Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Screening Log: November

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009) (v) *** - Trippy.

Platform (Jia Zhang Ke, 2000) (v) **** - Time still changes everything.

House of Bamboo (Sam Fuller, 1955) (v) *** - Location, location, location.

The Box (Richard Kelly, 2009) *** - I.e., Richard Kelly's Eyes Wide Shut.

The Roaring Twenties (Raoul Walsh, 1939) (v) (r) **** - Time changes everything.

The Plow That Broke the Plains (Pare Lorentz, 1936) (v) ****

Humpday (Lynn Shelton, 2009) (v) * - Points for attempt to subvert Apatowian morality.

Little Odessa (James Gray, 1994) (v) ***

The Big Mouth (Jerry Lewis, 1967) ***

The Matrix Revolutions (The Wachowski Brothers, 2003) (v) (r) ** - I liked this much better on second viewing. I think it's rather ballsy of the Brothers to stage an elaborate James Cameron-style action sequence featuring characters that we've never really seen before and that no audience anywhere at anytime ever gave two shits about.

The Matrix Reloaded (The Wachowski Brothers, 2003) (v) (r) **

Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003) (v) ***

The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009) (v)

Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, 2008) (v) *** - Subtle and moving.

Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, 2006) (v) **** - At this point, my favorite of Hong's movies. I think I'll have more to say about this later, when I compose my "best of the decade" comments.

Up (Pete Docter, 2009) (v) ** - Entertaining and, for the most, inventive, but the action-packed final Act hits all the familiar Pixar notes and the story itself grabs onto Spielberg-style emotional manipulation instead of reaching for its own kind of profundity à la Wall-E and Ratatouille.

Comedy of Power (Claude Chabrol, 2006) (v) **

Predator 2 (Stephen Hopkins, 1990) (v) (r) * - Enjoyable hodge-podge of 1980s action movie clichés.

Little Big Horn (Charles Marquis Warren, 1951) (v) *** - Trust Manny Farber.

Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009) (v) * - I'll have more to say about this later, but, for now all I have is: "Live by the stunt, die by the stunt."

Universal Soldiers (Roland Emmerich, 1992) (v) - See here.

Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990) (v) (r) ****

Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003) (v) (r) ** - As a take on an event - or as an "event" in its own right - it comes up short. As an experiment in perspective and long-take, though, it's effective and moving (if a bit slight). I do think, though, that the tracking shot through the cafeteria, following the three girls, is better than any of the similar moves Alfonso Cuaron pulls in Y Tu Mama Tambien.

A Serious Man (The Coen Bros., 2009) **** - This movie inspired my new blog. I think it's pretty great: the Coens have, in a way, made an "inside-out" version of the kind of movie they usually make. Their movies always ask their audiences to look for clues, patterns, webs of meaning (i.e., the importance placed on names and "nomenclature" in The Big Lebowski, the way P.O.V. shots work in No Country for Old Men), but A Serious Man is about that search for meaning and the (im)possibility that we can find any kind of answer in a story. Or, rather, the possibility that instead of an answer all we can ever hope for is mere surmise.

Key:

(v) = Seen on home video (dvd, dvr, etc.).
(r) = Not my first viewing.
(s) = Short film.

Star system ("borrowed" from the Chicago Reader)

No stars = Not recommended
* = Redeeming feature(s)
** = Recommended
*** = Highly recommended
**** = "Masterpiece"
***** = A place in my personal pantheon

2 comments:

Sean T. Collins said...

Re: Matrix Revolutions--I think it's more stupid than ballsy. Stupid is the primary characteristic, regardless.

Jon Hastings said...

I think it's a different quality of stupid, though, from that of your standard effects-heavy action movie (like Transformers, say). They're taking a genuine risk on two levels:

(1) They're adding a whole new kind of action sequence to the Matrix universe. Up until that point, the action has been derived from wuxia, John Woo, anime, and super-hero comics. But the battle on the docks is an attempt to outdo James Cameron. (I think it looks beautiful, too: all the sparks and machinery and explosion!)

(2) They're focusing on not even secondary characters but tertiary characters. And in doing so they're trying to play against the idea that they built up in the previous two movies that everything is dependent on "The One". It's an attempt to fold the kind of work that, say, the Star Wars expanded universe stuff about Wedge Antilles does into the center of their trilogy proper. I don't think they manage to bring the audience with them, but I think that's because they reach the limits of the kind of story you can tell within the conventions of the action/adventure "hero-on-a-journey" movie.