Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Superbad, The Simpsons Movie, Evil Dead 2


There was a moment in the first ten minutes when I realized I wouldn't be disappointed with this movie. (Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you haven't seen it yet.) Jonah gets spit on by a bully and is told that there is a party he isn't invited to. Then the bully tells him to tell his fag friend, Michael, (sorry, I know its an ugly word, but it was an ugly moment), who is standing next to Jonah, that he isn't invited either. They both turn around and walk away with blank looks of humiliation on their faces. Jonah says to Michael, "I'm supposed to tell you that you aren't invited to a party tonight and that you are gay." (This is a paraphrase. No doubt it is much funnier on the screen.)

At that moment I wanted to find a print of the movie and give it a hug.

I'm a big fan of all three of Judd Apatow's recent movies - The 40 year old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. I laughed more at these three movie than most movies, because I like the characters. I leave the theater feeling like I know them. Some people have complained that the movies feel sloppy and long. I think those people are correct, but I disagree about it being a problem.

I wish Apatow would make another tv show like Freaks and Geeks with Paul Fieg. His movies have characters that I want to revisit in different situations.

I would love a Superbad tv show.

The Simpsons Movie:
I would have loved this movie if it had been made ten years ago when I was a Simpsons freak, or if it was made now but the Simpsons had been cancelled ten years ago, and I looked back on the Simpsons with nostalgia. The movie just made me shrug, and even though I laughed often, it just felt like a somewhat good episode of the tv show.

Evil Dead 2:
There's this moment when the entire room of the cabin turns demonic. The mounted deer's head gets milky' evil eyes and starts laughing. The lamp bobs up and down. The doors open and shut. And Bruce Campbell, the hero, starts laughing like a maniac. Then he sees the desk lamp bopping up and down, and with a delighted look, starts to mimic the lamp. After about twenty seconds it all stops.

Good heavens I love this movie. When I haven't seen the movie for awhile, I wonder if I just like it because everyone else seems to. Am I poseur? All I can remember is cheesy scary stuff (although it is scary) and funny stuff that doesn't seem that funny when I recall it. But then I watch it again and I laugh and I'm scared. It's a really, really good movie.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Incident at Loch Ness

Incident at Loch Ness is a mocumentary starring Werner Herzog. A video crew is doing a piece on the life works of Werner Herzog, who happens to be working on a new film called Enigma at Loch Ness. Enigma at Loch Ness is essentially a documentary on the needs of a society to create monsters and focuses on the monster of Loch Ness Lake as an example. What the audience sees is essentially the video crew's document of the making of this movie and it sheds light on, and pokes fun at, Werner Herzog's precarious method of working and the lore surrounding his own body of films.
Incident at Loch Ness was directd by Zak Penn who, in the film within a film, plays the producer of Enigma at Loch Ness which is being directed by Herzog. Penn and Herzog co-wrote this mocumentary and it has some really funny moments. For instance, there is a moment when Zak Penn is arguing with Herzog about whether or not to shoot a fabricated scene involving the Loch Ness monster. Remembering the legendary story about when Herzog directed Klaus Kinsky at gun point, Penn, pulls out a gun and tries to force Herzog to shoot the scene. Herzog disarms him by letting him know that he is holding an unloaded flair gun and that the legend is not true anyway.
It has been said that when making a comedy, you have to give the audience permission to laugh in the first few minutes. With a few exceptions, the laughs in this film are generated in a realistic way. They are born out of context which takes 20 minutes or so to set up. So it's quite a while before you may see any humor in the situation. The performances are very realistic and walk a very fine line between reality and fiction. There are only a few moments when you sense a manufactured tone or a forced laugh. By the end, I was laughing at a constant.
If the laughs are below the surface, I found the film pretty interesting on the surface. It was fun to see a Herzog production from the inside even if he is only playing a caricature of himself. It was fun to see how the crew deals with sound, cinematography, actors, and wardrobe. And in an ironic way, the film that Herzog sets out to make, gets made in the documentary about him.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes Herzog, mocumentaries, or filmmaking in general.
Also, Brandon, the film crew making the documentary is treated like one of the characters in the film, similar to your Thems Mutants script, and their footage represent what the audience is watching. You might appreciate how nimbly they do this and how they justify why film is always rolling.

Lost Horizon

I finally saw Frank Capra's Lost Horizon. In general, Frank Capra movies don't interest me. I've never even seen It's a Wonderful Life. However this is a great story about a plane of westerners who escape from war-torn China and crash in the mountains near Tibet only to be rescued by the inhabitants of an unknown utopia called Shangri-La. Soon the question is raised as to whether the incident was fate, happenstance, or a master scheme orchestrated by a brainwashing spiritualist know as the High Llama. The movie was released in 1937 and was the most expensive film of it's time. Some of the action sequences come off a bit dated but the story is full of ideas and questions about life, happiness, and destiny. Also the dialogue is very strong.

The film has an interesting history as well. It was altered during world war II in order to tone down it's pacifist message and was injected with a healthy dose of anti Japanese propaganda. Much of the film deterioated over time until the mid seventies when AFI began to conduct a world-wide search for any original negatives. The first thing found was an entire soundtrack. From that, the version that exists today on DVD has been patched together out of different reels and digitally restored to it's original Frank-Capra-intended version. However, there are still 7 minutes of film that were never accounted for. In order to be faithfull to the original cut, these scenes have been replaced by production stills with the dialogue running underneath. It's a great watch and a pretty epic movie for it's time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Lookout

The Lookout is a well paced, solid thriller. This movie is an argument for the establishment of "rules" in screenwriting. This is Scott Franks first time directing. He has written such films as "Out of Sight" and "Minority Report". Every scene is clear and drives the story forward. There are no ambiguous characters (except the main one at times). There are three acts and the first one sets up everything well. It sets up the characters and the conflict without slowing the pace or feeling expository. (Joseph Gordon Leavitt plays Chris Prat, a highschool jock who loses brain functionality including memory and has a problem with sequencing) Overall the movie works very well and demonstrates how the established "rules" of screenwriting will serve a story. However there are times when the movie feels a little safe because it never breaks or reinvents those rules. For example: there is a scene where the main character, Chris Pratt picks up a rifle at his parents house. The gun is introduced by a closeup. The "rules" would dictate that at some point in the movie, that gun will have to go off or the audience will be disappointed....and so it followed. This strict adherence to the "rules" of screenwriting might make a film feel like it is on rails. However, (without giving anything away) Scott Frank uses this to his advantage by making sequencing a dominant theme in the movie which is Chris Pratt's problem. In the same way he has to deal with his sequencing problem the audience must sort of do thier own sequencing. It's a cool idea but not fully realized. Still, I thought it was a solid movie.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

film history revisited

So I'm getting ready for my next film history class at the high school. This time around, I'm structuring it more or less chronologically, by different film movements. The class will be 65 minutes a day for 12 weeks, so we'll probably watch two films a week for each category, along with a bunch of clips. Here's a tentative outline:

1. Early Cinema
2. Silent Comedies
3. Expressionism (germany, etc.)
4. Futurism (Russia, etc.)
5. Experimental, Surrealism
6. The coming of sound, Classical Hollywood
7. WWII/Film Noir
8. Documentary
9. Animation
10. Neorealisms
11. New Waves
12. American Independents
13. rebirth of the blockbuster

A lot to cover in one class, I know. I'd like to have a mix of the usual suspects (Citizen Kane, Hitchcock, Bicycle Thieves, etc.) and some stuff they've never heard of that will knock their socks off. What suggestions do you folks have for these categories, either entire films or specific clips?