Angelina Jolie’s Worth More Than Her Salt

Plus the sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated movie you shouldn't miss

Status bars are not inherently stress-inducing. No matter how loud or how fast a movie’s underscoring is, no matter how stressed the actors look, status bars are about as nerve-wracking as waiting for a podcast to download. Oh god, no! The new Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is at 37%! And yet in movie after movie, like Salt, filmmakers keep using this anti-climactic ploy in the most climactic scenes. (What happened to the good old days of the multicolored-wire bomb timer? So when this occurred in the final scene of the movie, I was disappointed. But truly, it exemplifies the faults of Salt—techy flashiness takes the place of plot.

Salt is named for Angelina Jolie’s title character Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative who kicks ass and wears designer suits. She lives a happy life: great arachnologist husband (which will be important later), a great job (except for the occasional imprisonment in North Korea), and perfect hair. All of this is taken from her … well, except the perfect hair … when a Russian defector claims that Salt is a sleeper, a Russian agent. Instead of trying to talk this out, she begins to run and blow stuff up. (If you were ever interested in turning a fire extinguisher into a rocket launcher, this is your movie. She’s like MacGyver… with bangs.) You’re really not quite sure why she’s running around or why she’s blowing stuff up. You surmise it’s because she is trying to save her husband, the arachnologist, but you’re not really sure. The filmmakers never give you any hints.[SIGNUP]

Angie is a tremendous actress. That’s a given. In Wanted, she took a stock action character and gave her warmth. (Who doesn’t remember her simple smile when James McAvoy turns a gun on her?) But here she is unable to give depth to a character that is part Jason Bourne, part Mrs. Smith, and part Sydney Bristow. Much of this has to do with the filmmakers. When the audience is not sure if the character is good or evil, or why she just milked that spider, or why she’s wearing a Ralph Macchio wig, it’s hard to connect.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of a movie where arachnologists have open access to North Korea (I couldn’t figure that out either); a place where people become poets when they speak Russian—“My loneliness was my only friend”; a place where people milk spiders. But, when a movie stars Angie, I guess I expect more … and an actual ending. Not a setup for a sequel.

Unfortunately, Salt’s status bar only makes it to about 78%. (In theaters.)

My Grade: C+


The Oscar season has finally begun. So far the animation category has been flush with candidates—Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3. But other than Inception (the movie I have not stopped googling), no movie this year has really stood out. Let me introduce you to The Kids Are All Right.

Annette Benning and Juliette Moore star as a couple raising their teenage children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson). When the children decide to locate their sperm donor, Mark Ruffalo, the seams of their relationships are exposed.

What is so exquisite about this movie is the love that the writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) has for her characters. While we are shown—sometimes in heartbreaking detail—the faults of these people, you never question their true intentions, their goodness. We do not focus on the validity of a lesbian couple having a family or children “dealing” with having two female parents. Instead we focus on the normal troubles that face any family. We also experience a tremendous examination of nature vs. nurture—how genetics only plays a part in development. All made possible by the stellar ensemble. Each actor, specifically Benning and Moore, gives a stunning, smart, and award-worthy performance.

See this sure-to-be Oscar-nominated movie as soon as you can. (In theaters.)

My Grade: A