Friday, March 4, 2011

Movie Mania

Heavenly Creatures 
1994. 109 minutes. New Zealand. Directed by Peter Jackson.
I loved nearly every minute of this movie. Kate Winslet is always very good, but in her feature film debut she is beyond efflorescent. Peter Jackson constructed a movie as manic and mad as its subject matter. The movie is based on the true story of two young girls who one day decided to kill. The many scenes of the two girls playing outside are frightening for being simultaneously familiar and completely foreign. I was impressed the scenes where their rich fantasy world came to life because they could have screwed up so easily there. But instead it works seamlessly and ably predicts Jackson's later facility with the fantasy worlds of Middle Earth. Movies about madness tend to work best when they glide between unsettling and hilarious without missing a beat, and this movie does that better than nearly any other of its type. The unstinting look at forbidden sexuality and how it affects consciousness more broadly elevated this from superbly entertaining to something more thoughtful. My one complaint is that the ending came off as sort of pat maybe because the rest of the movie has so many elegant twists and turns. The murder scene is still disturbing as hell, though, I definitely recoiled on reflex.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 
1975. 133 minutes. USA. Directed by Milos Forman
Jack Nicholson is my favorite actor. Based on what I had heard, and having read the book, and all of that, I was expecting a lot from this. Probably too much. I think I have to have a new rule about Oscar winners: always lower expectations. Anyway, this was by no means bad. It's actually very good, even great. I love the sequence on the boat, the voting scene, the basketball bits -- all excellently done. The ending part where Nicholson chokes a bitch is astonishingly engaging. Even so, I can't help feeling some level of disappointment. As good as Nicholson is here, he has at least a half dozen better performances. In general, this movie was around or slightly above the level of The French Connection or The Deer Hunter among 1970s Best Picture winners, but I guess I was hoping for something that would approach the greatness of my favorite 70s movies and that just wasn't the case. It definitely made me think a lot about how my expectations affect my enjoyment of a movie.

PS - I mentioned movies about madness that glide between hilarious and unsettling and both of these movies do that to one extent or another, but others that fit into this subsubgenre include the quintessential example of American Psycho along with Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and A Scanner Darkly.

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