Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chris Plays Catch-Up on Cold Medicine

OK, I am light years behind on writing up my movie viewings here at the blog, I mean even the part timers are kicking my ass. No more. It does not matter that I am on day 4 of the flu or that NyQuil is possessing my brain, I will catch up. I have kept off watching any more movies for fear of building up my backlog and that can't be good in my goal of knocking Wendy off her perch of 2010 Gen X movie champion. So here are my short reviews of the new release movies I have seen since my last entry, whenever that was.

By the way I am not going to do that DVD MIA thing anymore. Why I should put in the effort of promoting movies that the studios are too lazy to release is something that I cannot justify anymore.

Shutter Island (2010, Martin von Scorsese)

What the hell, people. This is clearly the best Scorsese picture since GoodFellas, and that was 20 years ago. Any dismissal of this movie due to "the twist" being hackneyed are just plain crazy - a) "the twist" comes 20 minutes before the movie ends!; b) Scorsese plainly is not a "twist" moviemaker and even makes fun of twist convention. I mean, Ben Kingsley even pulls a Glenn Beck and brings out a blackboard to illustrate one of the points of the twist. The twist is but a prism through which to view the events which have so far transpired so you can understand the absolute hell on earth someone would rather live in rather than actually face the real world, which is way, way worse. Stop worrying for twists and feel the heartbreak behind the final line which is like an emotional kick in the gut. Way to go Scorsese and even if it was just a lame twist movie I give you the following words to explain why it would still be a kickass movie: Ben Kingsley Mark Ruffalo Emily Mortimer Patricia Clarkson Max von fucking Sydow.

Alice in Wonderland (2010, Timothy Bertin)

On the other hand: Tim Burton - worst director to ever be deemed great? Discuss. This guy is a mega-hack. There is no question that the man is a genius of visual design, but do you know what other visual designers do? They become art directors or painters or set designers or costume designers but they do not necessarily become film directors, a job that requires more than mere visual design. Watch the opening and closing (non-Wonderland) scenes of this goddamned abomination to see what a pedestrian, plodding filmmaker this clown is. One you get to Wonderland its another crappy Lord of the Rings knockoff, just this time in Alice in Wonderland drag. Marvel at how a "great" filmmaker could take one of the key texts of all time and not add anything of interest to it, make any intriguing commentary on it, find a unique twist on it.... NOTHING. Just another outsider slays the dragon and frees the people story. With characters from Alice in Wonderland in it. Bearing little resemblance to their original selves. Did no one look at the original text and say "oh, this shit is good, perhaps we should step up our game". No. Instead the damned Cheshire Cat spends his days pining for Johnny Depp to do a magic dance and builds it up through the entire film and when you get to see it in the end it is some sub-par breakdancing with CGI enhancement. The more I think of this piece of garbage the angrier I get so now I will stop thinking of it ever again.

The Beaches of Agnes (2008, Agnes Varda)

This is my favourite film of the year unless something really crazy happens, which it won't. Mind you, Varda and her husband Jacques Demy are the authors of 5 or 6 of my 50 favourite films of all time so her autobiographical essay film is like a warm and sunny homecoming, spend with dear friends. I'm not an unbiased observer, then, but honestly, this is the most pleasant time I've had at the movies in eons. Varda sees her life as a succession of beaches, ones she grew up on, holidayed on, lived on. Familiar faces come and go in clips and Chris Marker (represented by his cartoon cat) pops up every now and then for ironic commentary. Less predicatable guests - Zalman King, Harrison Ford - also materialize. What one is left with is a warm impression of a life well-lived, embracing art, family, and love.

Broken Embraces (2009, Pedro Almodovar)

Well, they can't all be masterpieces. All of Pedro and Penelope's collaborations up to this - Live Flesh, All About My Mother, and Volver - rank as major favourites of mine, so it's a little dispiriting to find them coming up with a project I'd qualify as merely solid. Actually, the problem is one of structure - Penelope and her role, that of a secretary turned rich man's mistress turned would be movie-star, are the heart of the movie and they're a flashback. None of the other characters is even remotely as interesting and none of the other actors can hold a candle to her presence and talent. So when she disappears from the screen for all but 10 minutes of the last third, the film goes pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffft even as it unloads all of its climactic revelations. I'll still take it over the majority of new releases, because when it works it's a knockout.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010, not Pixar)

Pixar > Dreamworks and always will, no matter how bad the trailers for Toy Story 3 look. Kung Fu Panda is the best Dreamworks has managed and ever will manage. This movie is agreeable while it is on, and then disappears like a puff (ha) of smoke as soon as it's over. The voice cast is unimpressive, with major anti-props to the irritating guy they got to do the lead. Major problem here is that Pixar or Miyazaki would have you head over heels in love with the dragon without even trying but in the land of Dreamworks it's a bit of a non-entity and thus kind of hard to get emotionally worked up about during the third act. Aforementioned lead voice aside, this movie is completely inoffensive, but I can't remember a positive thing about it one week later. Oh, I thought the CGI ocean water was very impressive.

Madame Bovary (1949, Vincente Minnelli)

The novel is one of my favourites, and I remember reading some of it for the first time while working the box office at a movie theatre. "I read that!" offered a patron, "The whole time I wanted to slap her and say stupid woman!" I wanted to kill that man, but if I had watched this movie instead of read the book, I would kind of understand where he's coming from, even though the narration is provided by James Mason as Gustave Flaubert (on trial), justifying Emma Bovary's behaviour. He is acquitted in the end (spoiler), but based on the evidence provided by Minnelli and co. I would have voted to convicct. Sorry, Gus. Minnelli is always a fascinating filmmaker even when he is not fully engaged with his material, as I would argue is the case here. The ballroom sequence that comes at midpoint and brings about Emma's decline is a jawdropping piece of work, MGM at its opulent, cinematic best. Van Helfin is an ideal Charles Bovary, resolutely admirable throughout, but only a Heflin junkie like me will get too worked up about how he gets treated.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I shall not be de-perched! I must wiiiiiiin!!