Saturday, November 22, 2008

The General at the Harvard Film Archive

Beautifully shot in black and white, The General is an impeccably directed film by John Boorman. More stripped down than most of his other movies, Boorman's pacing from scene to scene and the way in which he frames the action couldn't be any better. The General follows Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) from local thug to criminal genius. Cahill has a great irish sense of humor when it comes to his misdemeanors. Beneath his frivolous exterior, Cahill is a complicated man. When the police retaliates and kills all of his pigeons, he tells his son to smile, to not show any weakness. For the most part, Cahill tries to present as a man with abundant strength. Hiding behind his hands or a big hood, Cahill can't bring himself to face his accusers. Boorman was in attendance for the screening. He was presented with a life time achievement award and took part in a question and answer. Typical of most Q&As, the questions were fairly asinine. For the most part, Boorman was pretty abrupt, answering questions with little interest. Overall though, the movie was great and it was exciting to get a glimpse at one of the most unique living filmmakers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Synecdoche, New York at the Kendall Square Cinema

Synecdoche, New York is a difficult film. Based on some of the reviews I've read prior to this screening, too difficult for some people to enjoy. I have a barometer for difficult films. I don't necessarily need to understand them. And I don't fully understand Synecdoche. But I do need to enjoy them. And I did enjoy Synecdoche. Although some of the images may be beyond my understanding, the general theme of the movie and the ideas that Charlie Kaufman toys with kept me interested and actively involved throughout. In Synecdoche, play director Phillip Seymour Hoffman thinks he is dying. His wife leaves him just before he receives a significant grant to create his masterpiece. He begins to create a play based on his world and the world of those around him. Reality and theater blend together and become confused. Typical of a Charlie Kaufman movie, the characters are presented as harsh and realistic, which contrasts with the more surreal scenes and imagery. In the first movie he has directed, Charlie Kaufman attempts to capture all that life encompasses from dating to death and he succeeds creating a film that has both a significant amount of depth and detail .

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let The Right One In at the Kendall Square Cinema

Something I don't particularly like about myself is that if I see a movie with a group of people and they don't like it, I become unsure of my own opinion of it. I went to see "Let the Right One in" with Carlson and April and the minute it was over Carlson said, "thanks Kevin, that was terrible." April wasn't particularly into it either. Defending it outside the theater, I found myself saying that it was just alright and I felt like there was something missing. But the more time that has passed, the more I've found myself thinking back to it. It was pretty fucking cool actually. "Let the Right One in" tells the story of Oskar, a kid who gets picked on by bullies at school, and as a result spends his time dreaming of revenge. He meets his next door neighbor Eli and they become friends and then lovers (as much so as 12 year olds can be lovers). The one hitch is that Eli is a vampire. The movie expands and reinterprets vampire mythology and does so in a series of very creative kills. "Let the Right One in" isn't perfect. Thematically I'm unsure of what it adds up to, although I feel fairly certain it was trying to draw parallels between Oskar's violence and Eli's incredible thirst. But overall the movie was able to reinvent the vampire enough to impress me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Viaggio in Italia at the Harvard Film Archives

In Roberto Rossellini's Viaggio in Italia, Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are a married couple traveling to Naples to dispose of a deceased uncle's villa. Their marriage isn't strong anymore. Stuck together in the villa, their vacation starts to unravel bringing to the surface the unpleasantness they feel for one another. Ingrid Bergman takes off on her own to explore Naples from its crypts to its volcanoes. George Sanders, on the other hand, begins to pursue other woman, flirting with them, but never taking it beyond that. Rossellini effectively documents the decline of their marriage, emphasizing every non-verbal and silent moment between the two of them. The camera is simple and unobtrusive. It's through this starkness that Rossellini captures the destructive boredom in their marriage. Every silence is heightened by the camera. Viaggio in Italia is a simple movie on the surface, but in actuality it contains significant depth and detail.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Fly at The Brattle

So I got to the Kendall tonight to find out that My Name is Bruce was sold out...for the entire night! I mean are you fucking kidding me? I love Bruce Campbell as much as anyone, but sold out three hours before the show? Trying to make the most of a spoiled night, I had my roommate drop me off at The Brattle to check out the original version of The Fly. The Fly is a B-movie or so The Brattle has it billed as such. It really isn't a B-movie. The acting is too good. The directing is solid. The movie takes itself entirely seriously and tries to create suspense throughout as to what happened Andre Delambra. The basic plot is similar to the remake; a man is working on a teleportation machine and he accidentally gets his molecules mixed up with a fly. Unlike Cronenberg's Fly which focuses on the transformation of Seth Brundle, this version focuses more on the mystery of what happened to Andre and the ramifications that his change has on his family. The ending is iconic. I won't spoil it. I had an idea of what it was going to be, but the way Kurt Neumann directs it supercedes any expectations that I may have had. It is both perverse and horrific. And I fucking loved it! I almost am glad I missed My Name is Bruce. The Fly is an excellent movie that I was completely immersed in because of surprising acting and directing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Heroes for Sale and Son of Kong at the Brattle

I started off with Heroes for Sale, a pre-code melodrama by William Wellman that follows war hero Tom Holmes through the turbulent period between World War 1 and the Great Depression. The taboo pre-code stuff is mainly Tom's morphine addiction after the war. He started taking it to curb the pain of his war wounds, but soon becomes addicted. I found the portrayal of drug addiction in Heroes for Sale to be unusually sympathetic for the time. Tom is a good person who tries to do the right thing, but somehow things always turn wrong. When Tom is rebuilding his life and trying to raise a family, the movie lags a little; but thankfully fortune does not favor Tom and he gets wrapped up in a proletariat riot and everything turns sour again. After Heroes for Sale, the Brattle showed the sequel to King Kong, Son of Kong. While Son of Kong does not feature the same scope or sexual subtexts of King Kong, it does deliver some fun monkey models punching things. Starting off a little slow, things really pick up when Carl Denham returns to Skull Island and meets a miniature Kong. After saving the little Kong, Carl earns his trust and friendship. A little more playful and goofy than his father, the tiny Kong takes on an over-sized bear and some sort of enraged dinosaur to protect his new friends. Kiddy Kong kicks both of their asses. At one point he gets the bear in a headlock and just pummels him like Rodney King. The Son of Kong features the same great stop-motion as the original King Kong and is a fairly enjoyable movie in its own right.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bruce Campbell at the Kendall Square Cinema

Bruce will be doing a question and answer after My Name is Bruce on November 7th and 8th for the 7:00 and 9:45 showings.

Horror Marathon at the Coolidge Corner Theater

When we first got to the Coolidge, they were wrapping up their zombie prom dance. There wasn’t all that many ghouls on stage just a few weirdos looking sheepish like at an 8th grade dance. Not really too interested in it, we went back downstairs to get good seats for the horror marathon. When we got down there, we were told that the first two movies were going to be shown in the smaller and not nearly as good theater upstairs. I was fucking pissed. I asked why and the person working said she didn’t even know. So we trudged back upstairs to the crap theater only to find all the good seats were gone. We ended up sitting front row and to the left. They were terrible, terrible seats. One of the guys who worked there got up on stage and explained that due to how many tickets they sold, they were going to move the whole marathon back downstairs. Thank fucking god. So we went downstairs a little early and snagged some pretty good seats and settled in waiting for Prom Night. Prom Night was pretty good. Definitely a movie that was enhanced by a theater experience, Prom Night is pretty standard slasher fare. There are lots of cheesy lines of dialogue and goofy acting that the audience was laughing their asses off over. As far as gore goes, Prom Night was pretty tame and it usually cut away before any of the gruesomeness. There was one pretty nice dance floor decapitation. While I enjoyed it in the theater, there wasn’t anything there that elevated it above a Friday the 13th even. The next movie was Pumpkinhead. This one I really enjoyed. It was directed by Stan Winston with incredible monster designs. Unlike most horror movies, Pumpkinhead doesn’t try to build tension around what the monster might look like; rather it shows him almost from the get go, so the audience can appreciate the incredible design. Pumpkinhead had a fairly creepy plot about a father dealing with the death of his son, who unwisely invokes a vengeance demon in his grief. Winston creates a creepy atmosphere throughout, as Lance Henrikson navigates through woods, graveyards and abandoned churches in an attempt to stop the demon. Next up was Demons, a movie I was really looking forward to seeing. Basically, an audience of movie goers are watching a movie about demons attacking when demons start attacking the theater- pretty simple stuff. Thankfully, the movie was loaded with gore. It also was pretty funny too and not just in a bad translation Italian horror way. There were great one liners throughout. Also, there were actually some pretty awesome and over the top characters like a pimp and his two whores. They tried to play The Howling next, but there was something wrong with the print and every voice just sounded like a guttural groan. Unfortunately, they didn’t let it play like this and just scrapped it for the next movie. I would have loved to have seen the werewolf sex scene with distorted audio. Instead of The Howling, we got Tarantino and Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. Part crime movie, part vampire slaughter fest, From Dusk Till Dawn is a solid little horror entry. It felt like a true B-movie and not as schlocky or played for laughs as Planet Terror. Finally, they played the other movie I was really looking forward to From Beyond. With the same director and actor as Re-Animator, I had some high hopes for From Beyond. It wasn’t what I expected at all though. I did like it, but it was just incredibly weird- a Videodrome S&M kind of weird, a genitilia shaped brainstem kind of weird, a glob of human putty like flesh kind of weird. Most of the people I went with slept through this movie. A poor choice for the last film of the night with its slowish kind of pacing. They showed one more movie instead of The Howling some weird sort of Japanese pink film with nudity prevalent all over the opening credits. It looked pretty interesting but it was a projection, and very late, and subtitled. So we just said fuck it and took off.