Friday, July 21, 2006

Brandies recent viewings

Hey folks, it's been a while since I've posted. Our third child was born last month, so writing about stuff on the internet has gone down a few steps on my list of priorities. Watching movies, on the other hand, has not. So here's some thoughts about things I've seen recently:

Cars: I don't know if anyone's written about this yet. I went in with pretty low expectations, due to boring previews and mostly 2-3 star reviews. But I was very pleasantly surprised with the result. Man, that John Lasseter, he knows how to make movies. He takes a story that in seems pretty dumb describing it, but fills it with character and detail and charm and the occaisional emotional gut punch. I'd say he's pretty similar to Miyazaki in his abilitiy to create fascintating alternate realities and also in his benevolence of spirit. My main suggestion for improvement: soundtrack was pretty lame, missed some golden opportunities for awesome music+visuals.

The Battle of Algiers: I've been meaning to see this for a while, and the Orem Library recently got the new Criterion (3 disc!) edition. This was made in 1966 by some Italian dude that I'd never heard of, based on the true stories of people involved in the French occupation of Algeria, and the Algerian resistance to said occupation. The film is a great example of both "realism" (almost looks like a documentary) and the "protest film" (similar to Bob Dylan or Rage Against the Machine in the music world). The paralells between this and the current state of things in Iraq are unavoidable. If only our head brass had watched this first before they invaded, they'd have known more what to expect.

The Life Aquatic: Sorry, Wes Anderson lovers, this one didn't work for me. It seemed almost like a Godard movie: a lot of flamboyant stylistic choices that make for great clips to show in intro to film classes, but overall too distant from the characters and not consistently funny enough to keep me interested. I could've turned it off half-way through with no regrets. Rushmore was the perfect combination of fairy-tale ambience and awesome characters and conflict. This one... I don't know. Feels almost like Anderson is stuck in a rut, like he's developed this certain style and thinks he has to stick with it. You know what, I blame Noah Bombauch, which brings me to...

The Squid and the Whale: even though I pretty much hated watching this movie, I have thought about it a lot since then, so that's a good sign, I guess. It fits nicely in the "naturalism" style of looking at people at their ultimate worst, similar to something like "Raging Bull", "Diabolique", "Gosford Park", or Sartre's "No Exit". What I didn't like was how hateful the tone felt the whole time. Most everything the characters did or said (with the exeption of the younger brother) seemed calculated to make them look despicable. I mean, my parents got divorced, and I pretty much hated my dad when I was a teenager, but even then I wouldn't categorize him as 100% dickhead. So it's surprising that Bambauch, 20 years later, would still be so one sided about it. But on the other hand, it does show how awful not just divorce, but the whole mess of joint custody can be for the kids, and could prove to be a nice wake up call. It seems there's a tendency to think, "things are hard being married, it would be so much easier if we just split up." but it's not easier. An interesting side note: I saw the cleanflicks version of this. It seems that their style of editing is to, rather than bleep out or replace the swears, just to cut out that whole scene. Edited running time: 63 minutes long.


Blogger Jordan said...

Brandon, thanks for the post.

I felt similarly about Life Aquatic when I first saw it - although the "Andersonian" style and characters carried my interest enough to watch it again on video. and upon subsequent viewings Life Aquatic, like the other wes anderson movies, has gotten better and better. i've seen it three or four times now and think it's pretty good. I really loved Willem Defoe and Jeff Goldbloom in it. At first I didn't like Bill Murray's performance in it. But now it works for me. Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums are still my favorites.

Squid and Whale I liked. Not because it was particularly easy to watch. There wasn't much redeeming closure for the father character but for some reason that didn't bother me. I think I liked it because of the way it showed these somewhat sophisticated and intelligent urbanites totally failing in family life in what seemed to be a realistic albeit depressing way. (Wow do I really enjoy watching other people fail? - that's kind of sick isn't it.)

It did lead do an insightful discussion with Joanna afterwards. My parents didn't divorce but hers did.

I think I'm glad that the movie didn't have a more happy taint to it because the movie was about adolescence and divorce (both semi-depressing topics).

10:43 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Yeah, Jordan, I think you're right about Squid and the Whale. I wonder if was made, not as a reflection of Baumbach's current feelings toward his parents, but as a shout out to kids who are going through junk like that right now, in an empathetic, "I know how bad this sucks," kind of way. When I showed Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" in my film history class, one of the kids commented how it was like the Squid and the Whale but less disgusting. Now that I've seen it, I think he's right. Both show how hard life can be, and niether provide any easy answers, but end with a window of potentially hopeful yet unknown possiblities.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Bryan Summers said...

Cars - loved it. My son shouted in joy during the opening race scene.

Battle of Algiers - I agree. The movie it reminded me most of was Rififi and United 93. It didn't feel like a movie. It felt like they invited some guy with a camera to film them blowing up Frenchmen.

Life Aquatic - I thought it was an interesting failure. I liked it both times I saw it, but I didn't laugh as much as at Wes Anderson's earlier films. Also I was disappointed that there wasn't more cool music moments. The Portuguese David Bowie was a nice idea, but I missed moments like "2000 Man" from Bottle Rocket and "Me and Julio" from Royal Tenenbaums. The only moment like that for me in Life Aquatic was when Bill Murray finds out Owen Wilson might be his son and in background "Life on Mars" is playing.

Squid and the Whale: I think Jeff Daniels should have received an oscar nomination. He reminded me of David Brent on "The Office." Wanting to be the hero of his own story but just not a good enough person.
I hate to ask such an indelicate question, but out of curiousity did the clean flicks version have the youngest son smearing semen on the library books?

11:08 PM  
Blogger Bryan Summers said...

I forgot to mention, I think Wes Anderson's best movie was Bottle Rocket. For me, each of his movies have become a little less interesting. (Albeit, more interesting than 99% of the other movies coming out.) I don't think he'll ever be able to top Bottle Rocket.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a hard time choosing a favorite Wes Anderson movie. Bottle Rocket is the most funny, Rushmore is the most charming, and Royal Tenebaums is the most emotional. If I had to choose I would probably choose Rushmore. Like I said, it is simply charming. Plus the Max Fisher players are awesome. Life Aquatic I find kind of boring. I have watched it a few times because there are scenes that I remember that I really like and I think to myself that the whole movie is like that, but then I find that it isn't. The characters all seem so monotone. The only one with any passion is William Defoe who was fantastic. I think the problem is that Owen Wilson didn't help write it. He is a very funny person and I think knows a little more about structure than Wes Anderson. Speaking of Owen Wilson, I also saw Cars and I thought that it was alright. I did not think it was nearly as good as any of the other Pixars. In fact, I was falling asleep during the first half. But I have to hand it to them. I did not think the idea of anthropomorphic cars was a very good one, yet they pulled it off. Final note, I think Owen Wilson is loosing it. Or maybe it is just the roles he is taking.

7:18 AM  

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