The Fugitive

The Fugitive is part of that family of films I think of as living room popcorn movies. The movies that came out when I was still too young to be going to the theater much, so I’ve never seen them on the big screen, but there’s just something innately popcorny about them. Where even if you’re watching it on TV with your family in your sweatpants on a holiday weekend, even if you’re just watching it alone in your apartment, you’re urging characters on under your breath and exclaiming at all the big fun moments. And whether you’ve seen them once or a thousand times, they always feel recognizable. There’s something safe about these movies, and it’s like that sense of security lets you get completely caught up in them, a cinematic escape even when you’re just in your own living room. Sorry not now, The Fugitive‘s on, and we’re gonna watch the heck out of this.

In this case, I’m in the ‘once’ camp, because this was somehow the first time I’d ever seen this movie. I thought I remembered a scene from it that I wandered past my dad watching at some point, but that scene never occurred, so who knows what I was thinking of. The Fugitive is a classic, it’s beloved, and one of those that renews your faith in the collective taste, because this one really is damn good. Yeah it’s a little long, and like most 2+ hour movies I think it’d actually be stronger if they’d been forced to cut at least 20 minutes, but in a creative way where they don’t lose those sequences of closed-lip, harried tension. They are also not allowed to touch a word of Tommy Lee Jones’ dialogue.

I mean I don’t think this movie is like The Sting, where everyone has to pick either Robert Redford or Paul Newman and if you’re lucky you and your best friend each take a different one and you high five about it, but if it is: Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee Jones is a delight in this, he’s wonderful, he can get it, it being my hand in action movie marriage. His performance is completely unusual in a way that never feels anything but present and real. With the way he reads his lines he’s almost doing a really great stage performance, which may be why Tom Stoppard wishes he’d written some of them. Anyway I’m very into it.

I am also so into, I find, the dogged, lawful investigator characters. Your Odo’s, your Major Calloway’s. Centered in their competence. Relentlessly reliable. It’s so great watching them claim they don’t care, when really they just [clenches fist] care so much.

Face Places

A documentary where diminutive octogenarian French New Wave visionary Agnès Varda palls around rural France with lanky young contemporary street artist JR already held a lot of appeal for me, and then JR brought several bemused cardboard cutouts of Agnès to the Oscar nominees luncheon and that was some of the most enjoyable shit I’ve ever seen. I finally watched their movie this past Sunday afternoon while snacking on a slice of cake, and do you know? It was adorable.

Faces Places is such a good luck charm of a film, right up to the wonderful Franco-Anglo serendipity of there being a rhyme-preserving translation for the original Visages, Villages. Similarly fateful, Agnès and JR met seemingly by whim and then just decided to embark on an art project together. “I made the first move,” JR confides. You darlings.

They are a perfect pair of complements. Agnès shuffles around with her blurring vision and bright bi-colored hair and collects people, finding faces and stories and gently composing them. And JR leaps and gambols and laughs behind his sunglasses, scaling the sides of buildings into huge canvases to paste the faces and stories she has found. They are both natural cajolers, drawing others into their plots with ease, probably because what they make is consistently lovely. Outsized and sweet, and just odd enough to be terrifically crowd-pleasing. 

In short, there are few more pleasant ways you could spend an hour and a half than riding around the French countryside in a van shaped like a giant camera with JR and Agnès Varda, where the only running thread to contend with is Agnès’ continuing attempts to get JR to take off his sunglasses.