i bumped into my neighbor jack when i left my house to go see the matinee of cold mountain down in harvard square. i told him, from the looks of the trailer, there was some kind of four-way love square between jude law, nicole kidman, renee zellweger, and natalie portman. whether that's true or not, i would soon find out.

the fact that it's an anthony minghella film (heard of the english patient? or how about the talented mr.ripley?) and miramax studio's season end entry into the accolades melting pot pretty much guarantees it's going to be a slick movie, beautifully shot, ripe with drama, with big name dramatic actors at the height of their craft. it's already pulled in a bunch of golden globes nominations, including best picture and several acting nods.

in a nutshell, here's the story: minister's daughter ada monroe (kidman) and local handyman inman (law, "i work wood") meet and fall in love, but are split apart because of the civil war, where inman goes off and joins the confederate army. after nearly fatally wounded in battle, inman deserts the army and makes his way back to cold mountain (i think the word here is "odyssey"), where ada is waiting for him and surviving the harsh life with the help of ruby (zellweger), who's this plucky mountain gal who teaches ada, who's never worked a day in her life, about farm living. all the while with a backdrop of the american civil war, with confederate soldiers looking to recapture inman, union soldiers looking to kill him, and the de facto "sheriff" of cold mountain has an eye for ada.

one of the more interesting things about the movie is how it plays to the social morale of the time period, prohibiting ada and inman to truly say how they feel about each other. actors of course love this stuff, "i want you to say 'i love you,' but you have you say it through acting, no words." bear in mind that it's pre-victorian time, where boyfriend and girlfriend don't hold hands, and everything's very subtle and implied through stolen glances and awkward chit chat. how you know ada and inman truly love each other is they exchange photos prior to the start of the war. ah, simpler times!

besides the love story, the movie also touches on the brutality of war. war empowers people, but sometimes that empowerment is abused, as might becomes right. the romantic notion of the gentleman warrior is just that, a romantic notion, and in real wars such a person is probably rarely encountered. early in the film, union soldiers use explosives to destroy a confederate base. as the bombs explode it literally burns off the clothes of the confederate soldiers, leaving them naked and charred. this movie is neither pro-north or pro-south, as later on the same confederate soldiers kill a number of union soldiers caught in a trap. watching the movie, it seemed weird that this is actually a part of american history, that people of this country actually fought against themselves. if anything, having a love story over a backdrop of war provides a stark contrast which makes the relationship that much poignant it seems. that reminds me of the movie enemy at the gates, about the siege of stalingrad, which coincidentally also stars jude law (in a love triangle with rachel weisz and joseph fiennes).

nicole kidman: she's the new meryl streep! everything she touches becomes ka-ching oscar gold! i personally feel her acting can be a bit of a broken record, she should really try her hand at comedy next, even in moulin rouge the role called for her to be dramatic at times. take gwyneth paltrow for instance, she's all about comedy these days (shallow hal,view from the top), although i'm afraid she might have sustained some tarnish, because i can't remember the last time she scored a cinematic hit. i'm also here to report that ms.kidman is not shy when it comes to nude scenes (dead calm anyone? who knew billy zane could rip denim shorts like paper?), there's some payoff towards the end of the movie (as if i'm spoiling anything! everyone knows she and jude hook up eventually).

jude law: i think he pulled off the southern accent pretty well. nothing bad can be said about his performance. if anything, too perfect. i was distracted by his well formed teeth at one point, "did any civil war veterans have perfect teeth? i don't think so."

renee zellweger: okay, she totally looks like a chipmunk in this movie! and some might argue she sounds like one as well. jack white from the white stripes is also in the film, playing a - get this - a musician! it was on this movie that renee and jack met and now they're reportedly an item. what's that all about? what's the deal with musicians dating starlets? is there some sort of secret dating service for people of that ilk? and jack white? come on, that guy is gross! maybe it's those tight pants he wears during his concerts...

natalie portman: she will forever be child-like to me. not that she doesn't take mature roles, but i can't picture her as a grandmother. in my mind, she's only really had one good movie, and that was the professional. i hope i don't ruin any expectations when i say that she is not involved in any sort of love polygon with jude law and some of the other female characters in the movie. i personally think she's too smart for acting. those who can't do anything else go into acting. a smarty like her should be working on a cure for cancer.

should you go see it? it's just one of those miramax movies, fresh off of their celluloid assembly line in fortress marimaximus. the story's good, the movie is very polished, but i didn't get the goosebumps when i was watching it, and i only got emotional at one point during the end (unlike ROTK when i felt a rush every 20 minutes or so). if you're a fan of that miramax drama machine, then you'll eat this movie right up. otherwise, there are better movies out there.

i went down to harvard square this morning to catch the matinee of cold mountain after some oatmeal for breakfast. when i came back home, i got changed into my running gear and went outside for a run because the temperature was in the 50's. while i was pulling off stray ivy vines from the house, alex wong dropped by briefly. we chatted out on the sidewalk while a bevy of attractive young neighbors walked by, and after he left, i went on my run. it was so warm outside that midway through i took off my turtleneck and stripped down to my t-shirt. after the run i took a shower and waited until evening, where i was having dinner with my parents for the 4th consecutive time. originally it was supposed to be a birthday dinner for my mother (her actual birthday will be tuesday,

but sundays one of the few nights where both my parents don't have to work) and we were going to go out, but it turned out to be a regular dinner in belmont, lamb chops. my mother and i worked on the 500 pieces jigsaw puzzle we cracked opened yesterday, it's about 80% finished already. i also got a haircut, finally getting sick of my long hair. i got a ride home back to cambridge. by then, the temperature had dropped into the 20's. i'm going to get to bed early, get a good night's sleep, get ready to go back to work after a 4 day weekend.