Thursday, January 20, 2011

229 Movies, 355 Days

I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here are the 228th and 229th movies that I watched.

127 Hours
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.

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