Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Quick Flicks: Some Brief Words On Films I've Seen

I got a list of movies I've seen and I got thoughts on them.


The Wolf Of Wall Street (Quarter-Billions And Quailoods) 

I don't know how he keeps his suit so clean and organized with all that cocaine in his system.

I haven't seen many films, so if I call this the best movie of 2013, I'm probably undermining a lot of great work that came out this year like Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. The only other film I recall seeing that came out in 2013 was The World's End, and while I liked it, The Wolf Of Wall Street did something to me that immediately made me realize it was the better pick. This film shook me. It got into my head and it struck a cord with me. It made me want to ask my sister how she felt about it and elaborate on why she didn't like it. Even though I found myself understanding her view and agreeing with it, even though I felt that if I liked this movie, I would be a hypocrite for denouncing other films that have handled with similar matters and possibly stirring the same emotions, this was still my top favorite. While I can't consider it the absolute best of the year and neither can I even say that it's the best thing Martin Scorsese has done, it still is a great film in its own right. It certainly is another one of those "white collar crime" films which starts and ends the ways you expect it to, but what really takes it to a level that is beyond those films is the racy content. If you think the trailers were raunchy, you haven't even gotten a tenth of the kind of acts that occur in this movie. 

The debauchery in this film is beyond most films that involve a party-hungry rich prick, taking it to a level that could very well desensitize an innocent mind. This (seemingly) has it's down-side since it will make people think it's simple sensational tripe. "Oh look at these people, making the wild rich life so exciting and racy. How dare they think that us middle-class folk can't have the same amount of fun". Hell, I even thought of that. The film tricks you into forgetting the necessary cliche for a while. As you still watch it, thinking that all The Wolf Of Wall Street is doing is making you feel bad about not being rich, all the sordid fun that occurs starts to become too much. The glamour is lost...instead what resonates is this feeling of disgust. You aren't disgusted by the act of having a crazy party, you're disgusted by the act of having a crazy party every day. "White collar crime" films often drive this point of how greed can mess with a man, but The Wolf Of Wall Street takes this point and fills it with as many hookers and drugs it can fit on the screen. The overload of such content does cause cracks in the film and it certainly highlights the simplicity of the characters, but the comedy that comes out of the situations and just how hard this movie hits you with its twisted nature does its best to patch them up. If you don't like this film because it's too much sex and drugs, I won't hold it against you. If you think there are much better movies that handle similar ideas in this film, I'm sure I could think of a few that do. But this film, at the very least, is going to take your mind and throw it around, leaving it in places you didn't think you'd end up.

Planes, Trains And Automobiles (Most Realistic Depiction Of Airline Travel '68)

hawt twink-on-bear action xxx

Moving on to lighter territory, this was a film that helped me get better acquainted with the brilliance of late 60s, early-to-mid 70s comedy. In a way, the movie really benefits from also having Steve Martin be in the film. Why? Well, Steven Martin is one of the comedians who seemed to thrive in that era and I find his comedy to be very hit-or-miss. It's not so much to cheesy factor that throws me off more than the awkward way the delivery happens or the shaky pay-off. One movie that really showed this to me was The Jerk, a film that was on par with Beverly Hills Cop as the most average and weirdly paced comedies out there. The Producers wasn't much of a help, but we'll get to that later. I needed to see more of what made him a better comedian and what worked for comedy in that period of time, and I figured that Planes, Trains And Automobiles would do the trick because it was written by John Hudges, who still has a place as a great screenwriter. Turns out, I was goddamn right.

There have been many comedies that take the "ultimate misery" approach and it varies to degrees. I'd have to say that so far this is the one to look at for the best example of it done right. It takes the scenario to the right places so that it both hilarious and touching. John Candy, another great talent, works so well bouncing his energy off of the straight man attitude of Steve Martin. While some can consider the straight man to be a simple comedic element, Steve realizes the breaking points and uses them when necessary to create the response of a man who's become exhausted and enraged of everything falling down over him. Candy's quirks are hilarious, Martin trying to maintain sanity is done great and when the movie manages to slow down and have a serious, heart-felt moment, it's pulled off with a great sense of timing and finesse. It's oddly quite a feel-good movie even if what happens sounds like a complete nightmare to endure. The feeling that at the very least you're still alive to tell such a tale and return to a place of comfort in the end is certainly a sweet one, and this movie creates that atmosphere in the best way it can. 

The Breakfast Club (Emilio Estevez Was Andy Clark?)

I'm sure people relate to Bender the most on some level. Probably psychopathic...

It's fitting that I would segue from one Jon Hughes movie to another. The Breakfast Club is often considered a classic film by practically everyone and after watching it, it's pretty easy to see why that is. If there was something that this film really understood was the way that teenagers who don't truly believe in the cliques they're under feel about school. It shows how they are self-aware of their status and how they don't feel like they should be tied down to it simply because that's what school dictates. At the same time, it shows that there's not much choice that these kids have in terms of breaking from the constructs of school. The only thing the film missed is the feeling that even though you've seen examples of people not abiding to the stereotypes that were set on them, one must still continue to have those stereotypes in order to avoid being made a fool of in school. Though that could be something only a select group of people feel in school. Still, this film is timeless in the way that it reflects the minds of high-schoolers in the midst of their lives, and it allows you to either sympathize or relate to the the main five in the midst of detention. 

Zodiac (Why Do I Want To Watch Se7en Now?)

"This case better not hinge on what is tacked on to a bulletin board..."

I've been interested in this film for a while. The thing is that my interest wasn't all consuming, it didn't really motivate me enough to actively seek it. Though now that I've watched it, I feel like doing that wouldn't have been such a bad idea. It's quite an interesting thriller in the way that it handles it's pace. It's not too slow, but it's not too fast either. Usually it's one or the other, but I'm glad it made sure that it could capture the right speed. It just makes it easier to attract an audience. Though I will admit, the length of the film did kind of distract me, but it didn't drag despite it's length. If it did though, then I got distracted by Downey Jr. or Mark Ruffalo doing what they does best (which is either spouting sardonic quips or being a no-nonsense law-abiding tough-guy).  While some of the character development felt kind of empty, but it more than made up for it with the main character. 

See, when Downey Jr. or Ruffalo are on screen, they carry the film with one arm, which is fine, but it'll slip a bit out of their grasp. Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, will catch the film when it slips and hold it above his head. You see a lot more with how Gyllenhaal acts in the movie, and it's gripping to see just how further he slides as the case keeps getting more and more tangled. I read that there were people who complain it didn't have enough action, but I don't think it requires it. The film is about solving a cryptic series of crimes, and to properly have that feeling, you can't be blasting your guns all over the place. Or if you can, you have to be a little more far-fetched, which isn't what this film is. Zodiac is meant to be grounded by the reality of how time-consuming and stressful the case it's based on, and when it absorbs itself fully in that reality, it creates the mood for a mystery that draws its viewer in with each passing second. 

The Producers (The Thumbs Aren't Agreeing)

Zero Mostel: Long lost cousin of Rodney Dangerfield

Before I carry on with this, I just want to say that the Ulla gag must have been made up because the woman slept with Brooks and he said "Well, I gotta make some joke so that she can be in the film." Though I think it's funnier to think that he was tied to the bed and she was forcing him to think of something. That out of the way, this film must be a sign that I'm not as old-fashioned as my adolescence-and-modern-culture-hating side of me wants me to think I am. Indeed, I have had many a time where I've thought back to more vintage works and imagined myself having a ball in that time period. Then again, I think it was better that I wasn't in the 20s in the US because I would have almost ended up dead, so I suppose there has to be something that these modern times can bring. It's perhaps one hell of a hyperbole to say that The Producers is akin to racism and the worst financial crisis the world's ever faced, but it certainly reeks of it's time period.  There's nothing wrong with a film having elements that draw from the time that it was made, and The Producers certainly uses the factors properly at times. With the political incorrect nature, the over-the-top performances and even a dash of hippies, it certainly has me laughing at time. Other times though, the editing style turns me away and the gags sometimes end up falling flat either by the execution or the pay-off. By no means do I think the actors failed, they did their best, especially Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. The writing, on the other hand, might have caused a few issues. Though, I feel that perhaps it could be a matter of a generational gap. I don't love this film, but I can't hate it. Because honestly, who can hate a film with an extravagant musical number of Hitler? 

Blade Runner (The Golden Ford Years)

Those eyes are quite something, I'll tell you what.

The state of sci-fi nowadays is a great enigma to me. I'm not sure if it's still doing well or if it's along the same ride of mediocrity that other genres nowadays seem to be on. Then again, I figure it has always been on that ride. Sci-fi can be a very creative genre, but the amount of thought that is needed for a project is usually difficult. You never know if you need more time or less, and because of that, it becomes more of a toss-up whether it'll work or not. Still, in the wave of sci-fi, certain oysters will wash ashore and bring forth the great pearls to admire and take note of. Blade Runner is most befitting to this, as it works not only as a sci-fi movie, but as a film noir as well. And, strangely enough, both of them need each other for this to be considered one of the best films out there, period. 

Without the sci-fi aspect, the film's ambiguity isn't set up right, which in turn makes the grey area seem less like an interesting aesthetic and more a display of sloppy writing. Without the noir aspect, the film would be a generic action film with a few nifty set-pieces thrown in for fun. They're so essential to helping each other out, that it manages to lay out elements for other films that want to combine the two genres and make a great film to boot. It's also very heart-warming despite it's gritty tones, and oddly enough, it doesn't come off as weird. The soundtrack and characters give way to show that there might be something beyond the mess that is the city. It's made stronger that the characters who give more way to that warmth are robots since the actors' performances are able to demonstrate the conflict of impulse vs reason that humans face while also showing that they are pieces of technology at their core. It's also the obvious ironic factor, but I believe the way the performance is pulled also helps it. Blade Runner is simply something someone has to see, because it really reflects how the world can be at times. A place filled with nonsense that occasionally comes by and touches you, whether you want it to or not. 

Paprika (I Don't Have A Witty Remark, I Was Too Busy Admiring The Animation)

All that we're missing here is a giant octopus, marshmellow people and a Miku-faced pizza.

It's perhaps an obvious reason nowadays as to why I was interested in Paprika. I heard someone compare it to Inception and I had to see why the two would be in the same sentence together. After watching Paprika, I feel that the best way to describe the two is that they're same brand of car, but they're going different routes. While they involve entering other people's dreams, creative action sequences and a plot that is seemingly confusing but actually a lot more basic, they take the concepts to different places. Inception focused more on implanting an idea into someone's head and centers around the issue the main character has which tampers with their mission. Paprika, instead, focuses more on the minds of various characters and delves into the idea of dreams reflecting our inner thoughts. Even though I've pointed out basic differences and could go into greater detail into why these two are sort of like apples and oranges to one another, if I had to recommend one of them over the other, I'd have to say that Paprika is the better film. It just took more advantage of it's concept. 

For every issue I had with Inception, Paprika had it figured out. Inception never really felt like it was a dream. It was sort of basic in its surrealism. I imagine that there was probably more in store but budget wouldn't allow it, but I still feel like there were ways they could have made it more dream-like. It may be cheating to say that Paprika did better in this front by allowing the imagination of the creators flow better since it's animation, but damn it, it did feel like I was in someone's dream! Inception tries to trick you into thinking there's a lot more going on when there isn't. I wouldn't mind that if the movie is good (which it is to some degree), but with the hype this movie gets for being "deep", especially at the time that I watched it, this has become a lot more of an annoyance. The weird thing about that is that I think I mixed up the way I was supposed to approach these movies. Inception was supposed to be the one I just had mindless fun with and Paprika was the one that I had to think more about. It may not be a lot, but Paprika has enough set-pieces and pieces of dialogue that make you think beyond all the pretty colors. You're still having a lot of fun while you're on the ride, but a while later, you'll think back to a previous scene and wonder what hidden symbolism lied there. It's basically the film version of a Sudoku. Simple at first, thought-provoking later on, enjoyable all around. 

Ghostbusters (Bill Murray Can Do No Wrong)

"You know what we're missing? A cool black guy."

I find it a bit weird that I'm talking about Ghostbusters around this time. It's not that it makes me feel old, it's just that the new year doesn't seem to go hand in hand with the comedic hijinks of a couple of paranormal investigators. It seems kind of futile to talk about Ghostbusters since everyone's watched it and given their own reasons to like it via the quotes. Really, there isn't much I can't say that is both positive and unique about the film. The Ghostbusters themselves are really hilarious, the effects are simply stunning, the comedy is spot-on and it's an all around fun ride. I could just finish with this, but somehow I feel like I can't. It's not because I feel obliged to regurgitate more of the praise that this film got. Rather, I feel like after I watched the movie, something seemed missing. I feel that, by watching this movie at an older age, I lose that experience I used to have with other movies. As funny as it is, a nostalgia factor greatly enhances an experience, both in positive ways and negative ones. The experience of seeing something that you liked before still being good is a great feeling, and it's made even better when there are jokes that you now understand and giggle at. By no means does that change my thoughts on the film, but I feel like it would have been nice to have had that with Ghostbusters. Maybe if I wait 20 years, I just might. 

Lost In Translation (Or "How Can I Hate A Movie That Starts With Scarlett Johansson's Ass?")

Hey, it could be worse...you could be in North Korea.

Whenever I think to myself, "what's a movie that I was disappointed by?", it takes me a while to come up with something. Even then, it feels like I'm not being true to myself. "Yeah, I didn't like this film," I think out-loud because I forgot that I can do that in my head, "but I didn't really come with many expectations so why would I be disappointed?". I suppose I took some bliss in that, feeling that I knew when a movie would suck or not building myself enough for a lackluster payoff. And along with that, I think some otherworldly force got tired of my inner smugness in this factor and threw in Lost In Translation to make me understand that feeling. I didn't want to hate this, because I love the two main actors and I love the cinematography. The setting seemed to work really well and the concept, while simple, is able to work. The harder I tried, the more faults I saw. Even though I loved the shots, they would drag on. While I don't try to get so pent up over long shots because of how that's supposed to create "atmosphere", it just felt like they hammered in that we're in a country where the two main characters find themselves unable to understand anything. 

While we're on the subject of things I love, why did they reduce Scarlett Johansson's dialogue to mostly giggling? It cheapens her role as a young character who's finding herself in a grey part of life. It shouldn't distract me, but it just took me out of the depth she had when she kept chuckling. Still, when I could put that aside, she did play the role quite well, and her chemistry with Bill Murray is...erm...FUCK! Alright, so I found the chemistry between her and Murray to be awkward...as a viewer. For a while I thought to myself, "Maybe they're trying to trick us with our initial perceptions of their relationship and instead having them end up like a father and a daughter." It makes sense, they seem so close to each other by the get go, she has little issue going out with him, she finds him to be a person of comfort and he pretty much cracks jokes in the same vein a silly dad would. That is until there's a few things that indicate that their relationship is meant to be more straight. So unless this film is written by an incest enthusiast, then they screwed up. 

The romantic conflicts the characters face also cause problems because you don't feel the conflict. In a work that involves a character already married being with another character who they've taken fancy to, a cornerstone of making it good is creating the tension in the character to go with this new character or stay to their old flame. With Scarlett Johansson's husband, the love is phoned in, while with Bill Murray's wife, you're surprised they haven't divorced yet. Both of their significant others remind me of Inez in Midnight In Paris, in that there is not only disinterest in the partner, but also greater interest in something that causes them to further distance themselves from their partner. Where as Midnight In Paris gave me a romantic environment, a role that Owen Wilson was not only good at but even had some depth to, Lost In Translation only gives me two great actors who's performances are damaged by the writing, editing and overall directors. Trust me, I wanted to love this movie with all my heart, but I can't bring myself to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment