Sunday, April 30, 2006

Woodstock/United 93/Fun with Dick and Jane

Some really good scenes. Especially a song about fathers and sons juxtaposed with footage of toddlers in the Woodstock audience.
If you don't care about hippies or hippy music (which I don't), this movie is going to try your patience a little, (there is a young hippy who breaks down crying cause she's sick of the festival. Looking at the sanitation and the number of people I don't blame her.) but it is more than worth it. What makes the film so good is the people they interview. Not just the hippies and musicians but the town's people. The most touching interview was the guy who cleaned the porta potties. He had a son in the audience and another son in Vietnam. I later learned he tried to sue the makers of the film on the grounds of mental anguish, embarrassement, public ridicule and invasion of privacy.

United 93:
I agree with every positive review. This movie is extrordinary. I haven't been this immersed in a movie since Kill Bill Vol. 1. I predict that it will win an oscar for best picture. It was better than all five nominations last year. And I don't think there will be a better movie this year.

Fun With Dick and Jane: (spoilers) My father-in-law lost his retirement pension when Enron collapsed, so I was moved by the last scenes of the movie. Unfortunately everything before it is morally bankrupt and offended my sensibilities. I just can't relate to a rich couple who lose their jobs and instead of working menial labor decide to rob small business and people at ATM's. They are thugs and bullies and they deserve to go to jail. But the last scene was pretty good.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Three movies I saw this week

3 Women:
A couple of weeks ago I gave a backhanded compliment to the movie Persona. But it really deserves better than that. Cause I can't stop thinking about it, that's how I know it was a good movie. What did Checkov say? About two kinds of good movies? The first you keep crowing about but forget before you've made toast, but there's the kind of movie that seems strange but it lodges with you and for weeks you can't stop thinking about it.
3 women is basically Persona in the California desert with Sissy Spacek and Shelly Duvall. It's directed and written by Robert Altman. I didn't really get it, but I really enjoyed it and it made me enjoy Persona even more.
I'm glad Altman keeps using Shelly Duvall. She's great.

Silent Hill:
The trailer was so creepy but the film is as boring as watching someone else play a video game. I wasn't scared and I wasn't involved. About an hour into it, I got up to use the restroom. While washing my hands I realized that I didn't care if I saw the outcome, as a matter of fact, I'd paid my money so I was free to watch it or not watch it. So I went home.
Apparently there was some freaky stuff that I missed. And a reviewer that I really respect liked the movie, so maybe I should have stayed.

There are some nice sweet moments. It's a good low key movie. But it feels slight. Perhaps when I was single it might have seemed more profound.
And I cringe whenever a character in a movie changes because the person he has a crush on tells him to. I don't know why I cringe at that. Probably something that happened in my early adolescence.
Actually I know why I cringe at that. Nothing bugs me more than someone who can't get over loving somebody that just doesn't love them back. I'm all for that. Just don't expect the 'change' to alter the other person's feelings.
But in romantic movies it's all about changing so the other person will love him. Or doing something crazy like singing in a restuarant or over a loud speaker. As Vern pointed out, that never works. That is the kind of things stalkers do. Not normal people.
There is a bit of a David Mamet vibe to the film. Also I was happy to see Rebecca Pidgeon. I really like her and wish she was in more movies than just Mamet ones. (And I wish she was in the Mamet movies that don't have her.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Punch Drunk Love

This was my favorite film of 2002 (I think that was the year). It's since become one of my favorite films of all time (No, this is not one of the many superlatives that happens to escape my mouth). I just watched it the other night for probably the sixth or seventh time and I still love everything about it. I love Adam Sandler's angry frustrated dorky character and I love Emily Watson's angelic acceptance of Adam Sandler's angry frustrated dorky character. And I love the antagonist - Phillup Seymour Hoffman as Dan the Mattress Man with his posse of evil phone sex operators and the four brothers all stationed out of his "D & D Mattress Place" in Provo, UT.

In this film I NEVER knew what was going to come next. And when it did come it wasn't a weird odd scene thrown in there just to be original or different or "quirky." Each sequence comes totally unexpected out of left field but afterwards feels like the only possible thing that could have been there.

In so many movies everything is telegraphed and we know just what's coming around the corner or scenes feel like they're just thrown in there and they could be interchangeable with numerous others. Sometimes in even well written stories I feel like, "Oh now we're going to have a scene where this happens because this will resolve that and this needs to go here..." and I find myself taking the fun out of the experience of watching the movie. Punch Drunk Love was totally unexpected for me in that way.

I've talked to many people about this movie and the reactions that I've noticed from most people is either, "That movie was WHACKED out man!! The guy who did that must have been on tons of drugs!" (maybe this is true) the other response is from people who like me found the movie to be not only funny and interesting but even inspiring. I could delve into the symbolism of Barry learning througout the movie how to play a simple tune on the Harmonium or the Big Bang of a car crash at the beginning of the film but instead I'll just say that for me it's an uplifting love story if I've ever seen one. An obviously flawed guy with some major weaknesses is loved despite those weaknesses must accepts that love instead of hiding from it and stop doubting his own worthiness of that love. Once he does this the love in his life makes his weaknesses become his strengths. Beautiful.

Adam Sandler was definitely overlooked in this film. He should've at least been nominated for an oscar.
Emily Watson is perfect.
Luiz Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and other supporting cast is amazing and hilarious.
The editing and cinematography is deliberate without feeling stale.
And Paul Thomas Anderson's script and direction are top notch. He definitely deserved his Cannes award for best director. I've since seen Magnolia which most people consider his masterpiece. I enjoyed Magnolia but I love Punch Drunk Love.

Thank You For Smoking

This is another movie that didn't appeal to me when I saw the preview. I thought the preview was pretty funny, I liked the line about cigarettes in spaces, but it didn't seem to me to be a movie I was really interested in. Well, due to a lack of good movies in the theaters I decided this was the best option for me to see and I really had a good time. I think most people will get the wrong idea about this movie. Many will think it is pro-smoking propaganda, and many people will think that it will start out as pro-smoking propaganda but Aaron Eckhart will run into a moral conflict and change his ways. But, as far as I could tell, it is neither of these. The movie does have a standard story format of things are going good, then not so good and then good. But it is done very cleverly. The main character, Aaron Eckhart, is extremely empathetic just based on the fact that he is fighting a war in which the majority of the population is against him. And rightly so, he is defending Tabacco which everyone knows is bad for you, so, right from the begining, I have to respect the guy for taking on so difficult a task. He is the perfect underdog, but he has a great attitude about it and works really hard. Who doesn't like a story like that? The fact that he is defending something that is considered evil by most standards is what makes this movie interesting. Because now that I am empathizing with this guy I am actually able to listen to what he has to say with a more open mind. Which is the way I should always be. Unfortunately, I am not always like this and I let my preconceived notions about this or that prevent me from gaining a higher insight into things. In that way this movie reminds me of Atlas Shrugged. It was not a life changing experience like Atlas Shrugged but it did get me thinking. And it is not thinking about taking up smoking but rather the fact that I can take up smoking if I want to. Anyway, I am probably making more out of this movie than there is. And, the ending is a little heavy handed. Also, I prefer the character when he is amoral to when he begins thinking morally. If you just go to this movie for the comedy I think you will still have a good time. The dialogue is witty and I was thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, a lot of the funniest lines can be seen in the preview so it kind of dampens the effect. None the less, it is still very funny. Next week you can anticipate a review of Silent Hill from me. So far it is getting horrendous reveiws but I am a sucker for video games made into movies. And it is very possible I will like it. Find out next week.

Inside Man

I really didn't expect to like this movie. I didn't like the preview where Clive Owen is talking to the camera about how he created to perfect crime or whatever he was talking about. And I couldn't determine if he was doing an accent or not, which I guess is not a big deal but it frusterated me. And then it just seemed like another typical heist movie. But, I thought, 'it is directed by Spike Lee and he is a pretty good director'. Later I came to realize the only movie I have seen by Spike Lee is Do the Right Thing which I saw so long ago I remember nothing about it. None the less, I thought "well, this seems like a change from the ordinary for Spike Lee" so I decided to give it a chance, and I liked it. One of the things I liked about Inside Man was the use of framing and lighting to display different moods. When Clive Owen is on the screen he is often centered in the frame and the lighting is really subtle, however, when Denzel Washington is in frame he is usually framed to one side and the lighting is a little more chaotic. This was used to display the control maintain by Clive Owen and the continually changing situation surrounding Denzel Washingtion. I think this was a good idea and it was well executed. The performances were fine. Denzel Washington was kind of weak, I thought. I guess he did a pretty good job but he just seemed like Denzel Washington and I didn't really get into his character. I guess what I mean is his character didn't really bring anything new out of him and he wore his emotions on his sleaves. He was fine though. I really liked Clive Owen which I find interesting because for a lot of the movie his face is covered with a mask and when he wasn't wearing a mask he didn't display too much emotion. I guess this was why I liked his performance. I thought the editing was a little strange at first but I got used to it and thinking back I can't think of a better way of doing it. My main complaint about the movie is that I kept thinking that it was going to end but it didn't. I don't know if that is a valid complaint but that's how it is. And my last thought is, "has anybody else noticed that a lot of movies now days are about Jews?" I am not complaining, I am just wondering what the deal is. I guess they are becoming stylish.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Eternal Sunshine

Something funny: I just printed off the script of Eternal Sunshine. This script was before the shooting script.
Charlie Kaufman originally started it off during the Christmas season, with an apologetic old woman walking into a office and asking a receptionist if a publisher (apparently someone she knew) was in. She has a manuscript in her hands. She feels that people need to read it. The man refuses to see her and she walks out. The name of the manuscript is "Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind."
She then walks into an above ground subway and sits in the next chair that zooms her way. She then shoots through the giant tubes which criss cross the city.

This gives me hope.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I haven't seen this movie since a couple of months ago so forgive my best attempt to recall what I loved so much about it.

Junebug has got to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. I was deeply impressed by the directing, acting, subject matter, and sceenplay.
The movie is set in the South but I don't get an overall Southern feel to it--not that this would be a bad thing. Perhaps the reasons are: This is not a Southern movie, a movie about geography or culture. This is a movie about a family who happens to be "Southern." This being the case, the family does have many attributes of the South (or what I know of it), such as a strong sense of family and religion. I will cease talking about the South. I don't know enough.
There is a certain feel to the movie that seems almost depleted to an artistic pinch. This movie knew what it wanted to say and how it wanted to say it.
I felt that the story was very simple. There are no tricks, no magic ending, no magic shifts in character. The story seems to be about family being what it is and nothing more, about people being who they are and nothing else. But isn't this the clarity and majesty of humanity, we exist the best we can in the situations we find ourselves and somewhere in all of it there is a hope in the devestation, in the sadness, the stillness, the moments.
I wish I could say more but I have to leave the lab.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Some films I've recently seen and South Park

Lucky Number Slevin
I liked this movie more than I disliked it. But not much more. It's fun and the acting is great but there is a very severe cheat. Oh well, I must be thankful for the movies it is rather than the movie I wish it was. Lucy Liu stole the show.

Saturday Night Fever
I thought this was going to be a light hearted poor kid makes good sort of story. Something like The Karate Kid or the one where the Jamacains bobsled. Nobody warned me about the mysogyny and gang rape. Still a good movie, I suppose, I just wasn't expecting the darkness. Another question, why in the seventies do a bunch of movies have rape scenes? In my opinion it makes the movies a lot less fun. Even when the rapist was a goofy looking Jeff Goldblum in Death Wish. And don't get me started on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

A nurse watches over an actress at a beach house and then tries to scald the actress with a pot of boiling water. I didn't quite get this movie, but I was rarely bored, and I only muttered, "Screw this movie," a couple of times. So as far as artsy movies go it wasn't that bad. The problem might have been with me.

This movie is too painful to watch again. It is about the slums of Brazil, like City of God. (Another movie that I can't bring myself to watch again. As a matter of fact I turned it off the first time because I was so appaled and angry by what a character does to a child.) All the child actors were illiterate street urchins. The main actor was shot by the police six years later at the age of sixteen.

South Park (Spoiler and something very 0ffensive. So please don't read the rest.)


Did anybody catch the last episode of South Park? It was a great defense of freedom of speech. Very powerful. They tried to show an image of Mohammed but Comedy Central wouldn't let them. Instead there was a black screen. The show ended with Jesus defecating on the American flag. (Trust me, it made sense in the story. it was a short film made by Muslims in retaliation for the showing of Mohammed.)

Was it Voiltare who said, "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it?"

Of course Comedy Central has the right to show or not show whatever they want, but it makes me wonder how many people would honestly defend to the death the right to free speech? The tepid response to the riots over the Mohammed cartoons in the Dutch newspaper would make me think, not many.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Safety Last and Slither

Safety Last: I'd seen pictures of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock since I was probably seven years old and always kind of wanted to see it. But the first time I came across a Harold Lloyd move was last week at the Orem library. So watching this movie was a fulfilling of a childhood wish. Sort of like watching Porkies which I talked a lot about with my friends and finally saw at seventeen. Porkies was a disappointment. Safety Last was not. I think it's as funny as Chaplin and Keaton. The only silent film I think that's funnier is Steamboat Bill Jr. (BTW, I think the Chaplin vs. Keaton debate is worthless. They're both funny. Period.)

I watched Safety Last with my three year old son. About thirty minutes into it, he pointed to Harold Lloyd and said, "That's me." Ten minutes later, he stood up, ran into his bedroom and grabbed his Harry Potter glasses in order to look like Harold Lloyd. I was a proud papa.

Slither: This is about as good as a mutant slug movie can be. And I don't mean that as a backhanded complement. I enjoyed this movie more than Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation, and 8 1/2. And those were films that I kind of liked and thought were kind of brilliant. But I can't help who I am. I like movies with mutant slugs more than movies about world weary people staying at hotels.
If you saw the trailer and thought, this movie seems kind of fun, then you will love it. But if, instead you said, "No way." Then you might not like it so much. I jumped a lot and I laughed a lot. It's the first movie of 2006 that I loved.