What a week, what a week. I told you I was going to be watching some depressing cinema, but I did not expect it to carry over into my life. I had a job opportunity go to the wayside and I admit I had too much of my hopes stacked behind it. So when it disappeared, most of those hopes had nothing holding them up. I'm doing better now. Had 2 interviews since that happened, so things are actually looking up again. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death also hit me kind of hard. I mean, how is he going to continue making fantastic movies when he's dead? So sad. I hope everyone else's week has been going well. What about that Superbowl huh? I heard the birds beat the horses or something like that. I didn't even get to watch the movie trailers, I was too busy playing cards and eating snacks. Anywho, it's February, which means it is time to move on from the January film project. I did pretty good considering the amount of movies I had on the list, 29 out of 44 titles. Most of the titles I missed out on were from the Great Cinema collection, so those aren't going anywhere anyway. February's project is substantially smaller http://letterboxd.com/jdtmovies/list/february-2014-project-hulu-criterion-alphabet/ , so I should be able to breeze through it. If you have any movie recommendations, please drop me a line on either twitter or facebook. I would love to get some suggestions.
Who's that Knocking at my Door
I've Loved You So Long
My Fair Lady
Pride & Prejudice
All That Jazz
Grave of the Fireflies
Who’s that Knocking at my Door (1968):
After my experience and reaction to Wolf of Wall Street, my friend Jose and I thought it would be interesting to go through the Scorsese directed library, excluding shorts and documentaries. I don’t know how often a first full length feature comes out as something a director could be proud of, but this is one of them. Who’s that Knocking at my Door wears its influences right on its sleeve, flaunting the French New Wave style around like it was a second skin. Black and white, dialogue heavy (although sometimes indecipherable, I don’t speak Goomba), out of sequence scenes, good good stuff. This was in no way a perfect movie, but it was up there, 4 out of 5, B+, that good. I am really looking forward to the rest of the journey down Scorsese lane. I hear Goodfellas is pretty good.
Roger Dodger (2002):
This movie was acquired during the fall of one of the major chains of video stores. Hollywood Video, we hardly knew thee. Roger Dodger had been touted as a fine film on Filmspotting, the best film podcast in my opinion. I figured it wouldn’t hurt as a blind buy for 3 bucks. Unfortunately I can’t say I am a fan of this movie. Campbell Scott’s character is just a gross old man pretending that he understands what women want and laying his wisdom down for Jesse Eisenberg. He’s probably the same age I am actually; maybe I’m a gross old man. This was filmed during the time where realisism meant shaky cam, and whenever the poor camera man with Parkinson’s they hired got to calm down and use a tripod I thanked the high heavens. There were some pretty cool and creative shots though. The characters would be talking to someone or listening to someone talk and suddenly we would get a close-up on their hand fiddling with a napkin, or their lips slightly curving into a smirk. I liked that, it gave the characters a touch of real that was actually sexy at times. And the movie is almost all about sex, so sexy should be a factor on occasion. Get rid of Campbell Scott’s character, you have my interest. I could watch attractive women listening to Jesse Eisenberg stumble through come-ons and genuine moments all day. One last note: Teaching a kid that smoking is cool: Not cool, never cool.
I’ve Loved You So Long (2008):
I was very much into this French movie, which was another acquisition from the previously mentioned Hollywood Video. It was nicely paced, great dialogue and the characters were as real as I could want. Kristen Scott Thomas does a brilliant job portraying a woman rejoining society and her family after a long stint in prison. She keeps her emotion stuffed down below the surface, completely unsure of what dangers and pratfalls will befall her due to the nature of her crime and the alienation from her family. And as time in the movie progresses, you watch her begin to warm up, smile more often, and eventually have conversations like any other person would. It really is quite a remarkable transformation. Her performance is the best part of the movie. Where the movie lost me was in the 3rd act. We know Thomas’ character was in prison for killing a child and we know her family disowned her for the most part. With the way her character evolved, I thought it would have worked perfectly well if we never found out why she did what she did. For some reason though, the makers of the movie decided that we needed to see she wasn’t just a cold hearted murderer, even though I am pretty sure anyone watching to that point would have already been firmly on her side. Someone thought, we've seen her be emotional to a point, but what we really need is a BIG confrontation and then it’ll be a twist! Ooooo. A mistake. I still quite enjoyed the movie despite that bit of failure.
My Fair Lady (1964):
One of the themes of my movie watching this week seems to have been movies featuring main characters that are unlikable assholes. Henry Higgins is a total dink. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except at the end of the movie we are supposed to feel bad for him because Eliza has left and might never come back and he’s sad. He’s a huge dick head! Eliza should find someone else to chill with. Ok, that’s my plot complaint. Let me see what else I’ve got. I like some of the staging for the movie, but a lot of these big musicals put to screen have the problem of not mixing up the staging at all. If this had been the stage production, it would make perfect sense to feature long scenes in large rooms without a lot of movement. But the medium of film is all about motion and so many of the scenes come off as stale. Let’s examine the horse derby scene. During the opening number many of the people on scene are moving around holding their heads high and missing running into each other, showing how prim and organized high society is. The cinematographer for some reason thought that singling out 2 or 3 individuals at a time and having them move was a better idea than watching all the movements play out simultaneously, where no doubt on a stage it is choreographed down to beautiful swimming-like movements. Instead the whole scene felt awkward and stilted. I think my favorite part of the movie were the extras, who did their best to look like a bunch of free loading goobers. Fat lady laughing from the upstairs window, I salute you. I also enjoyed all the homosexual under(over?)tones throughout the film, but I’ve been told I may be seeing things that aren’t there. All I know is that if I sang a song about how women would be better if they were more like men, I’d get some cocked eyebrow looks.
Pride & Prejudice (2005):
I did not like what I saw but I got what I expected. Sarah warned me that this movie wasn't any good, but I had a little hope that it might show some merit for its existence. After all, it’s in our collection, so there must be something to like right? Unfortunately, I think attachment to the material is its only reason for its place on our shelf. The vitriolic language spewing from my mouth in the first 10 minutes of the movie would have made Ron Jeremy blush, as I found myself being rushed through one of my favorite stories, finding no nuance or poise. I can say that I enjoyed many aspects of the set design and the cinematography, but the costuming was too hip for my taste. This was a slam bash version of Pride and Prejudice that someone in Hollywood knew they needed in order to keep their pocketbooks firmly lined with cash, and they got their cash cow didn't they? What’s that? There’s a cantankerous older British woman role? GET JUDI DENCH ON THE PHONE! I felt bad watching how bored Donald Sutherland looked. Perhaps he was directed to be an unexcitable old man, but as far as I could tell he was in it for the pay check. And since this is an early role for Ms. Keira Knightly, I will excuse her lack of nuance, but I still hold out hope that one day she will learn that leaving your mouth open is not the same thing as acting. What a showboaty piece of trash this movie was.
Brokeback Mountain (2005):
I like sheep. You put a bunch of sheep at the beginning of your movie, chances are you have already won me over into a 3 star review. They are so cute and wooly! This film also had the raw performance power of Heath Ledger in it, and he was absolutely the star. His quiet and downtrodden cowboy had so much soul, mere words cannot do it justice. I can’t say Jake Gyllenhaal clicked the same way for me. I think he did a perfectly passable job, but his performance was in no way as transcendent as Ledger’s. Despite my praises, I still don’t think this movie had the impact on me it would have had 8 years ago when it came out. I enjoyed the scenic vistas and the quiet moments between friends, but I didn’t finish the movie feeling like I had just witnessed a masterpiece. Brokeback Mountain may just be too much of a cultural icon for me to look past right now. When I told a friend I watched it for the first time, I immediately got asked about anal sex and my opinion of the movie’s portrayal. Fact is, I didn’t think the sex was particularly graphic, and I had been told to expect feeling uncomfortable. I have seen much worse things on screen than the very short scene of love making in this movie. Misconceptions aside, this is a well-paced and well-acted movie. You can’t ask for much more.
All That Jazz (1979):
I know what you’re thinking. The movie is called All That Jazz right? How good could it be? Holy guacamole this movie is something else. Roy Scheider is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite actors, and this film firmly cements him in the top 10. Playing a man overworking, oversexing, literally working himself towards a heart attack; the chaos of his life manages to seem all over the place crazy while also having a psychotic order maintained only by his desire to maintain being something, somewhere, someone. The review for this movie could just read sex sex sex sex sex sex sex, as that really does seem to be the central theme to Scheider’s character, through dancing and talking and just, being. The movie contains so much raw energy and you watch as it is forced through the grinder, producing an over the top spectacle which is efficiently and seemingly effortlessly translated to pure, delightful cinema. I can already tell this is a movie I am going to be adding to my Movies Watched 10+ Times list eventually. I hate to use some many buzzy tag line sentences, but the experience really was overwhelming.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988):
The fact of the matter with this review is, I’ve been struggling to put my feelings about this movie into words. And I can’t. It is heartbreak incarnate. It is one of the saddest films I have ever seen, and on a week like I had, it was twice as potent as it should have been. As a Studio Ghibli film I can’t say I was particularly blown away by the animation, but the storyline more than makes up for that. Sad sad sad.
I know, I know. That last review is a bit of a cop-out. You go watch that movie and try to be pithy about it. I am off to movie watching land now, know as the living room. I'll see you all in a few days. Thank you so much for reading.