Film and motion pictures

Short, Grumpy Movie Reviews

The Machinist (2004):

“A little guilt goes a long way.” I liked this movie a lot. Christian Bale’s skin and bones look was palpably disturbing. It’s one of those movies you’re going to want to read more about after watching it because there are many layers and details to catch. Bale did a great job in this one, but he doesn’t usually make me believe in him in most of his roles. I do think he is a good and convincing actor, I just can’t put my finger on it.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

The last time I watched this movie was about ten years ago. I fell asleep then, although I liked parts of it. This last time I watched it I stayed awake, but it barely held my attention. I do not get this movie. I still don’t. What am I missing? Ten years has changed very little in terms of my experience of this film. There are beautiful moments, but that does not make it great. River Phoenix and Keanu are great in MOPI, but if it weren’t for that, I could not give it more than two stars.

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Liked Al Pacino in this one although his performance was overdone. Johnny Depp and Michael Madsen… not so much. Every time I watch something with Michael Madsen it seems dated now. His squintyness gets on my nerves.

My Revenge of the Sith Review

Jody and I went to see “Revenge of the Sith” today. RoTS was way better than any of the previous two movies, however it just makes you wish Lucas had his stuff together for the first two because they could have been a lot better. Now here come the bullet points:

The Good

  • Action is steady. This is number one reason it didn’t suck. The other two movies had too many slow points that were awful.
  • The special effects were awesome.
  • Nice conclusion. Everything is tied up, although what was the deal with the part about Qui Gon Jin?

The Bad

  • Bad dialogue. I could have come up with something more romantic and that’s quite a statement.
  • The emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious makes the Dark Side look sissified. I still don’t get the Sith thing. Who are they? What’s with the weird names?
  • Jimmy Smits looks like a Ren-fest attendee.

Consumption Junction

Friday night I went to see Keanu’s new movie, Constantine, which is based on a comic book by Alan Moore, the creator of The Watchmen and From Hell. It was enjoyable, although you shouldn’t expect to leave feeling overwhelmed by it. The religious dimension to the film was interesting. I liked the idea that heaven and hell exist as parallel realities behind our everyday reality, and that some people are part angel or demon.

Afterwards, we walked over to Borders and I purchased the Baltazar Gracian (pronounced gray-thian) book of aphorisms, The Art of Worldly Wisdom. As a compilation of experience and advice it will make a nice companion to other similar books in my library like the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Michel de Montaigne’s Essays, and Nietzsche.

Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I saw Wes Anderson’s newest movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou a few days ago at Westgate where I normally end up going.

One thing worth mentioning is that I think I spotted someone camming the movie. When I was coming out of the bathroom before the movie started I passed a guy with a camera bag entering the bathroom. He was in his late twenties with a pony-tail and goatee. I only took note of him because of the camera bag, which I found a little conspicuous, although I have no idea what he had in it. I went back to my seat in the last row, right in the middle until the lights dimmed and the previews finally started. About half way through the coming attractions the pony-tail guy comes back and sits three seats to my left and places his camera bag lengthwise across the top of the folded up seat cushion. He spent a couple seconds adjusting it then I guess he noticed me eyeballing him because then he traded seats with the camera bag and moved it to the left of him.

Anyway, about the movie. Even though I was excited about seeing it, I became disappointed and bored pretty quickly. It has the same nostalgic-for-the-mid-1970’s style that I liked in The Royal Tenenbaum’s and Rushmore, but even that seemed more affected than earnestly sentimental. The story was bland and confusing. There was nothing interesting about the characters. I got the feeling that Wes Anderson made the movie as an excuse to hang out with all his friends. I’ve had enough Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston to last me another few years. I want to see a more manic and smartass Bill Murray for a change, not the run-down schlepp he’s been playing. The Life Aquatic is unfortunately a pretentious movie that’s light on substance. Why is Cate Blanchett even in this?

Street-smarts versus book-smarts

Admittedly, I have been hooked on watching The Apprentice. I didn’t watch it the first season, but I got into it this year. It’s gotten to the point where I will watch almost any reality TV show if it’s on while I’m sitting and eating dinner: Nanny 911, Wife Swap, Trading Spouses, the Biggest Loser, etc. I don’t watch a lot of television and I don’t have cable, so besides Will & Grace, it’s the only type of thing I have occasion to see. If anything else comes along I usually just download it from one of the tv torrent sites.

The 3 hour season finale of The Apprentice was on last night and that was a pretty huge television committment. The best part was the announcement that season 3 will consist of the so-called booksmarts against the so-called streetsmarts, which is enticing. We will be sure to see heated moments of class warfare. I predict the streetsmarts will have an early edge given that they are certain to have a more practical and pragmatic intelligence. In the video preview, they looked a lot harder. There will be a few cutthroat booksmarts who will pass muster.

Must See TV: ‘Peanuts’

Christmas would not be complete without ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. ABC is showing it this Thursday along with a behind the scenes documentary:

The classic half-hour animated Christmas-themed PEANUTS special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” created by late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, will air for the first time on the ABC Television Network on THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET). In addition to the original Emmy Award-winning special, a behind-the-scenes story of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, will air immediately following the special.

On a related note, Jonathan Franzen wrote a nostalgic homage on ‘Peanuts’ in the New Yorker recently.

By the way I hope this neverending animated gif is not making your eyeballs bleed.

The Incredibles

The company rented a screen at the Barton Creek AMC theatre today for everyone at work to watch the debut of Pixar’s new animated film, The Incredibles. We were able to bring a guest, so I brought Jody with me and she really enjoyed it. The Incredibles was …incredible. It seems like Pixar gets better with everything they do and it didn’t hurt that they enlisted the talents of Brad Bird, the man responsible for The Iron Giant. While I was watching it, I kept thinking how amazing it would be to be involved in something like that. To nurture a project from idea to reality over the course of 3 years. It is rare to see a group of individuals who are so focused on producing work of true quality. It is awe-inspiring. Real quality takes tremendous discipline and talent to achieve and when you see something done right, you can’t help but feel a large measure of respect for those responsible.

Wes Anderson: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

steve zissou by bill murrayThere’s a new trailer out for the upcoming Wes Anderson film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Judging from first glance it looks like typical Wes Anderson, which means it should be good. His films are uniquely quirky in a full and complete style, brimming with a trademark sense of humor and nostalgia. His films have always seemed to me to be monuments to innocence and imagination. (List of songs in the trailer, most of them will be familiar) Parts of the trailer reminded me of Fantastic Voyage (the movie where they explore the human body in a tiny submarine) and all those ocean movies of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Did you spot the vampire squid in the trailer?! It’s my favorite cephalopod.

I recently saw Napoleon Dynamite. It was enjoyable and very funny at times. There seemed to be a discernible influence of Wes Anderson in its sentimentality. Napoleon Dynamite seems to lack more substance, plot and character-wise, than Rushmore or The Royal Tannenbaums, but it was impressive as a debut.

Here are some pics from The Life Aquatic, and here are some cast photos.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I went and saw The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly last night with Jody at the Paramount Theatre. It was a lot of fun especially since I had never seen it before. It made me want to film a western on my own. The final gunfight between Tuco, Angel Eyes, and “the man” was amazing. I can see why this film was groundbreaking with its attention to visual detail and visual storytelling. Much of the story is captured using the facial expressions of the characters.

An interesting deconstruction of “American Beauty”

Courtesy of the ever-informative MaryAnn, who originally posted this in a comment thread here. She makes some fascinating points on the crisis of masculinity:

“Eek, now I feel on the spot. The crisis of masculinity, as I and others perceive it, is the disconnect straight American men feel from the traditional masculine model of their fathers and grandfathers because of the threat posed to it by women’s and gay liberation, and the difficulty of trying to redefine their own masculinity.

Okay. Here’s the short version. Lester feels unable to express his masculinity because his wife Carolyn dominates him financially and emotionally. Because she denies him sex, he seeks out unsuitable love objects (Angela) whom he can, in turn, dominate and who will not question his masculinity. In doing so, he also sublimates his incestuous desires for Jane.

Ricky serves as Lester’s doppelganger, the mysterious double every person supposedly has and who, in folklore, heralds one’s own imminent death when one sees him. To Lester, Ricky represents his own free younger self. Ricky provides Lester with both a conduit to his freedom (by selling him marijuana and introducing the idea of simply quitting one’s job) and a suitable (non-incestuous) sexual partner for Jane of whom Lester can approve. Of course, Ricky also fulfills his folkloric role by introducing Lester to his father the Colonel, who eventually kills him.

The Colonel is the latent homosexual who channels what he perceives as illicit desire and his fear at being discovered into an intense homophobia. His choice of the military as a career both lampoons and reinforces the military as a male charade (a performance of masculinity for a global audience) and haven for closeted gays. His own wife does not work, portraying the traditional homemaker role as a prison which reduces her to a ghost.

There is no happy medium between the roles of the Colonel’s wife, who keeps an immaculate house but has become less than human, and the “bloodless, money-grubbing freak” Carolyn has become.

Lester eventually arrives at a new definition of masculinity, sensitive without being gay, sensual without being sexually threatening, and resolves his incestuous feelings by reminding himself of the vulnerability of Jane and Angela. Of course, in so doing he renders himself abject in the diegesis of the film–he can no longer fit inside the confines of his world, and so must die.

Therefore, the film offers the not-very-comforting idea that to resolve the crisis of masculinity is to become a new sort of person that cannot fit into traditional American life, meaning you must be expelled from the community.

Whew! Hope you don’t think that’s too weird.

My husband maintains that the film is a sort of Zen text, which the filmmakers kind of validate in the DVD commentary. So I guess I did all that thinking for nothing. Ha. “