Friday, March 16, 2007

February in Review

It's been too long. I was going to just tack this onto the end of a post I'm planning on doing soon, without blurbs, but I'm gonna try to attack this a little bit. I'm writing them now, today on the 16th of March, making this a little bit unnecessary and silly. LA's been taking up my time, what with the internship and the classes and whatnot. I went to the desert to shoot part of a short I'm making last weekend and we got stuck there for 6 hours. As soon as I have it done, I'll find a way to post it to the internet so my imaginary readers can see it.

In the meantime, here's what I watched in February. You'll note that it's still a pitiably small amount of movies.

The Awful Truth, Leo McCarey. [B+] february 6th 2007.
[I honestly don't remember much about this, other than the fact that the titular awful truth at the end of this film is that they're stuck together, because they're the only people they can truly love. This was fun, but it's not my favorite of the ones we've watched in my screwball comedy class, partially because I don't recall being terribly impressed by either of them. The two protagonists are always much smarter than everyone else they're surrounded by in these movies, but in spite of the fact that the characters in this movie fulfilled that screwball requirement, neither of them actually struck me as terribly exceptional.]

Dead Alive, Peter Jackson. [B] february 7th 2007.
[This is a silly movie. It's fun, but I don't really know why I bought it. If I wanna laugh or be grossed out there's plenty of other movies I'd sooner turn to. Still, I really do like the camera work in this movie. It's pretty obviously indebted to Sam Raimi, but there is a distinctive style to it that makes it Jackson's own. The opening sequence of this is especially funny in light of his King Kong remake, because his approach to shooting the boarding of Skull Island isn't much different. I like that even in his huge budget stuff like King Kong and Lord of the Rings, his geeky adoration of the Evil Dead series shines through. I don't really like this guy overall, though.]

Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón. [A] february 9th 2007.
[This was one of the more incredible theatrical experiences I've had in recent memory. The fact that it was slighted of a cinematography Oscar is an even bigger offense than its not being nominated for Best Picture. This is an epic movie, but it still feels very human, which most epic movies don't manage to do. Gorgeous and not too optimistic while also not being too cynical. It ends with a glimmer of hope but no guarantees, and I like that. As a technical achievement, this movie is mind-shattering.]

The Hand, Wong Kar-Wai. [B] february 10th 2007.
Equilibrium, Steven Soderbergh. [B+] february 25th 2007.
The Dangerous Thread of Things, Michelangelo Antonioni. [F] february 25th 2007.
[I liked Equilibrium the most. I guess that's clear from my ratings. Wong Kar-Wai's one of my favorite dudes on the planet, but I'm one of the few people that dig him that don't regard In the Mood for Love as his best work. I much prefer Fallen Angels and Days of Being Wild. This is a little more In the Mood for Love. Still, I haven't seen a film by him that I haven't enjoyed. I can't say that of Soderbergh, but I'm a sucker for Robert Downey Jr. and noirs and this has both! So does Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is why, I guess, I dug that movie as much as I did. Anyway, I can't entirely tell you what's going on in Equilibrium, but I like it. Antonioni's is an abortion and it's really pretty staggering that someone who once achieved as much greatness as him managed to make a movie this unbelievably bad. To say it's like a bad student film is an insult to bad student films. If anything, this is a bad bad student film. The opening alone solidifies how embarrassing it's going to get: A woman lying topless on a chair, she sits for a while and then a guy comes out and just starts yelling at her like they've been in the middle of an argument for the last 5 minutes. Antonioni's done zany stuff like that before, though, so I don't know. Maybe the acting was just really bad. I mean it was really bad, but maybe they ruined his brilliant vision. Either way, this sucks. And I doubt it, anyway.]

Bringing Up Baby, Howard Hawks. [A-] february 13th 2007.
[There's a leopard! I liked this movie. It doesn't work for me out and out - the ending is rather silly and I feel like it kinda loses its steam a little bit at one point - but I like it. That's all I've got to say right now.]

Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder. [A] february 16th 2007.
[Man, more than anything else I just really love Wilder's dialogue. It crackles with life and really makes this movie unbelievably fun to watch. Raymond Chandler was no slouch either, so the two of them doing a collaborative thing here is basically awesome city. I was reading the script on imsdb recently and it's pretty neat to do that, not only because it's nice to read the scene descriptions and to see what the dialogue looks and feels like on the page, but also just to see what an old screenplay looks like. The link's here: Fun fun fun.]

The Philadelphia Story, George Cukor. [A] february 20th 2007.
[I was kind of surprised that this was classified as a screwball comedy, because it's not terribly screwy, but it sure feels sad a lot of the time. Jimmy Stewart's unbelievable in this, and I really like that it's fairly ambiguous who she's going to go with for a lot of the movie. Good stuff, you guys. Plus Katherine Hepburn was hot. I like seeing all these hot Golden Age of Hollywood ladies. The more screwball comedies I see, the more I think I was made for the thirties. I probably woulda been an awesome dude back then. As it stands now, I'm kind of middling to great, depending on the day.]

Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese. [A] february 23rd 2007.
[I saw this at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater and Michael Ballhaus was there to talk about it. Seeing this on the big screen was a fairly revelatory experience for me. I never really held this movie in terribly high regard before seeing it here. It was good and everything, I totally acknowledged that, but it never really did anything for me before this. I got into it this time, more than I had before. There's a certain amount of so-whatness that this movie elicits from me, but biopics tend to do that to me, even though I enjoy them. Oddly enough, I responded really well almost immediately to The Aviator. Anyway, this movie is technically virtuosic and a blast to watch and not as shallow as I once considered it to be, although I don't think it's terribly deep or anything, either.

Some neat things: In that montage at the end where they're discovering all the corpses, there's a shot where we see a mobster's frozen body on a meat truck. The way they did that scene was by having a steadicam operator stand on a platform attached to a crane. The crane lowered, down to the level of the truck bed and then the guy just stepped off of it and walked down the length of it for the rest of the shot. Isn't that totally neat? Also, the Copacabana shot was done like so: they had a fake hallway set up that the camera follows Henry and Karen through and into the kitchen. While they were looping around the kitchen, the crew was moving those walls around and redressing them so that when they were done in the kitchen, they could walk through those very same walls and into the actual club itself. Wild. Scorsese was real specific about the floating table in that shot, so they had to do multiple takes to accomodate that and they also had to do multiple takes cause the waiter at the end flubbed his lines or something. And actually the wildest thing about that shot is that they couldn't ride the exposure or anything, so they actually lit that whole sequence to one f-stop. That's nuts! Ok.]

Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. [B-] february 24th 2007.
[Hey, you know. It was funnish. Best Picture is some ridiculous shit, but the Oscars are dumb anyway, so what can you do? The ending was pretty bad and that whole "let your freak flag fly" thing got really simple and silly, but the movie's not a grating experience and there were probably worse ways I could have avoided sleeping than watching this. I'm fairly ambivalent towards it.]

After Image, Robert Manganelli. [F] february 26th 2007.
[The director, cinematographer and lead actress came to my class to speak about this. They were nice and their insights into the filmmaking process were really useful, but this movie's bad to the bone. John Cougar fuckin Mellencamp, man. I really don't even wanna talk about this.]

Blue Velvet, David Lynch. [A] february 26th 2007.
[I made a pretty sweet post about this movie in August. I just re-read it, maybe you'd like to re-read it, too. Arguably for the first time:

Someday I'd like The Latham Loop to go back to its past glories and be more like this entry. That's really more of what I set out to do with this thing. I mean, what I set out to do was to further expand my film education by forcing myself to confront and explore my comprehension of a film by attempting to articulate myself about it in ways that went beyond the superficial "I liked it/didn't like it" type conversations I usually had with people. I don't feel that my monthly log blurbs are shallow - although they certainly can be - but I do think it's important to note that they were once viewed as the supplementary material to the meat of this thing, rather than the main, once per month content.]

His Girl Friday, Howard Hawks. [/] february 27th 2007.
[I hate that I was so tired that I fell asleep during this in class. So it goes. ADDED TO TEH QUEEUE

(I honestly didn't mean to type it like that, but I saw the typos and decided to leave them. I guess this note defuses it of any comedy value, but then again TEH INTERNETS type jokes aren't really that funny. I should delete this whole thing.)]

The 40 Year Old Virgin, Judd Apatow. [A-] february 28th 2007.
[I've talked about this a couple times on here. I like it a lot.]