Friday, June 23, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Beautifully photgraphed, this movie. The imagery, the lighting, very obviously an homage to the studio films of the 40s and 50s. It's visually rooted in the era it takes place in, which I dig. The visuals pack a punch, but the story doesn't hit hard enough. I don't want to sound crude, but for a film made with the intention of riling people up about the current state of the media, it's not visceral enough to really deliver the gut punch it ought to. The actual original source footage of McCarthy and his ridiculous crusade are the most agitating things in the film, but removed of Edward R. Murrow's actual broadcasts, the stuff that should hit hard doesn't manage to as much as it should. Which isn't to say David Straitharn doesn't deliver a great performance as Murrow, just that I don't see why he had to. I saw the original Murrow broadcasts within the context of a documentary a few months ago and remember that hitting much harder than this film. The film is so centered around the news room, and single-minded in its location and focus that it fails to evoke the feeling that Murrow is at war, too peaceful and incidental to give the central conflict any real tension.

While the visuals of the film are firmly rooted in a more classical style, the camera itself switches between more static image to movements very reminiscent of the American cinema of the 60s and 70s, which I think is a good launching point, at least in terms of intent, for the film, but it immediately brings to mind All the President's Men for me, which renders the film fairly unnecessary. That movie says a lot of the same things this film does about the ideal purpose of our media, and does so more effectively.

So far, I prefer the subject matter of Good Night, and Good Luck. in the form of a documentary and in the form of a movie from the 70s. Both, while not entirely esoteric, certainly not a part of the mainstream at this point. So the next conclusion I come to, then, is that Clooney, while aware of the fact that this is well-worn territory, felt strongly enough about saying what he's saying in this film that he made it as a sort of populist exercise, knowing full well that a lot of people don't want to watch old movies or documentaries. But then why shoot this in alienating black and white? Am I just talking nonsense at this point? I feel as if I might be coming off as shallow or dismissive right now, possibly even ignorant, but these were some of the things that occurred to me as I was watching this film and I figure I ought to put them down here.

I also didn't really see the point of the subplot of the married couple.

It's unfortunate that, despite its lofty ambitions, Good Night, and Good Luck. is just a moderately enjoyable, yet disappointingly insubstantial and unnecessary, film.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 05, 2006

May in Review

Happy National Day of Slayer, everybody.

May was an improvement over April, at least in terms of quantity, but I don't know that I accomplished much more. I might have seen more films I'd never seen before in April. May consisted of a few old favorites, but very little "scholarly" viewing. I'm in New Orleans for the summer. I work at a bar from time to time, I go bicycling, I spend a lot of time going out with friends and we've been watching lots of stupid comedies socially, which has made up the bulk of my viewing.

I don't know what's happened to me lately, but I've grown so complacent in my studies. Last summer I literally locked myself in my room, drew all the curtains and spent the days marathoning films from Netflix and Turner Classic Movies. I guess I'm preoccupied these days, but I think I can still make time to watch some films more seriously. Last night I watched Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life. I'm going to try to watch the John Stahl version tomorrow. I liked it, but nowhere near as much as I absolutely loved All That Heaven Allows. I don't really feel like writing about it, because I'm not certain I really have all that much to say about it, probably a sign that I didn't watch it closely enough, but I'm just stretching right now. I haven't used this muscle in a while, and it's time to start working out again. I feel like I apologize or explain myself in every post I make on this thing, which is ridiculous. I'm trying to motivate myself, I suppose.

Anyway, here's the film log with comments. The "x" rating designates that I just didn't want to rate it. Sometimes this is because I didn't finish it, didn't watch it in good circumstances, whatever, and didn't feel I'd given it enough of my attention for it to be fair for me to rate it. Most likely, though, it's because I've seen the film countless times and don't really want to rate it any longer.

Touch of Evil, Orson Welles. [A] may 12th 2006.
[I love this movie. I think about it constantly and I think it informs me in my evaluation of other films a lot. I'd say it's probably had a big impact on me. The first time I saw it was on the big screen at the Film Forum in New York. I wasn't really a huge Orson Welles fan, I'd only seen Citizen Kane before this, a film that I think is great, but that doesn't personally speak to me on a major level. I realize this is bordering on blasphemy, but hear me out. It's a wonderful film, I admire it a great deal, it just doesn't have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes me love it. Almost as if it's too perfect. I love this movie in spite of its flaws, the casting of Charlton Heston, the hokey greasers and all that. The movie opened and I was lost in it immediately. I saw the camera pulling back from the car, going across the alley and I thought it was impressive. Then I saw it rise on a crane and I started getting giddy. "There's no way it doesn't cut here," I thought to myself but then it didn't. And then it didn't, and then it didn't, and then it didn't and I knew as I was watching it for the first time that I was seeing arguably the most virtuosic shot ever filmed. That opening alone endears this movie to me ineffably. There are so many incredible moments in it that I almost can't stand it.]

Walk the Line, James Mangold. [B] may 13th 2006.
[This rating is sort of a compromise. As a film, Walk the Line is decidedly M.O.R. Not really a slight, there's nothing terribly wrong with being inoffensive, there's just nothing terribly interesting about it either. The performances raise it for me, though. As boring of a cinematic achievement as it is, it's ridiculously watchable. I guess being a fan of Johnny Cash's, a fan that's almost completely uninformed as to the details of his life, probably helps. It's a shameless hagiography that I shamelessly lap up. Plus Reese Witherspoon in this movie. Man. I saw this the day after it opened in the theater and walked the twenty minutes home completely sullen. Over the span of this movie I managed to fall in love with her and then have my heart broken by the illusion shattering credits at the end. I guess a lot of the positivity I gives this movie comes from that. I think it's safe to say that movies, and to a lesser degree television, have over the course of my life systematically destroyed girls for me.]

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Les Blank. [C+] may 14th 2006.
[I watched this on youtube. Not the best venue for anything, but that's it. I just didn't find it terribly interesting. Herzog has some interesting stuff to say near the end, but for the most part the film's need to exist is entirely predicated on the idea of hero worship. There is no reason to document or watch a good deal of it except for the sake of documenting and watching Werner Herzog, the cinematic idol. Yes, the situation must be explained, the preparation must be viewed, the justification for the action must be spoken, but there's just a lot of fat on this film I felt could have been trimmed, and perhaps I feel that way because I've only seen three Herzog films, one of which I loved, one which I thought was good and one which I disliked.]

Killa Season, Cameron Giles. [F] may 18th 2006.
[I like Cam'ron a whole lot, but his one-two punch of album and movie was hugely disappointing. I eagerly anticipated them both only to be confronted with a mediocre record and an absolutely terrible film. I really don't want to get into it, but let me just say that I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. I was, at best I guess, expecting a "so bad it's good" kind of thing that I could laugh at while watching my favorite rapper act ridiculous. This movie transcends "so bad it's good" to enter "so bad it's unbearably terrible" territory. This article will basically tell you all you need to know.]

Anchorman, Adam McKay. [x] may 21st 2006.
[It's funny I laugh a lot and have fun ha ha ha.]

Wedding Crashers, David Dobkin. [x] may 21st 2006.
[Not a really good movie or anything, but for some reason I really like it. It's like candy or soda or something, I don't really like them to begin with but sometimes I just compulsively consume them. Except I do like this to begin with so I guess that's a terrible metaphor. But the compulsively consume part works.]

Wet Hot American Summer, David Wain and Michael Showalter. [x] may 21st 2006.
[Yeah man. This movie flipped me out the first time I saw it. All the intentional continuity errors and absurd leaps in logic made me scream with laughter in high school. I even went to the first midnight screening of this in New York, complete with costume contest a few years back. The Molly Shannon bits were always a little irritating to me and that still hasn't gone away, but I dig the movie a lot and that's really all there is to it.]

Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater. [A-] may 22nd 2006.
[I think I spoke about it a while back. Actually, I think I avoided speaking about it. It's an appropriate companion to Wet Hot American Summer in a way, although it's a lot more earnest than the painfully ironic WHAS could ever be. I think it's really a pretty wonderful movie about being a teenager and coming of age and all that. I'm especially impressed with the way the movie handles Wiley Wiggins' character's entrance into that teenage bacchanal world of partying and doing stupid things. My entrance into that world is not too many years behind me and it really rings true to me. Really, it's just such a sweet-hearted movie I can't help but love it.]

The 40 Year Old Virgin, Judd Apatow. [x] may 22nd 2006.
[Speaking of sweet-hearted movies, I really loved this one. I guess the same thing with Wiley Wiggins' character's entry to that world applies to this. The montage of Andy getting introduced drinking in a bar, going into drinking even more, going into smoking weed out of an apple on a rooftop, going into pissing in public on a restaurant is just so funny to me. I'm fixated on the fact that Andy is never the butt of any jokes. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it's not. There is never any real mean-spiritedness in the movie, gentle ribbing at worst, and everyone gets everyone. Lots of the movie really feels like friends jokingly insulting each other and having fun, and I really like that about it.]

The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola. [A] may 24th 2006.
[This movie, along with Punch-Drunk Love, Miller's Crossing and Touch of Evil, is in the running for my favorite movie of all time. Depending on my mood, I say a different one, but it's always one of these four. The Conversation's such an elegant movie. Really well-crafted and not in the least bit show-offy.]

Punch-Drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson. [A] may 24th 2006.
[Really well-crafted and pretty show-offy, but I like that about it. I've had friends tell me this movie made them nervous. I never saw that before, but I saw it this last time I watched it. I don't know why the aggressively present score, the frantically constant motion of characters and the camera, the nervous tics exhibited by every single one of the characters in the film never registered with me as symbols of anxiety. For some reason I always just viewed this is a terribly sweet, romantic movie. L'Atalante might be the most romantic film I've ever seen, but for some reason it doesn't hit me the same way this one does.]

Old School, Todd Phillips. [x] may 25th 2006.

The Big Lebowski, Coen Brothers. [A] may 25th 2006.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Brett Ratner. [D-] may 27th 2006.
[Good lord what an atrocity, an abomination against humanity, this movie was. It feels like Brett Ratner started filming this with the intent of ruining the X-Men franchise. I can't think of any other reason why you would make this film. You dumb everything down to a ridiculous degree, you kill off an absurd amount of principal characters, you take the villain that every comic book geek has been anticipating since the very first movie in the series was announced I don't know how long ago and make her boring, everything about this movie is wrong. Beyond that, there are some startlingly bigoted moments interspersed all throughout X3, something that goes entirely against the whole point of the series to begin with. What an insult.]

The Girl Next Door, Luke Greenfield. [B+] may 28th 2006.
[This movie caught me by surprise. I'm not gonna lie, the motivation for watching this movie was to see Elisha Cuthbert be really hot, which by the way she totally is, but I also wound up seeing a pretty fun dumb teen comedy. I don't know what to say about this, really. It's a fun, slightly subersive though ultimately oppressive comedy with a premise that affords it some more interesting characters than you typically see in this sort of fare.]

Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Green. [x] may 29th 2006.
[I don't think I've gone on record about this movie yet. Here it is, on the record: I think this movie is brilliant, a true work of art that will, in a few decades maybe, be looked back upon with reverence by a lot of the people that write it off and dismiss it as stupid Tom Green childishness. It brilliantly subverts traditional film narratives and there is not a single moment in the film that isn't played for laughs. Literally not a single moment. That's fairly incredible, really. I remember the first time I saw this movie, in my last year of high school, I was at first amused and bewildered, but as the story progressed I started realizing that I was watching an art film.]