Is it possible that a new, black and white, silent movie can be better than either one of the two recent George Clooney films?

I think that just may be the case.

The Descendents ***

This film has received very strong reviews (90% & 85% positive from critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, for example), and some folks are touting Clooney for Best Actor for this film.

It’s the story of a father whose wife has just suffered a severe boating accident and is in a coma. Matt King (Clooney) must now focus on taking care of his two daughters and figure out what to do about his wife’s condition.

While I’m generally a Clooney ‘fan,’ I did not think this was one of his better performances. To start with, the film did not ring true to me. And whether Clooney was ‘stuck’ with a role that seemed weak or whether he simply didn’t handle the role well, I’m not sure.

The elder daughter Alex (played by Shailene Woodley), however, is quite good as she returns home and immediately becomes enmeshed in the details of her father’s struggles.

There is also a secondary plot involving whether King should sell the family land for development (and thus make everyone in the extended family wealthy) or keep it pristine as it has been for a number of generations.

I’m not sure what I’m missing here as Clooney just seems flat to me, but if you see The Descendents and like it, please tell me why.

The Ides of March ****

Both the screen play/plot and the acting are strong in this film about a presidential primary in Ohio.

Living in a city whose business is politics, I felt like I knew everyone of the characters in this film. Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti all play characters that are familiar, that I read about and see every day.

The story is less about the presidential candidate as it is about those around him. Gosling, Hoffman, and Giamatti are all quite good at portraying various types of political operatives.

There are no real good guys in this film, but I suspect that is not really surprising if the object is to produce a realistic political portrayal of what goes on in our ‘sausage making’ system. But it seemed pretty realistic to me,

But what do I know? The film seems to have come and gone already, and the reviews, while generally positive, are not as good as those for The Descendents.

But both Ellen and I liked it.

The Artist **** 1/2

Fortunately we saw this film in our Sunday morning movie club where we do not know what film we are going to see before we enter the theater. If you told me I was going to a black and white, silent movie about the end of the silent films and the beginning of the talkies, I never would have gone.

And that would have been a mistake.

This film is cleverly constructed, and, except for going on a bit too long about the downfall of the main character, I found myself engaged and almost entranced watching it.

I suspect you will hear a lot about this film as it is just hitting the theaters. And if you’re interested in seeing something different, with good acting, don’t be put off by the black and white, silent aspect of The Artist.

That’s what makes it worth seeing.

(PS – I wrote in an earlier post about My Week with Marilyn and gave it five stars (Click Here). Sunday I learned that our film club gave it a positive rating, excellent or good, of 97.6%, which is the highest rating I remember in a number of years. Don’t be mislead by the previews, which made me not particularly want to see it. Fortunately, it was another film in our cinema club.