Thursday, February 3, 2011

Birthday Viewings

I watched these movies on my 21st birthday.

Marwencol
2010. 83 minutes. USA. Directed by Jeff Malmberg. Watchdate: 12/9/2010

Happily, this was a exceedingly superb movie. I anticipate it will easily make my best of movies released in 2010 list, probably in the top 3. I suppose that it helps that I saw it at a matinee on my birthday, and drank bottles of my first legal beers as I watched. But anyway, obsessive world builders like the man in this movie always entrance me probably because I am something of one myself. But as compelling as the subject is, the Malmberg tells the story more cleverly than I would have imagined. He builds tension and unveils revelations in the same way that many great narrative directors do. A story about a man with brain damage from a bar fight learning how to live in the world by building his own world, the titular war torn Belgian town crafted out of wood and GI Joe and Barbie dolls world could make a great movie. That would have been enough. The man gaining recognition for the excellent photographs he takes of that world with complex consequences similar to the artist-catadores of Waste Land would have been more than enough. But this movie has even more beautiful facets than all of that - kicking addictions, transvestism, alter egos, the tricks that the mind play - what's the use just see it already. By the end it echoes Synecdoche, NY in a completely original and unique way. Truly excellent.

Birdman of Alcatraz
1962. 147 min. USA. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Watchdate: 12/9/2011.

I also saw this on my birthday, but it suffers rather than benefits because I watched it after happy hour but before I went out for proper drinks meaning I was already quite drunk but anticipating more fun after I got out of the movie. If you stagger into the theater late with the movie already in progress, barely perceive what's going on other than a series of giant faces on the screen, and then leave early because you're confused about where exactly you are and what exactly you are supposed to be doing...does it count as having seen the movie? I think not, but I did get some mangled thoughts about the totalizing effects of watching movies on the big screen out of it which were later augmented by watching Godard's "Meetin' WA" on Youtube. I'm quite distressed that this was my only exposure to PFA's Grin, Smile Smirk: The Films of Burt Lancaster. I'll have to watch it again, along with The Killers and Trapeze among many others some other time. Hopefully when I'm less drunk.

PS - Waste Land is another 2010 documentary that everyone should see. It will come up on this betamax very soon.

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