First I rode the bus up to Lloyd Cinemas and saw the film version of The Golden Compass, which makes me want to read Philip Pullman's books. Not a perfect movie, and I kept being reminded of better films -- Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Jeunet and Caro's The City of Lost Children and Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Stardust came to mind -- but several things impressed me. It's an epic of events coming to a head in an Earth parallel to ours, but where animals talk to people, where peoples' souls take the form of said talking animals, and where polar bears have both their own civilization and kick-ass battle armor. A young girl named Lyra learns that both major change and war are coming and she's somehow a part of it. Suddenly she's thrown into situations far outside of her experience, and she has to learn to be cunning and (by film's end) to be a warrior. Luckily Lyra can talk her way out of bad situations, or if she can't talk her way out of them, she can at least talk through them and try to extricate herself from them later. She's dancing as fast as she can, in other words.
The design of the world of The Golden Compass is quietly lovely, and often very subtle; I saw a bit of steampunk influence, where the technology looks like a 21st-century/19th-century hybrid. (The parallel world of the story is more advanced than ours in some ways, less advanced in others.) Having our souls embodied in animals, called daemons -- which I keep wanting to pronounce "dayemons," but that vowel at the start should be pronounced like "Caesar" and, um, "demons" -- warms my animal-loving heart; and it's a striking image when a person dies, and the person's daemon disintegrates into briefly-glowing sparks. It conveys death without showing blood.
The cast is worthy. If I needed someone evil in my life, I wouldn't mind her looking like Nicole Kidman (she plays Mrs. Coulter, a government official with an interestingly complicated relationship with Lyra). Dakota Blue Richards, making her film debut as the central character of a huge freakin' fantasy epic, carries off that major job with aplomb; I wouldn't be surprised to see her face in the "HEROINE ADDICT" icons here on LiveJournal. What film viewers don't love Sam Elliot? He plays a wizened pilot from alternate-world Texas, amused by the world but aware of the gravity of what's about to hit it. And I'll admit that I have no trouble watching Eva Green, who here plays a warrior witch. (happyspector, you'll have no trouble watching her either...)
I don't feel qualified to sound off on the religious/spiritual underpinnings of the story, so I won't add to that discussion, at least not now. The loudest complaint I've heard from people about the film of The Golden Compass is that "nothing happens," but I still got the sense of huge things about to happen (conveyed better here than in Star Wars: Episode One, for example; I wanted to feel a sense in that film of an entire civilization on the verge of cracking, and as much as I love Star Wars I didn't feel that there), and which finally lead to the war's first battle at the end. (New Line Cinema hopes to make more films based on the rest of Pullman's series, and I'm assuming the big action happens then.) Though Mike, you were right about how people would react to the film leaving off the very end of the first book: when the end credits started to roll, a woman in my audience said an audible, flat "What." She wasn't expecting the film to end there. I was; cleolinda had forewarned me.
Then, through the cunning use of light rail and my legs, I reached Northwest Portland and Cinema 21 and saw -- as much as I could see, as I was tired and struggling not to fall asleep -- the musical Romance and Cigarettes. Said tiredness meant I had trouble following it, and it's not a straightforward drama, because the characters break out into song and dance. (Who would've thought John Turturro had a musical in him?) I had no trouble appreciating the sexiness of much of the cast, of course: Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon and Mary Louise Parker and Mandy Moore and Aida Turturro and one nicely curvy belly dancer, to name a few. slipjig, if you have a chance to see Romance and Cigarettes, you'd likely appreciate it, even for just the scene of Winslet in red leather surrounded by flames.
I won't review that film, because I was too tired to process the film the way a reviewer should. But sexiness always can be appreciated.