My Netflix Queue Review 7

My Netflix Queue Review 7

Over the course of a week I watch a lot movies and neglect my responsibilities and personal hygiene, all for your benefit.  Here is the list of movies I have seen this past week.  Try to keep up:

Gerry

Look, I'm sorry I used the last of our water to clean my shoes. Please come back.

Gerry & Elephant – I am going with a two for one deal here.  In the aughts Gus Van Sant went on a bit of a tear, ending with his 2008 best picture nominee Milk.  To date my only exposure  to him had been his mainstream films such as the previously mentioned film Milk and Good Will Hunting.  Now not to take anything away from these movies, because I enjoyed them both very much, but the direction seemed a bit standard. This could be an impressive feat by Mr. Van Sant of knowing when to step back and let the story be the main driving force of the movie, to which I would applaud, but now having been exposed to other Van Sant creations, I must say, I am far more impressed with his ability.  Both Gerry and Elephant are masterfully choreographed and executed.  Elephant in particular has a beautiful scene where we follow three characters through a cafeteria, listening to their mundane dialogue, then we pickup a cafeteria worker and follow them through the kitchen until we arrive back in the cafeteria, seamlessly reuniting with our original group.  It was breath taking.  We float along within the story, seeing things unfold.  A methodical surgeon with the camera, Gus Van Sant plays with time through each of these films.  In Gerry we are painfully made aware of how long a minute actually is.  Each moment that passes only heightens this awareness.  This could be seen as a risk, but it is a risk that pays off.  In Elephant his teasing of time creates an anxiousness in the viewer as he prolongs the inevitable end we all know is coming.  And even though we know it is coming, we see how the film must end, we cannot turn away.  The camera lingers long enough for us to absorb the scene as it glides by on the screen.  Van Sant shows us reality, every excruciating minute of it.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

I have been serving empty glasses for the past hour. How crazy is that?

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – I am not one of those “The book was better than the movie” kind of guys.  I usually want to punch that guy.  We get it: you’re smart, you read books and can’t even stoop to the level of being entertained by such a pedestrian medium as film, but … Some works of literature are sacred to people, and the collection of novels and short stories produced by David Foster Wallace in his brilliant and devastatingly short career, would fall under that category for me.  It could be that no film reproduction of his books will ever be good enough, but even if that were the case, that would not excuse the poor execution by John Krasinski.  There are some things that work on paper, but not on screen.  DFW’s vernacular would be one of those things.  To see it written out on paper, woven together by someone who really understood his own voice and what he meant it to say, is completely different than a person who admires that work and wants to sound cool and smart using it.  In the book we get a dissection of the male psyche that is devastating, funny, and clearly thought out in painful detail.  Foster Wallace is accused of being verbose, but it was more from his perception of his own work where he felt he could never clearly communicate what was inside of him.  Through this struggle, though, we began to understand both the character and the author.  Krasinski’s attempt fall short of the genius on which his movie is based.  There were a few pieces in the film that stand out as well done, most notably Julianne Nicholson’s subtle and nuanced performance as Sara Quinn, the interviewer, but overall the short vignettes are choppy (as was the editing choice of jump cutting every 3.4 seconds) and never found a rhythm.  I was unsure at one point if the characters were breaking the 4th wall and talking to me or if they were glancing at the camera accidentally (turns out they were talking to us, but I shouldn’t be wondering that, it should be clear).  And most tasteless of all was the decision of John Krasinski to leave for himself what he clearly felt was the most important and powerful story of the film.  He is confident that only he could execute such a bold and intellectually overpowering scene.  I, however, am less sure of it.  I hate to say it, but: read the book.

Antichrist

You never want to snuggle anymore.

Antichrist –  I am not sure I am ready to discuss this movie.  To discuss it is to relive it and I know I am not ready to relive it.  Do not however, take this as a declaration that the film was not good.  I want to state quite the opposite.  Lars Von Trier did exactly what he set out to do.  The discomfort I felt during the film (and several hours after) was the desired effect.  You cannot view this film and not be affected by it.  Lars takes us on a journey into the depths of darkness and does not allow us to come up for air.  Not even for a moment.  We enter a fantasy world where chaos reigns (so says the fox), seeds of life fall and die around us, Man and Woman struggle, fear consumes, depression overwhelms, sex is violent and sinful.  The entire film is a nightmarish hallucination, but within this nightmare we begin to learn about ourselves.  To dismiss Antichrist as another shock film filled with the misogyny Lars is often credited with, would be disingenuous to the true topics it is discussing.  Symbolism oozes from the screen, and it is up to us to stomach the film as best we can so that we may peel the rotten onion of humanity that Lars has masterfully placed before us.  A technically and visually stunning film, it is hard not to be both uncomfortable with the subject, but in awe of the beauty of the images.  Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance was stunning.  She became the subject of our interest much the same way as She was for He (Willem Dafoe).  We wanted to look away, we wanted to run, we wanted He to run, but as He could not, for He must understand how far She was spiraling into the depths of depression, we too stuck around for the same reason.  This was a film that was rewarding to watch, but I recommend it with caution.  Watch alone, and be prepared to think about it.

Since it had been a couple of weeks since my last post, I have watched a lot of movies.  This is more of a lightening round to get us all up to speed.

Couples Retreat – If you heard bad things about this movie and are thinking, “it can’t be as bad as they say, can it?”  The answer is a resounding, “yes.”  If you have a choice to either watch this movie or be kicked in the groin by a donkey: go with the donkey.

Before Sunrise – I watched this the same day as Antichrist.  The perfect follow up movie.  It was wordy, and at times I felt like the writer just wanted to tell us their views on topics, but I was in a place where I needed a film like this.  It was a great chaser.

My Netflix Queue Review 6

My Netflix Queue Review 6

I wasn’t able to get to as many movies as I would have liked to this week.  The reason?  My job.  Now, I can’t tell you what my I do (CIA agent), but I was called away on important business (following hot women from a safe and legal distance) and so I was only able to squeeze in a few movies.  So without further ado…

Over the course of a week I watch a lot movies and neglect my responsibilities and personal hygiene, all for your benefit.  Here is the list of movies I have seen this past week.  Try to keep up:

Terror has a new name: Huw.

How Green Was My Valley – I would liken watching this to doing homework while at the dentist office and being forced to eat vegetables in the waiting room, but at least you get some benefits from those three things.  A more accurate analogy would be this was like eating black licorice.  You would think that eating candy would be fun, but then you bite in and the black licorice taste coats your tongue and you sit there disappointed, with a bad taste in your mouth.  That is exactly what this movie was.  I went into it expecting a lot because, well, in 1941 it beat out Citizen Kane (the perennial number one in AFI’s top movie list) for Best Picture.  What I got was far less.  I was thinking of ways to possibly ruin this movie for you by telling you how different story lines play out, but the thing is, the movie never goes into any sort of depth.  Every time an interesting story is brought up, that is it, it is just brought up.  There is a moment where the possibility of unionizing labor is brought up.  A family dispute happens, the sons leave for America.  End.  No more union talk.  The youngest son, Huw Morgan (played by the creepiest kid with eyes so vacant and black you can feel them sucking your soul through the TV screen), falls in love with his brothers wife, the brother dies, she was apparently pregnant (although never seen as pregnant in the film, it was just all of a sudden: hey, I’m giving birth to a baby!  But really, who has time to explain plot points like that when there is so much singing to be done for no reason?), so Huw decides to move in with her and take care of her.  He’s 10, right?  She’s in her 20?  This isn’t creeping anyone else out?  The father has the sniffles, I assume we are going to get back to the union stuff and abuse of labor and dig into this story, nope.  He just has a cold.  It goes away.  At the end of the day the movie was about this mining town and the people being taken advantage of by the mine owners who create a troublesome and unsafe working environment.  The problem for me was that this was all surface level and just stated.  I did not care for any of the characters and was annoyed by the lack of story development.  It was too broad and unfocused.  John Ford has put together good movies, this just wasn’t one of them.  I am at a loss for how this beat out Citizen Kane for Best Picture.  Unfortunately for Orson Welles, the 1941 Academy really likes black licorice.  I, however, do not.

Tell me what to do one more time, Dad, and I will go Republican so fast it will make your head spin.

Tell Them Who You Are – This documentary centers on Haskell Wexler, one of Hollywood’s greatest cinematographers, and was directed/written by his son, Mark.  What easily could have been a fluff piece about Haskel’s amazing career or the drama surrounding the sets he worked on, was quickly ushered out the door.  We even see it being ushered out in a moment where the film stops and all of the footage of Mark talking to actors about his father is shoved aside.  That film would have been too easy.  It would have been a good tribute to him for an award show, but it would not have been an interesting documentary.  What replaces this is far more interesting and far more important.  We get a scrutinizing and sometimes uncomfortable look at the hidden side of Haskel, the side he kept hidden behind the camera, and his complex relationship with his son.  Both struggle to understand the other, both have set hard lines on who they are, both have created themselves even further as a reaction to one another, but both still seek the others love and approval.  And it is this dynamic that is being battled out before us.  We see a hard and mean Haskel, critique Mark throughout the piece.  We see Mark fight back by not wanting to take his advice, a defiant, “I know what I am doing, don’t tell me what to do,” reminiscent of so many scenes played out in households across America.  We see Mark defined by his father (though in the complete opposite image his father would have liked), by rejecting almost everything his father stood for.  Even their fondness for filmmaking puts them at odds and is a battle.  The one moment we see them hold together is in their love for Mark’s mother.  She restores balance to them and brings them together.  They realize their common ground and for the first moments in this movie, see each other through something other than the camera lens.