Wednesday, December 02, 2009

10 Movies I Had Not Seen But Recently Saw, So Now I've Seen Them

(see here for the plan)

Nothing comprehensive or even particularly pithy about these notes, just some thoughts. I really enjoyed seeing the movies, all but #9. And maybe #10.

1. The Big Lebowski

I found it both laborious and hilarious. Two things make me laugh even thinking about them: John Goodman yelling "Anti-Semite!" then clobbering that guy; and the no-dialogue cut to the shot of the three of them eating hamburgers in the wrecked car. I can see how this movie would grow on one in a culty way. All the repetition and all the "fuck"s...gotta be in that headspace, where it's not annoying (cause it can be) but good-droney and gets funnier. John Goodman is king, more or less.

2. The Insider

Me liked. Really liked R. Crowe. It is sort of a poignant movie to watch in the wake of deathofmedia, even feeling a little cynical about Al Pacino's heroics. I especially liked the moody cool colors (color wheel-wise) and Michael Mann threat/quiet in the opening suburban scenes.

3. Bottle Rocket

Not sure how well this movie has didn't stick with me particularly, and I get tired of movies where dudes are playing at being bad (content, form, otherwise). But I enjoyed. It showcased what I think critic J.R. Jones accurately calls Wes Anderson's most "irritating" aspects--"the precociousness, the sense of white-bread privilege" and "most endearing"--"the comic timing, the dollhouse ordering of invented worlds."

4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Why did we need to see Brooke Adams' boobies? That seemed very gratuitous. But I liked it. I thought parts of it were beautifully made (for some reason the scene shot from inside the car with Adams and Donald Sutherland really stuck with me). Great use of sound. And how interesting to see the phenom of San Francisco in the 70s in situ--seen critically, even. The premise of people's core selves disappearing is a chilling one. Very what-we're-all-afraid-of.

5. Zero Effect

Uneven, but really neat at times. I liked its neo-Sherlock Holmes aspect; liked weird-ass Bill Pullman; liked the unstrung insane genius stuff. Also its sense of humor (same with Bottle Rocket) and pacing. It was satisfying that the plot did not move along--most of the time--with big pointed gaspy revelations, but with evidence of Zero's observation, usually after the fact.

6. Gattaca

I would seriously pay to watch Jude Law dial the phone and not just because he's pretty. He is so good at being vulnerable, dissolute, petulant, scarred (oh I wish he'd try Sebastian Flyte, although I suppose he's too old). Anyhow, his performance helped sell this film for me, despite the ethanhawkeness and some overwroughtness. The quiet, thought-out aspects of its mise-en-scene linger. Not the more outre Brazil/Bladerunner-like echoes of time past, such as the ballroom, but the discipline in the costuming and set design. And I loved the use of Marin Civic Center and concrete, all the burnt-out yellows in the sky.

7. RKO 281

Melanie Griffith is strangely good and well-cast as Marion Davies in this film. Same with John Malkovich (very well-matched use of his nervy skills) and Roy Scheider. Liev Schreiber was missing the secret smile that made Orson Welles so Orson Welles, but he was good too. The scene in the elevator with Hearst and Welles, when the mixed phenomenon that is the transfer of power and attention/aging/achieving of the pointed finger is acknowledged, is great, and James Cromwell and Schreiber did it well.

8. The Shawshank Redemption

I am happy to say I did not know what was going to happen, and that this made watching the film incredibly entertaining. I gasped/clapped-hand-to-bosom both when the kid gets shot and at the moment when the hole in the cell wall is revealed by the sound of the rock going through the poster (see photo). I enjoyed strangely much the incidental music that plays against "If I Didn't Care" in the opening scenes, creeps in and undercuts it as they weave over and under each other--it has a mood not usually heard in expositions, it feels. I had an idea before I watched it that this movie was more sappy than tough, but it earns its ending. Oh--and the glistening shot of the mops in the tar and the aerial shot over the prison wall. Oh--and I love that the movie has two bad guys; that the focus shifts and a bigger, longer-term evil--that is less about physical power--is revealed. Three actorly notes: Morgan Freeman's last parole board scene made my heart clench; Tim Robbins wasn't quite as good as the movie, I thought--he needed to be weirder; it is so wrong to have a crush on Clancy Brown, but I always have.

9. Unbreakable

My first reaction: what a steaming pile of shit. That feeling hasn't changed much, although I remember it slightly less unpleasantly now. The filmmaking is downright masturbatory at times (oh the new-toy pans and pull-backs and slow tracking and widgey squidgy twitchies...the opening scene in the dressing room was ridiculous) and the titles at the end, which solemnly tell you What Happened to the characters, made me laugh out loud. But you know, Bruce Willis isn't half bad. The movie feels young in not very good ways.

10. Se7en

I can't believe I made it through this movie, and really, I didn't. I listened to most of it--not watched, listened; spoiled the plot twists with internet searching; squinted at it; got up and vacuumed, took out the trash; unloaded the dishwasher; watched it out of the corner of my eye; tried to get out of watching it in the middle with a gabbling phone call. I really couldn't handle it. It's very well-shaped/-made and clever, and all that cleverness is in service of just awful, awful shit. I had the sense it might be a little smug, but who knows. Morgan Freeman is great, although I think he was better in Shawshank (again, who knows); he seems to do better when he is bad as well as good, or even a lot bad (Street Smart). Still deciding what I think of the transfer of the story from the city out to the desert at the end...


hanne said...

On the off chance that it makes you feel better, I have never seen any of these movies. Any.

Yes, I live under a rock.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...the the cue!

Demandra said...

Lebowski really is a stoner's film. I'm surprised you liked it. Most folks I know who don't smoke out regularly can't stand it. Me? Oh, it's a holy thing. I love that movie more than I love cake.

Elizabeth M. Tamny said...

I can really see how pot would be a crucial part of that experience...I think I wrote that originally in my lil capsule-thingie.

Anonymous said...

I thought the best part in Lebowski was when he dropped his doobie while driving, went searching for it without stopping, and then wrecked. Oops.

The Zero Effect was shot entirely on location in lovely Portland, Oregon.

lynne Jordan said...

I have seen the Insider, Shawshank &Seven. Thanks for the mini reviews!

mampdx said...

Thanks for confirming for me that I have no need/wish to see Se7en. There's too much good shit to waste time with the awful.

Professor Sheri Wills said...

OK - finally had a chance to actually *watch* "The Insider" (after it sat on top of the DVD player for two weeks!).

Agree! It was really good - great acting. It was cozy to see Pacino in his usual role.

I esp liked the restraint, all violence psychological and implied, but never articulated.

My only beef was with the two special effects moments at the end, (moving wall paper and final slo mo shot). So didn't need it. And I found the soundtrack too heavy, (although J liked it).

Thanks for the suggestion!

Professor Sheri Wills said...

Oops...didn't realize I was signed into the account I use for skool! Sorry for the pretentious title....

Elizabeth M. Tamny said...

I am going to go back and watch the last bits to remind myself, but I am thinking I had a similar reaction. Kind of...wanky.

So many heavy soundtracks these days (!). To wit: gotta finally see Bright Star.