Monthly Movie Journal: October 2011
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First Time Views
A hell of a lot of fun and a stunning example of execution living up to creativity. It's the kind of film that nurtures one's love for the movies of old while simultaneously rekindling one's hope for cinema's future.
Anyone out there have a copy of the screenplay? I've gotta find out how to get one.
Tom Hardy gives us a strong performance, but that's not enough to shake my overall indifference toward the film and the subject. A few visual flourishes by director Nicolas Winding Refn pulled be out of my boredom now and then, but still, meh.
Waking Life (2002)
"Deep" hilosophical musings set to trippy animation has its own built-in cult-appeal I suppose, so it's little wonder that this film is often hailed as a sort of "contemporary masterpiece". Which also has a lot to do, I suppose, with why I avoided it for so long.
While I can't proclaim anything near that level of enthusiasm for Linklater's ambitious, if slightly tedious, film I will say that I found certain aspects fascinating. Unfortunately too much of this movie smells vaguely of insincere "intellectualism" and if it's not quite "empty-headed" there is a noticeable void where the "heart" should be, and which has always warmed me to his other work.
Still, I applaud the bold manner that the film employs in effort to explore the ideas at hand. And while for that reason I don't begrudge the movie's existence I'm certain I won't be revisiting it anytime soon.
A Short Film About Love (1988)
And ^that^ should give you a clue about the awesomely irreverent humor that makes this film so much fun, and an important piece of American cinema culture.
I've never been as impressed by Robert Altman as I feel I'm supposed to be, but this early effort alerted me to the talent and vision that he possesses. Maybe I'll give some of his other earlier titles a look.
Wow. I felt about a month's worth of different emotional responses to this film all in its 100 minutes. Sometimes my reactions to the film were even conflicting with one another, but one thing I never felt was passive. I appreciated this film for that alone.
But this film was extremely engaging intellectually also, and its narrative structure ratchets up the intensity of it all. Some may argue a lack of credibility within the plot and the manner of connections shared between the characters. But I found most of this easy to forgive, or simply unoffensive in the first place, in light of what the film is trying to tell us. If I do have a point of apprehension, it regards the way the teacher character is written. Something stands in my way of totally buying into her character and her motivations. Regardless, this struck me as a very special piece of film-art and I'll be looking to see what else I've missed from this director.
Director Michael Haneke once again aims his critical arrows at pseudo-intellectual bourgeois society, under the guise of a mystery thriller that doesn't thrill and in which no satisfactory answers are given to any of the questions raised by the plot. There seems to be quite a lot of post-9/11 subtext at work here, but I don't pretend to really know what Haneke is on about most of the time.
What I do know is that here he has two very talented leads under his command (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) but I wouldn't really be able to make that statement if this was the only film I'd seen them in; for much of the film they're given very little to do and the camera and lighting, etc don't seem to give two damns about any talent that may be trying to work its way out. In fact much of Haneke's film is shot in perfectly static and exasperatingly long takes of the mid or long-shot variety (not merely the "surveillance shots mind you). And if this is intended to bring a cold and detached feeling to the proceedings, fine, but to me it feels more like lazy and smug. I'd love to trade in some of Haneke's philosophical musing and pontificating for even the slightest bit of creative and passionate imagination.
Criterion Collection Releases
I don't place a huge stock in whether or not something is deemed "Criterion Collection worthy" but I will admit that when the Janus Films logo comes up on my screen, I do tend to assume I'm about to watch something that's somehow important.
Film Snob Pick of the Month
You know the kind of movies I mean.
At the Movies
Watched on the big screen
The trailers for this film did little to convince me that this movie would be worth more than a nonchalant rental. But early buzz about this being something a bit more special than it appears, along with the approval of a trusted friend here on listal, compelled me to find out for myself. And I must say I'm glad I did.
I found 50/50 to be one of the best films of the year, as improbable as that may sound to some of you. It's a deeply affecting film that respects itself and audiences far too much to sacrifice sincerity for emotional hijacks. The writing here is extremely good in its ability to maintain dramatic and comedic cohesiveness while expertly navigating its many delicate and sometimes severe emotional shifts. As my friend put it, the material here feels organic with the added bonus of being unusually smart and heartfelt.
Oddly enough, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in both of the films I've seen so far this month. He's an actor that I'd until yesterday only encountered in Inception. I hated him in it. I thought his performance was for the most part border-line miserable. Now, having seen Brick and 50/50 my opinion of him has completely changed. This isn't an overtly dramatic and dynamic performance, or the kind that calls a lot of attention to itself. But it is a strong, nuanced performance and one that shines so brightly at times in small moments of human crisis and emotional gravity.
Anna Kendrick is superb here as well. She's long been an actress that fascinates me, but has never really grabbed hold of me and shaken me emotionally. But here that's just about all she does. This is a welcome break from the fast-talking, too cool-for-school, emotionally distant but vaguely insecure character we've seen her in before. Here she's pained in tones of warm vulnerability upon a canvas of quiet strength and psychological fortitude. Her nervous resolve and self-conscious good will layered atop the deep well of empathy and understanding that she naturally possesses combine to make her among the most inherently likeable characters I've come across in a long time. And there's rarely a moment she's on screen that doesn't somehow become truly interesting and affecting.
There's a lot more to be said about this movie, but if it's one that you have any curiosity about at all, I say go see it. It's easy to say that there are lots of movies out there just like it, but really I don't think they're as many as we like to think.
The Guard (2011)
Trailer for The Guard
Another slightly disappointing film in a long year full of them. Ha, really I'm just disappointed because my local critic trumped this one up pretty high. It passes as entertainment, but really there's nothing terribly special at work here.
I agree, it is a little strange that I went to see the same film twice in two weeks. Can't remember the last time that's happened, actually. But consider:
A) It's the best film of the year.
B) The first time I went was by myself. This time around my girlfriend and I went together. While I'm certain it's the best film released so far this year, she's convinced it's the best of the young decade. I'm not sure she isn't right.
For more on Drive see last month's journal or read here:
And of course if you haven't seen it yet, do so!
This is a far better film than its early IMDb rating suggests, even if it's one that didn't ultimately move me as much as I expected it might. And where it could easily have been bogged down by too much drummed up "quirkiness" the film is lifted considerably by the quietly magnificent performances of its two leads. Gus Van Sant strikes me as a gifted film-maker even in his "failures" so when it comes to Restless which lands somewhere in the middle, one can be sure there's enough "specialness" going on to make it well worth your while. And this movie approaches death and dying in a way that never exploits the audiences emotions or the betrays the actor's talents, and feels fresh and thoughtful all the way through.
Attack the Block (2011)
This one is about as much fun as you're likely to have at the movie theater all year. It absolutely excels as entertainment, but is bolstered by some rather brilliant maneuvers in social commentary that add real depth. It's almost exactly the kind of film that leads me to think that if someone can't get excited by something going on in this remarkable debut work, then that person probably just doesn't really like movies.
Yes, for anyone paying attention, that is twice in 7 months now. And I'll likely watch it again in the next year or so.
*Watched with commentary track.
Still ranks as one of my top 5 favorite films of all time, and very likely number 1, end of story.
Shaped by theatrical release dates, Netflix queues, and two different friends kind enough to let me borrow their DVDs.
Wasn't sure if I was gonna do an October journal page this month, in light of the Halloween horror-fest I want to embark on. But a therapist once told me it was important to keep a journal and stick with it, so... I'm doing BOTH!
Catch all the rest of the action here:
Movie journal Halloween edition!
Thanks for viewing and, as always, feedback, suggestions, and polite criticism are welcome!
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