Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mishima at the Harvard Film Archives

I've meant to see this movie for some time now. I like the Paul Schrader scripts and movies I've seen. And I'm very into the Mishima novels I've read. Even outside of his novels, the way in which Mishima died is fascinating and worthy of a movie. To tell the story of Mishima, Schrader employs a very unique structure that blends novels with biography while spending a significant amount of time on Mishima's suicide. The novels are presented as staged plays and were probably my favorite part of the movie. Schrader utilized very impressive and color coded back drops through the novel sequences, which stressed their unreality. The one complaint I would have had is the biography sections did little to explain the enigma that is Mishima. The movie mostly focused on his death and his novels. Schrader was at the Film Archives for this presentation and I found him to be very upfront and frank during the question and answers sessions. He also swore as much as you would expect from the man who brought the world Taxi Driver.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Bloody Valentine 3D at the Fenway Cinema

I'm a bit of a 3D aficionado. My first 3D film was Spy Kids 3. That's right fucking Spy Kids. I hadn't seen the other two but the lure of 3D was too strong. Then there was my favorite Friday the 13th in 3D at the Coolidge. Horror just lends itself to 3D so well with eyeballs flying out at the audience and machetes looming out over the screen. Also, then there was the Coolidge's annual 3D series. I've been to a bunch of those. I really really like 3D and I'm very excited that its coming back as a technology. That being said, My Bloody Valentine in 3D contained some of the most impressive 3D that I've ever seen. The depth of the 3D was some of the largest I've ever experienced in a theater. When a character points a shotgun into the camera, the image protrudes a mile out of the screen. How was the rest of the movie? Just alright. Pretty standard 80s slasher with lots of gore and some good nudity. I actually was a bit bored near the end and just waiting for the movie to be over. If you have any interest in seeing it, you must see it in the theater. There is no point otherwise.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gran Torino at The Somerville Theater

Sometimes it's hard to determine why a certain movie doesn't work for you. This is the way I feel about Gran Torino. There were good points throughout the movie, but in the end something was missing. In Gran Torino, Eastwood returns to being in front of the camera. He stars as Walt, a factory worker, whose neighborhood has been taken over with Asians. A bit of a racist, Walt employs every slur in the book as he interacts with his neighbors. He also grunts alot. Eventually, he befriends his neighbors and gets drawn into their troubles with a local gang. There is something pretty fucking funny as Eastwood as this old racist codger hurling insults at all who offend him. But unfortunately, many of the other characters in the movie seem mostly one dimensional. Eastwood's family for example are motivated only by what they can inherit from Walt. I felt like an opportunity to add depth to the movie was lost in portraying them in such a negative fashion. Also, the trailer to the movie gave a good deal of the plot away with it. Eastwood doesn't like Asians. Saves kid from Gang. Eastwood likes Asians. Eastwood must do something about gang. Pretty much the whole plot of the movie was shown in the trailer. Also, the ending isn't that hard to guess once you've seen most of the movie. Overall, Gran Torino was an interesting choice for Eastwood. A little less important than his most recent films and surprisingly funny, but still missing something.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Top Ten Movies of 2008

1.) Rambo- I know some people will probably think I'm being purposefully ironic with this as my favorite movie of the year. But this movie completely blew me away. Its a real action movie that is beautiful in its simplicity. It also has tons of balls and tons of violence and made me very happy. It sort of resembled a haiku. An incredibly violent haiku.

2.)Iron Man- Great script. Great actor. Great Directing. Alot of fun.

3.)Burn After Reading- I actually prefer this over last years "No Country for Old Men." While not as tense and important, Burn After Reading is filled with creativity and very very funny.

4.) In Bruges- The way crime movies should be made. Great characters and a great script.

5.)Vicky Christine Barcelona- I think moving his movies out of NYC has really reinvigorated Woody Allen. Scarlett Johansen is terrible, but everything else about the movie is great.

6.)Slumdog Millionaire

7.) Milk

8.)Wall-E- I love Pixar. The first twenty minutes of Wall E are almost entirely devoid of dialogue. Pretty gutsy for a children's movie, don't you think? Pixar knows you don't need to dumb down movies for children.

9.)The Wrestler- I can't believe I liked it this much.

10.) Valkyrie

Honorable Mentions-
The Ruins
Synecdoche NY
Let the Right One In
The Girl who Lept Through Time

The Wrestler at the Loews Harvard Square

I don't like Darren Aronofsky. Pi was little more than a glorified student film to me with each camera shot trying to out do the next. Requiem for a Dream was a shallow look at drug abuse with camera shots that showed a complete lack of restraint. I didn't even bother with The Fountain. Granted, it was apparent that Aronofsky had talent, he just wasn't making the kind of movies I like. After noticing The Wrestler gracing many top ten lists for this year, I decided to give Darren another shot and I'm glad I did. Gone are all the disruptive camera shots and angles that would take me out of his earlier films, the film is beautifully shot. Its direction perfectly complements its script. The Wrestler tells the story of Randy "The Ram" (Mickey Rourke) twenty years after his glory days as a wrestler. He tries to patch things up with his daughter and tries to woo a stripper
(Marisa Tomei); all the while doing what he really loves- wrestling. I was worried that The Wrestler would be little more than a morality tale about the excesses of wrestling. And yes there is some of that in there. But more than anything this movie is about what it means to have to give up something you love. "The Ram" loves to wrestle. The ending of The Wrestler is brilliant. None of the story threads are forcibly tied up in an unnatural or unfitting way for "The Ram," yet there is a very clear ending that reinforces perfectly the previous 2 hours of the movie. Overall, "The Wrestler" is Darren Aronofsky's best movie and one of the best of the year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and In the Realm of Senses at the Brattle Theater

The Brattle said they bought this Oshima double feature back because of popular demand. I guess the five people in the audience with me must have really been clamoring for it. I wasn't. After seeing Night and Fog in Japan a few weeks ago, I didn't think I liked Oshima too much. I never wrote about Night and Fog because I walked out of it and I didn't think it would be fair to write a review of a film that I couldn't even sit through. Regardless, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed these two movie significantly more and have been made into a Oshima convert. Both movie are meticulously directed and photographed with bold bright colors. In Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Oshima explores a Japanese Pow camp through the eyes of a British soldier that speaks Japanese. Cultures clash and eventually even after the allies win the war, the audience is left wondering if anything really ever changes. In the Realm of Senses on the other hand is about sex. It's a fairly explicit film. There is little plot, but alot of fucking. Oshima turns the audience into voyeurs and reinforces this by having much of the cast observing the sex on screen. As the sex gets more and more unusual, it begins to become self-destructive. Although I did like it, after an hour of continuous sex it was starting to get a little dull. But overall both movies surprised and impressed me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Valkyrie at the Landmark Embassy Cinema

Valkyrie is the story of Col. Stauffenberg; injured in the war, Col Stauffenberg eventually recovers and leads a plot to assassinate Hitler. Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise and if you look up Stauffenberg's picture online there is an eerie resemblance. I always thought Tom Cruise looked like a Nazi. Typically, I try not to reveal too much of the plot in my reviews, but you already know the end to Valkyrie. Hitler lives and eventually dies at his own hands in a bunker. Throughout, Bryan Singer's movie there is a feeling of foreboding that hangs over the heads of the characters. The audience knows where this is all leading. Singer is able to build suspense anyway. During the failed bombing, the camera flashes back and forth between locations as the tensions build. The pace of the cuts quickens building the suspense. The movie is written by Christopher McQuarrie, the writer of the Usual Suspects. The script picks up right away and holds your interest up into the tragic ending. Valkyrie surpassed my expectations for it and I thought Singer's direction elevated it from typical historical drama into something special.