‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 323

#324/ 365 – ‘Arthur Christmas’ – 97 mins
Cinema Challenge #122 / 115

The reigning Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) is reaching the end of his service, with his super-efficient but joyless son Steven (Laurie) ready to take over. But the future of the position of head of Christmas looks less certain when a child is left without a present and the only person prepared to put things right is his hapless brother, Arthur (James McAvoy).

Straight from the off on Christmas Eve, in Santa’s command centre and one that would rival James Bond we are plunged into the action. With thousands of crack squad elves dropping into homes across the globe with presents galore for the little ones. It’s a 15 minute opening sequence that proves be the high point and one that is sure to give way to multiple viewings.

Unfortunately this breezy tale from Aardman dips after such a fantastic start, as its plot starts wander into the generic territory. Nonetheless with its cheery voices from an excellent cast of James McAvoy as Arthur, Jim Broadbent providing great assurance as Santa, and good support from Hugh Laurie as Steve, Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa and Ashley Jensen as Bryony an elf with superlative present wrapping skills – there’s enough yuletide joy with heart to get you by with in the festive season.

#325/ 365 – ‘American Beauty’ (1999) – 122 mins
IMDb Challenge #202 / 250 – Ranked #39 – DVD Collection

Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with Angela ( Mena Suvari) one of his daughter’s friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky (Wes Bentley), who lives with his homophobic father (Chris Cooper).

Before Desperate Housewives came Sam Mendes “…look closer” into suburbia America. There’s lot to admire in Mendes directorial debut which proved to be a highly inventive black comedy. Kevin Spacey was perfectly cast as Lester Burnham, a man in an early mid-life crisis alienated from his wife and daughter, whose dispensable at work, and “dead already” on the inside. Annette Bening steals scenes as Lester’s wife, as some kind of perverse perfectionist who is so driven material pursuits and appearances that she ignores Lester when she’s not belittling him.

American Beauty is brilliant, but flawed. Entertaining, but confused at times as it comes of morally messy.

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