A little catching-up to do on the movieblogging.

Saw Ocean’s Twelve. Apart from the fact that this is indicative of the colossal lack of originality in Hollywood–a sequel to a remake of an original so awful it should never have been remembered by anyone–this was a fun, well-done movie, but not life-changing. Steven Soderbergh always does a good job, and this had good characters, a good story, good dialogue, and good cinematography. So, good but conventional.

Saw the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Very much enjoyed this. I’m always a fan of Bill Murray’s, and he seems to keep doing better as he gets older–though, as Gwen pointed out, it’s saddening to see Bill Murray portraying an old character, since we remember him when he was young, and it’s still a bit of a shock to see him looking old. Beyond that, though, the story goes in unintended directions, ties itself together surprisingly well, and has whimsy. It also has whimsy in things like the set design–there’s a wonderful cutaway shot of the Belafonte, Zissou’s ship, showing all the crew doing things in its various cabins. At first, this dollhouse view seems like some kind of trick of compositing, but later, when we actually see the crew moving from cabin to cabin to cabin in one long shot, it seems that the entire ship-set was constructed as one giant cutaway.

Finally, saw the Last Days of the San Jose (no IMDB listing at this time). Fascinating. In 1997, South Congress was a dicey part of Austin, and the San Jose was a seedy hotel, its rooms filled by long-term residents half a step away from homelessness, by hookers and johns, by kids who needed a place off the street to get high. Liz Lambert bought the place with a vision, not shared by many other people, of transforming the place into an upscale boutique hotel. She tried to get bank financing for the massive renovation, and in the meantime, documented the daily goings-on and lives of the people at the San Jose with an inexpensive handheld movie camera.

In fact, it took three years for her to get financing, so long-term customers became part of her life. There’s so much in this movie, and there’s so much surrounding it. The renovation of the San Jose was the front edge of a wave of gentrification in South Congress, and I can only imagine that Liz Lambert looks back on the trail she has blazed with mixed feelings: the renovation of the San Jose was a dream of hers, and clearly one she held onto tightly through what must have been three pretty tough years, but when it came true, she had to kick out these people who had become important to her. But beyond that, I imagine she looks across the street at what used to be “GUNS JUST GUNS,” beholds Factory People (a pretentious shop selling ugly, overpriced hipsterwear), and thinks “wait…this isn’t the South Congress I signed up for.”