June 2013 Movie Journal - Xanadon't
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At the Movies
Caught 'em on the big screen.
Frances Ha (2013)
This film delighted me when I saw it, and my appreciation for it has grown even more as I've gotten a bit further away from it.
It's an emotionally intelligent and generous film-- one that manages to be at once funny, sad, and wholly satisfying. I'm not sure enough can be said about what Greta Gerwig does for this movie. It's one of my very favorite performances of the year and is pretty much certain to remain that way.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
I'm hoping against hope that Tony Stark dies in the first scene of The Avengers 2. I know it's not likely, but just let me have my dream.
Loads of fancy-shmancy post-production wizardry, Robert Downey Smart-ass-ery, some nifty 'splosions, more Downey bullshit, a bunch of fuzzy and pedestrian allusions to contemporary real-world politics, and more flying metal suits than anyone ever thought they wanted. The Iron Man series has had its fun (and I've had my fun with it), but now it's just making a big glossy fool of itself.
Beautiful and boring in equal measures.
Well... no. That's not quite fair. I can think of many films equally or even more boring. But very few can match the lush, enchanting visual splendor that clings to so many of this film's frames.
But still, for all the movie's visual charms, the dramatic story-telling doesn't exactly light the world on fire. From this standpoint the movie is pretty average, and the characterization was never strong enough to get me emotionally invested in the tale being told.
This Is the End (2013)
Before Midnight (2013)
New Release Wall
Newish stuff on DVD/Blu Ray/Streaming.
I guess I'm just not sold on director Quentin Dupieux's genius. His brand of post-modern, self-pleasing, "insert quirk here", scatter-shot surrealism doesn't strike me as all that interesting. (If you can't tell from my loaded description.)
Wrong definitely offered enough in the way of oddly fascinating characters (William Fichtner is pretty goddamned marvelous) to hold my attention and provide some joyful moments. And the simple story-line about a man in search of his lost dog is an inviting one, and it makes for a serviceable skeleton for Dupieux to build his eccentricities and "weird oft for weird's own sake" upon. But nothing here added up to a movie that I was much more than just "fine" with.
I don't know... to me a good chunk of Wrong just felt like a less rich, less soulful, and less startlingly talent-fueled David Lynch exercise.
When this movie is dumb-- and it very often is-- it's pretty goddamn dumb. And when it's less dumb... well it's still miles and miles from anything special.
It's a tiny-budget horror/thriller affair that won't make you jump up and cheer, but if you're a fan of the genre and are always on the look-out for little-know horror flicks, then I don't think you'll come away terribly disappointed.
The small cast is quite capable, and both the set-up and crux of the film offer up enough originality to hold interest, even if what transpires is far from the most intelligent and satisfying horror fare you've seen in recent years.
Lay the Favorite (2012)
So this got terrible, terrible reviews upon its release, but I only now noticed that Stephen Frears directed it. Well I've enjoyed some of Frears' work in the past, and I figured that given this and the fact that the film stars Rebecca Hall (whom I'm rather fond of) and Bruce Willis, just maybe I'd at least get some mild pleasure out of it.
Lay the Favorite is one of the flimsiest and most instantly forgettable movies I've sat through in a long time. None of the relationships between the film's characters have any credibility or organic substance, and the characters themselves are flat, and lazily conceived. Basically, I didn't give two shits about what was happening the entire time.
The Mooring (2012)
Where I see what all the fuss is about.
The Crystal Ball (1943)
A year or so ago I fell in love with Paulette Goddard as I watched The Ghost Breakers (1940). So when I found myself in the mood for something old and light and then noticed her name attached to the The Crystal Ball, well it looked as though I had found my movie.
It would seem that The Crystal Ball isn't very well-remembered. And truthfully, there's not much in it to campaign for canonization. But it is a rather fun little movie with a glint in its eye, some decent performances, and the good sense to not outreach itself-- it's airy, tightly told, and a lean 81 minutes long.
No Man of Her Own (1932)
Things that aren't "movie-movies".
A really fascinating man and for me a fond trip down memory lane. I really enjoyed my time with this.
Deliver Us from Evil (2007)
Ranks really damn high on the list of most horrifying and upsetting documentaries I've ever seen. Pictured above is serial child rapist Oliver O'Grady-- himself a victim of sexual abuse-- who went on to become a sick and depraved monster appointed, employed, and protected by the Catholic Church for a couple decades as he was allowed to repeatedly commit heinous and vile acts upon children and families.
There are way too many evil old white men here and not enough of them feature rusty iron spikes stabbed through their eye sockets and hearts. In fact I counted zero, and that's a real shame. I've long thought so, but I've never been more convinced that anybody who gives money to the Catholic Church is a sorry, wrong-headed fool. If I've offended anyone, well... start using your brain.
Getting back to the doc, this piece of shit spent a mere 7 years in prison before being deported to his home country, where above you can see him strolling along in some Irish park, free as can be, breathing the same air as unsupervised children. Fucking brilliant.
Oh yeah-- the latest news, courtesy of Wikipedia:
In December 2010 he was arrested in Dublin for possession of child pornography. The victims were as young as two years old. Authorities discovered child pornography photos and videos on O'Grady's laptop, on an external hard drive, and on a USB key. Judge Patrick McMahon remanded O’Grady on continuing bail to appear again on January 28. As part of his bail conditions O’Grady was required to sign on twice daily at Dublin's Harcourt Terrace Garda station, and surrendered his passport. In January 2012, O'Grady was sentenced to three years in prison in Ireland for possession of child pornography.
Anyways, there are a whole shit load of problems in the world today and fucked up organizations everywhere you look-- religious or otherwise. But bloody fucking hell if the Catholic Church isn't completely and totally fucked from the pope on down.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
I actually found myself liking this movie more than I remembered when I caught it in theaters 5 years ago. There's some dumb humor that doesn't quite work or mesh with the rest of the film, but there's also multiple points of pure hilarity, a nice amount of heart, and an overwhelming amount (at least compared to most "similar" movies) of evidence that the film's lead performers really are intelligent and gifted individuals. This all makes for a more pleasant watch than just about anything else connected to Judd Apatow.
The Brothers Bloom (2009)
As far as I'm concerned, Rian Johnson is easily one of the most exciting young directors working right now. Largely because he already commands such an assured sense of style-- and then melds it with an ambitious and unapologetic taste for fun. His movies have a good time with themselves and I have a great time with his movies. I know few will agree, but I can't help but feel that The Brothers Bloom is one of the more special and overlooked movies of its time.
Before Sunrise (1995)
I've come around on that last half-star. In fact I'm struggling to imagine why I had withheld a perfect rating to begin with. Maybe there were moments when I felt as though one or two conversations felt too much like college campus coffee-house yabber-jabber. Or maybe something slight and petty bugged me just a bit about Ethan Hawke. Whatever the case, I don't think there's a more purely compelling modern romance to be found.
This movie is magical and unfolds with boundless grace, charm, and intelligence. What a magnificent pair Hawke and Julie Delpy made 18 years ago, and how fresh the entire film still feels today.
Before Sunset (2004)
While my esteem for Before Sunrise grew even more, my feelings toward Before Sunset actually diminished a touch upon re-watching it. In a broad sense, the overall tone of the second film is markedly different, which is to be expected as, nine years later, the circumstances of our characters lives are vastly different.
The first film is drenched with youthful exuberance and bliss. Much of the mood of the second film is more precarious, more calculated. Our characters trade in guarded emotions and regret. These things are as --or nearly as-- effectively conveyed as was the romantic enchantment of the first movie. But at a gut-level, none of it is as purely enjoyable to watch.
One great strength of the film is that director Richard Linklater, the team of writers, and our central performers have taken the characters of Jesse and Celine and created something extraordinarily similar to real, breathing, people with real pasts and stories and memories and feelings. It's almost uncanny how convincing it becomes that these two people have actually lived as Jesse and Celine over the course of the nine years since we encountered them last. The problem for me is that I'm rather in love with the characters as they existed in their early 20s and truly enjoy the way it conjures up thoughts surrounding my own projected/remembered/romanticized version of myself, my mentality, and my "life" circumstances at that age. I'm not --interesting and believable as they are-- as hopelessly enchanted with the characters that appear here, now settling into their thirties and displaying (or struggling to conceal) nearly a decade's worth of various emotional damages and life tolls. And I'm decidedly less fond of the corresponding way in which I'm confronted with some of my own psycho/emo/spiritual wear and tear.
Ethan Hawke isn't as purely charismatic as he was in the first film, but his portrayal of 2004 Jesse gently unfolds into something almost every bit as agreeably human and special. Julie Delpy's character is actually insanely complex-- at times maddening, cool, and nimbly deceptive, while at others warm, generous, and beautifully vulnerable. Essentially she captures --in a very short time-- a great many of the things that have bewildered, amused, angered, and overjoyed me in every woman I've ever loved. Impressive, certainly, but not always exactly what dreams are made up of, and as great as Before Sunset is inside of its great moments, there are a couple problematic stretches that just don't allow for Sunset to exist as the "dream-come-true" movie that I find Sunrise to be. At certain times (mostly in the early going-- but it persists further into the film now and then) the movie feels "talky" whereas the first did not. There are moments when we don't feel as though the characters believe what they are saying the way in which they did nine years ago. And while often this is deliberate and in fact necessary to establish character, the trade-off is that a certain amount of ability to effortlessly sweep me off my feet is lost between the two films.
But all this said, I don't by any means wish to suggest that Before Sunset is an unworthy sequel. It's still a fascinating work and it still contains moments that engage and transport me. And I'm definitely more curious than ever to see what lies ahead for Jesse and Celine in Before Midnight. At this point, though, I'm thrilled to hear that the film isn't as insular as the first two-- that it opens up a bit and expands it's focus a bit around the two central characters. The last thing I want is to feel as though the series suffocates beneath itself, and I fear that an approach too similar to Before Sunset would create exactly that effect.
We shall see...
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