuts a hole in the wall to comply with the issue of required ventilation. Maybe the average viewer can't see the true genius of this sequence, but believe me when I tell you that as an architect, it's something many of us in the profession would likely love to get away with!

The final cliche of LIFE AS A HOUSE is that George won't be saved in the end and he will die. What he'll leave behind, though, is priceless, not only in the love he's enriched his family with, but in the house that will make a difference is someone's life...as it turns out, not the life you'd expect. Sam inherits the house, yes, but in an unexpected move, he decides to give the house away to a woman in a wheelchair; a woman, whom when she was a little girl, was the victim of a terrible car accident that George's drunken father was responsible for. So you see? Whether you can personally relate to this story or not, life in the end truly is a house.

Favorite line or dialogue:

George Monroe (voice-over): "I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big. It didn't even need to be beautiful. It just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life. I built myself a house."

Me, too, George. Me, too.