Still my all-time favorite insult in a movie review, about 2005′s Alone in the Dark: “Anyone who spends 10 bucks seeing it ought to get 11 bucks change and a written apology from the director.”
I just got home from seeing a marathon of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films, including the new one, and I have to work out some thoughts. I kept this spoiler free, but most of these ideas will make more sense after you’ve seen it, which (spoiler alert?) I strongly recommend you do.
I say that the best James Bond movie was 1963′s From Russia With Love. My favorite scene is the fight on the Orient Express.
The trend in film has always been for fights to become more and more stylized, but this fight scene is the perfect balance of choreography and brutal, realistic brawling. Add to that the fact that the scene is done in a confined space, in the dark, and you’ve really got a classic action achievement here. Just shy of half a century has passed since this one came out, and it’s still one of the best fight scenes ever shot.
Checked this out from the library a while back and really enjoyed it. This drama not only has better production values than most small, Biblical movies, but it even stars future Grey’s Anatomy lead Patrick Dempsey, to boot.
Jeremiah tells a vivid story of the Old Testament prophet’s reluctant, melancholy rebellion against a corrupt and complacent status quo, and keeps the major narrative very faithful to the Biblical text. Dempsey shines in this role; his acting strong suit has always been an uncanny ability to convey betrayed surprise–the hurt look on the face of a lost puppy dog. That woeful innocence comes in handy a lot as he portrays the saddest prophet in Israel’s history.
Latter-day Saints have a special soft spot for Jeremiah, I think, as the Book of Mormon suggests that he was a contemporary of the first patriarch in that sacred text, a man named Lehi, who likewise foretold doom in Jerusalem and was violently rejected for it. One can easily imagine Lehi preaching just around the corner in most scenes of this film.
The few shots of violence are tasteful and true to the source material, but perhaps a little too intense for the youngest viewers. Other than that, anyone with an interest in Biblical literature, history, or belief would be better off for seeing Jeremiah.
I watched this a few weeks ago, and it’s the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. Not too many actors could have sold the scene of mourning for Wilson so authentically, grieving for a lost volleyball.
Just as impressive is the quiet speech Hanks gives about the inspiring power of endurance. In the hands of many actors, it would have come off as melodramatic, but Hanks delivers it with majestic understatement.
Speaking of majestic understatement, I can’t think of another film where the musical score so perfectly complemented the film in style and substance. This hauntingly hollow track gives me goosebumps; its sparse spaces are full of depth:
But before this appreciation gets too full of itself, here’s a classic commercial joke based on the film:
Just saw Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil last month. This impressive opening scene is the best part of the movie. A lot of technical wizardry must have gone into making this long tracking shot work–not to mention tons of rehearsal.
Even more impressive, though, is the 2002 film Russian Ark, which I also saw last month. A hypnotic tour of the Hermitage from the point of view of a ghost who slips around in time with no transition other than moving from room to room of the huge art museum / royal residence, the entire film is composed of a single shot. It’s the only feature film ever done like this, and it’s fascinating. Especially great for art lovers–hundreds of masterpieces are lovingly showcased throughout. Below is the first 13 minutes, plus part of a “making of” documentary.
I watched a lot of movies in 2011. This was the first year that I kept track, and I was surprised just how many there were. Of course, a lot of these were for my project of seeing all of the non R-rated movies on AFI’s top 100 American films list. I’ll give more details and reviews on those next week. For now, here’s my overall 2011 list. Notice how my rate drops off when the AFI project finished, and when the fall semester started. Alas. Keep in mind, the 1-10 scores are how much I enjoyed watching them, and does not somehow measure any objective quality (which explains #18, I hope). Perfect tens are in italics.
The Philadelphia Story, 1/8–7
The Great Escape, 1/9–9
Amadeus, 1/12–10 (more…)
Three years ago, I wrote a critical review of The Dark Knight which earned me a thorough beat down from a whole host of readers. My review was based on my visceral reaction to the psychological torture and moral shades of gray that I saw in the film at the time.
However, I finally watched it again last week. A few things made me want to give it another chance:
Here’s a cute 1927 silent film by the same German director who made Nosferatu. In it, a young country couple are torn apart as the husband is seduced by a woman from the city, who convinces him to kill his wife. The young man can’t quite do it, however, and the film traces the path the estranged spouses take to fall in love again.
Now, this is all fine and good but, despite the film’s undeniable quality, it bothered me and I didn’t buy the story. This is a romance where a young husband spends the film shyly winning over the heart of his beloved again…after he comes within moments of murdering her with his bare hands. Is nobody else turned off by this?
Look, I can understand a woman wanting to give her family a second chance, but if a guy is only inches away from strangling you and throwing your body in a lake, I’ve got to think that it’s a deal breaker. Any subsequent tomfoolery and lighthearted twitterpation is going to ring a little hollow.
But if you can get past that, it is a cute movie–the girl looks like Drew Barrymore and there’s a scene where the couple rekindles their affection by watching someone else’s wedding, which reminded me of a similar scene in Independence Day.
But, really, the breezy dismissal of some pretty serious domestic violence here kind of weirded me out.
A project I’m doing this year has required me to watch a lot of old silent movies. I’ve seen a few Charlie Chaplin movies, as well as two D.W. Griffith epics, and a few others. They’ve all been worthwhile, but there’s no problem picking the one I’ve most enjoyed.
Buster Keaton’s 1927 film The General is a silent film in black and white, and is one of the funniest, most action-packed movies I’ve ever seen. I loved every minute of it. It’s brilliantly fun.
The majority of the film takes place while one train chases another, and then the hunter from the first half becomes the hunted later on. Buster Keaton performs almost constant slapstick, always with a quiet, deadpan demeanor, and performs more dangerous stunts than I could count. Since there are no stuntmen or special effects to speak of, I actually had to remind myself that the many stunning visuals in the film were achieved by actually doing them on camera. Keaton could have died multiple times while pulling off these stunts and jokes. (Jackie Chan has always said that Buster Keaton was a huge inspiration in his own career.)
This version on YouTube (the movie’s in the public domain) has a jazz soundtrack added, from a German band which apparently often performed along with this film (you know, like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon). It perfectly complements the action. You’re in for a real treat.
It seems pretty trite in film review circles to say that Eraserhead is surrealist, subjective, and impossible to definitively interpret. Sure, it has a lot of seeming randomness and bizarre conventions, but the gist of the film is pretty clear: the modern world is confusing and scary, and we are ill-equipped emotionally to deal with it.
The plot is actually fairly trite (maybe that’s why Lynch had to dress it up so esoterically): a young couple, Henry and Mary, is forced together by a surprise pregnancy, but neither is comfortable with it, and they fall apart. That’s pretty much it. Yes, there are plenty of “extra” thoughts, but that’s the main idea.
The baby, though, is a needy, deformed monster; like much in this film, it doesn’t seem fully human. Eraserhead is hardly the only movie from the 1970’s to demonize domestic life in general and children in particular: think Rosemary’s Baby, Alien, and The Omen.
What really struck me, though, was the pervasive misogyny in the film. (more…)
I finally saw Toy Story 3 this afternoon, and was incredibly heartened the whole time by it, not least by the fact that the most compelling, original, emotional, profound movie to come out of Hollywood this year was, once again, a cartoon.
Where friendship has been the signature theme of this series (made most clear in Randy Newman’s theme song, “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”), this entry plumbs the relatively-uncharted depths of that territory far deeper–this is the best movie about family since The Incredibles.
As the film starts, there’s a separation crisis as Andy grows up and prepares to leave behind his beloved childhood toys. The toys are anxious, and the film has some terrifically realistic back and forth feelings from the toys about loyalty in the face of seeming abandonment. Woody, our hero, is steadfast in his belief: they have a responsibility to Andy, and if he wants them boxed up in the attic, then that’s where they should be. In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse.
But the best commentary on the subject comes from the villain, Lotso. (more…)
Posted in Arts, Education, Language and Literature, Living well, Religion, tagged A Lost Lady, All About Eve, Analects, Aristophanes, book reviews, Clark Gable, Confucius, Federalist Papers, High Noon, It Happened One Night, John Wayne, movie reviews, self improvement, Shakespeare, Stagecoach, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Frogs, The Tempest, Willa Cather, yoga on September 6, 2010 |
So, in case nobody noticed, blogging was a wee bit light this summer. Actually, chances are that nobody did notice, as the light blogging has dropped my daily hit count down to some of its lowest levels ever. There’s a chance that nobody will ever read this!
So, what gives? Well, my summer was eaten up by a few things: I put a ton of time into the autobiography of President Monson that I posted a few days ago, I took 18 credits of classes for my job (I wrote a few dozen essays and research papers this summer when I much rather would have been scribbling away here), and, alas, more than a little time and energy was expended in the management of a stressful matter.
But I also devoted a lot of my summer to the work of self improvement. After a pretty successful Spring, I started out this three month block with an ambitious list of twelve items to work on. I finished seven. Two others were very close–in fact, one of those that carried over to Fall has been finished already and another should be done within a week–two more were in process, and one was just a dumb idea.
Here’s a report on the seven things I accomplished, in the order they were done:
1. Complete five more New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles. Check.
2. See five more movies on the AFI list of 100 best American movies. I saw:
I had wanted to see John Huston’s final film, a production of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” for years, but it was almost impossible to find. It had never been released on DVD in the U.S. (though it had in Europe), the VHS was out of print and expensive to obtain, neither the library district nor any retail outlet had a copy…the only possible place to get my hands on it was the one old VHS tape still in the collection of the Lied Library at UNLV.
So, on my last day on campus at the end of this last semester, I went over to the library and borrowed their copy and spent 90 minutes sitting in their staff media room, watching the film.
It was magnificent. Filmed in a quiet, slow, mutely somber way by film great John Huston, and starring his daughter, the inimitable Angelica Huston, the film is not only scrupulously faithful to its source, but reproduces its sumptuously austere, refined, turn-of-the-century Irish setting with an exultant reverence that invites the viewer to settle into the world of Joyce’s love. An early scene takes us from a mild party in the parlor, where an old song is being played and sung for the entertainment of the company, to another room where the camera pans and lingers on photographs that provide both back story and further pull us into the emotional landscape. Most directors would have wasted such a scene as a throwaway over which they’d run the opening credits, perhaps, but in the hands of Huston, as the muted music from below brushes us with its feathers, it becomes an incomparably sublime paean to Ireland.
I wanted to like this movie so much. It was billed as a conservative comedy, intelligently lampooning the pompous foibles of the left. It had an all-star cast. It was new and fresh and different, bucking the liberal Hollywood trend.
And it turned out to be one of the very worst movies I’ve ever seen.
My first clue should have been the movie’s first joke, where a Frisbee thrown at a family picnic hits a woman in the head, who then falls over. Really? This is a big screen-worthy joke? That’s not even worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
The film, using for its template A Christmas Carol, takes a Michael Moore stand-in who hates the 4th of July and haunts him with spirits who show him how great America is and what patriotism really means. It’s a great idea and makes this movie’s total failure even more discouraging.
An American Carol comes to us from the minds who made the classic Airplane!, still one of the funniest movies ever made. Sadly, only a little of that screwball silliness makes it in here, and where it does, it’s off-cue, obvious, and inappropriate to the mood of the rest of the film. Example: (more…)