2010. USA. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Watchdate: 12/14/2010
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here are the 223rd and 222nd movies I watched:
Waiting for Armageddon
2009. 74 min. USA. Directed by Kate Davis, David Heilbroner and Franco Sacchi. Watchdate: 12/15/2010.
1995. 91 min. USA. Directed by Larry Clark. Watchdate: 12/14/2010.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that this turned out to be an X-rated after school special with fetishistic tendencies. But I was. It was uninhibited in ways I didn't expect, and conventional in ways I didn't anticipate. Casper was the most interesting character to watch, even though he was somewhat tangential to the main plot. I thought Telly was basically the tragic version of McLovin, but maybe it was just Leo Fitzpatrick's face and voice. I also noticed there was also a very bothersome ratio embedded in the movie. The amount that any particular scene or sequence was fucked up, disgusting, horrible and difficult to watch was proportional to how good and important that particular scene or sequence was. Thus, the beating scene and the various HIV-spreading sex scenes were the most powerful parts of the movie despite being truly awful to behold. Particularly the very last sex (rape) scene, which gives a whole new meaning to the word "unknowing." Sometimes looking at the movie felt like watching so many car crashes.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here are the 226th, 225th, and 224th movies I watched:
I Love You Phillip Morris
2009. 109 min. France. Directed by Claire Denis. Watchdate: 12/16/2010.
Bye Bye Brazil
1979. 100 min. Brazil. Directed by Carlos Diegues. Watchdate: 12/16/2010.
"One more thing: I give the orders. In love we can improvise, but not in the whore business. The whore business must be very well administrated." - Jose Wilker as Lorde Cigano in Bye Bye Brazil
PS - If you have Netflix, Bye Bye Brazil is on Instant Watch. I'm just sayin'
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here is the 227th movie I watched. It was a doozy:
1993. 154 min. USA. Directed by Sydney Pollack. Watchdate: 12/19/2010
Being home over the Holidays meant watching a lot of TV because TV still exists there unlike in Berkeley where it has been subsumed into the cauldron of the Internet. The Firm was on HBO or somesuch channel, and I decided not to turn it off. I'm happy I didn't because boy, it is something else, I'll tell you. It's the sort of rumbling potboiler that almost seems like a parody of itself because it relies so much on convention while at the same time establishing conventions that have since been endlessly copied. It's also the quintessential Tom Cruise vehicle because it's a thriller where Cruise gets to swing between being the good guy and the bad boy as a function of the plot as well as of his own persona. And it's based on a book John Grisham so it has his fingerprints on it as well, particularly his interest in the American South as a setting. Apparently the South is an absolutely ridiculous land peopled by catfish farmers, Elvis impersonators, and half-crazed private investigators. The wild eyed Gary Busey portrays the latter role to great effect:
Aside from Busey, Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn as Cruise's wife and the always excellent Holly Hunter as Busey's bereaved squeeze, the entire movie plays like some sort of bizarrely dreamed conspiracy of the gray eminences of Hollywood: Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, Steven Hill, and Paul Sorvino. Most frighteningly, the bewhiskered visage of Wilford Brimley emerges to menace our hero in a fashion as flamboyant as can be imagined:
There are also several early versions of roles we all eventually come to know and love. Joe Viterelli shows up as his trademark smirking mafioso:
Likewise, Ed Harris appears for the first time as the paranoid hallucinogenic apparition that he would later reprise in A Beautiful Mind:
Of course in spite of all the danger, Sydney Pollack and Robert Towne have it all figured out for Tom Cruise with a clockwork plot as good as Chinatown's except without all the pathos and psychological complexity. Still, Cruise has ample opportunity to run like a maniac, sweat like a teenager and generally bound around with ingenious precision like a good action star should.
The movie is in many ways a very colorful dress rehearsal for Mission: Impossible which also utilized Robert Towne's writing and a classic 70s director to create a ludicrous exercise in top class Hollywood adventure entertainment. Not only that, but The Firm features a soundtrack that oscillates between bad early 90s pop rock and white bread invocations of Bayou piano jazz (Jelly Roll Morton eat your heart out). Yet although I will jape endlessly about the movie's eccentricities and yes, flaws, like its tendency to sometimes feel like an after school special about "the law" - I still have to admit that I admire it in some way. After all it truly succeeds in being a breathless, diverting meditation on how an individual finds some measure of freedom in a world dominated by the public coercion of a bumbling, overreaching government and the private coercion of corrupt, ruthless business interests. That has to count for something, right? So do yourself a friggin' service and Netflix this shit like now! You shant be disappointed.
PS - They went to great lengths to make David Strathairn look like Tom Cruise's older brother at the end of the movie. This also amused me.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here are the 228th and 229th movies that I watched.
2010. 94 min. USA/UK. Directed by Danny Boyle. Watchdate: 12/21/2010
So first, a realization. James Franco is almost always as good or better than the movies he appears in. This holds true both in good movies (he's pretty much the best thing in Pineapple Express) and in terrible ones (he's practically the only good thing in Howl). This is definitely true here too, as he is terrific while the movie itself has problems. It's not bad by any means, but it does begin like a television commercial and too often has the feeling of being that sort of slick contraption. There's also one moment near the end that smacked of sentimentalism partly because of the brief and thankfully abortive deployment of one of those Feist/Spektor/Enya type sirens in the musical score. Other than the those two noisome flaws, the movie works fairly well. It does not rely too much at all on flashbacks and hallucinations which must have been awfully tempting given the kind of story that it is. And it's actually very effective and even somewhat brilliant when it focuses on its harrowing central premise. It's a really great story that must have been stratospherically difficult to approach as a cinematic subject and yet one still would have hoped it could have been made into a much better movie than what we actually got. Lastly, I think a better title for the movie would have been James Franco Drinks His Own Piss, Saws Off His Own Arm.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
1975. 109 min. Germany. Directed by Werner Herzog. Watchdate: 12/19/2010
The non sequitur beginning and unbelievably sequitur ending of this movie stand out to me most especially. I don't even know what to say about the beginning except that I almost forgot it happened and it reminded me of Andrei Tarkovsky. The Mirror starts in a somewhat similar, if more coherent way. The ending is really amazing in a completely quiet, understated way. The procession of death on the mountain, which was visually reminiscent of both Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Kurosawa's Dreams, appears so suddenly and briefly that it works exactly as it should. But after that it gets even better when the scientific aristocrats do the autopsy and see that Kaspar Hauser's brain and liver have an abnormal shape. Then the stenographer walks out onto the street, calls the stagecoach over to him, hands the coachman his hat and then tells him to leave because he's going to walk home. And then he starts walking home and he says to himself as he starts walking home "What a wonderful, what a precise report this will make! Deformities discovered in Kaspar Hauser's brain and liver! Finally we have got an explanation for this strange man..." At that point, I laughed really hard. And then the movie ends as the stenographer walks off into the distance. And then I was sad and I wasn't sure why. But I think it's because Herzog made one of those movies, as he tends to do, that starkly reveals humanity's blind spots. It's very funny when you actually see one of those blind spots. However, it also can be quite depressing, or even terrifying. I was pleasantly surprised to see Brigitte Mira, so excellent as the lead in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, pop up here as the maid. Kaspar asks her why women aren't allowed to do anything important. It's a scene that wouldn't have been out of place in either movie.
PS - Hey, I'm actually following up on this project I started! I am highly impressed with myself.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In 2010, I watched roughly 232 movies. I did this for various reasons, of which I will list a few of the most sensible ones below:
- There were a ton of movies I had always meant to watch but never got around to and I decided to just make time to actually watch them.
- It seemed to be a more stimulating way to procrastinate and waste time than farting around on the Internet or watching television. (If you don't see much of a difference between movies and television, you're either much less of an intellectual than I am or much more of an intellectual than I am. Don't worry though, the difference is probably at my expense either way.)
- I got Netflix towards the end of 2009. It has a massive back catalogue of movies from nearly every decade and country that has produced movies. As you might imagine, once you fall down such a rabbit hole, it can be very difficult to return to your waking life.
2007. 100 min. USA. Directed by John August. Watchdate: 12/31/2010
Mo' Better Blues
1990. 130 min. USA. Directed by Spike Lee. Watchdate: 12/30/2010
The Fallen Idol
1948. 95 min. UK. Directed by Carol Reed. Watchdate: 12/26/10
1948. 95 min. UK. Directed by Carol Reed. Watchdate: 12/26/10