Saturday, June 09, 2007

Now this is just getting embarassing

Listen, I know I watch a lot of movies. More than the average bear, to say the least. But this is only the second week I've done this and . . . well, I may have to start hiding the number of movies I watch when school picks up again. Granted, that Videomatica deal has something to do with it. I generally don't go this overboard. But I'm on vacation from the 17th to the 24th, so I'm trying to get as many movies as possible in before that time.

Double Indemnity: After seeing The Lady Eve last week, I was on a serious Barbara Stanwyck hunt. I also wanted to see it because it was directed (and co-written) by Billy Wilder, who made one of the most perfect movies ever, and I'm trying to see as many of his films as possible. (No, I still haven't seen Sunset Boulevard.) I don't know what it was about Billy Wilder films that made Fred MacMurray willing to play against type, but I like it. Can't you just imagine him as the William Holden character in Sabrina, too? And Stanwyck was, of course, perfect. The movie was co-written by Raymond Chandler so it has a ton of that "the dame was as hard-boiled as the egg I'd had for breakfast" talk, which is almost hilarious after reading one too many noir Calvin & Hobbes strips. Still, the murder plan is fascinating and I loved the way both characters were clearly faking their desire for each other. My only caveat is that I'm not sure how it would hold up to repeat viewing since I wanted to keep watching in part just because I wanted to see how it all fell apart.

: Beautiful, astonishing sets and special effects. I loved the scene where Freder is traveling across Metropolis and the movie takes time to pause and stare at every bit of scenery. Normally I am bored by this sort of thing and want to just GET ON WITH THE STORY ALREADY - that's part of why I love Children of Men so much- but the story kinda blows. I was bored halfway through and just wanted to explore this wonderful world. Why is is that a movie from 1927 holds me fascinated by its visual style far more than the millions of dollars George Lucas or Peter Jackson throws at the screen? (Except for the dinosaurs in King Kong. They were bitchin'.)

Wet Hot American Summer: Currently holds the "Most Embarassing Movie Title to Ever Bring Up in Conversation, No, it's Not Porn, I Swear" prize. I'd heard about this movie for a while - mostly while browsing Fametracker - and why has no one ever heard of it? It's hilarious! It takes place on the last day of summer camp in 1981, and has Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce and Paul Rudd and Christopher Meloni! It is rated R, but damn is it funny without being stupid / embarassing. There's a talking can of tomatoes, and much mocking of the "everything happens in one day" sub-genre, and part of SkyLab crashes to earth, and Christopher Meloni is a crazy Vietnam vet but manages to be original. It's great.

But I'm a Cheerleader: Meh. Clea DuVall was charming, but she always is. It just made me wish there was a documentary about these religious sexual reorientation camps, because this was so obviously over the top that it made me wonder what they're actually like.

An Inconvenient Truth: I put off seeing this for a very long time because I knew it would scare me . . . but it didn't, actually. It's funny and alarming and astonishingly personal, and yes it is shocking (American emission standards are lower than China's?!?!), but not at the expense of the sense of an intelligent dialogue. I expected "OMG the earth is dying kill your car," but found I wasn't being insulted or talked down to. Documentaries continue to surprise me with just how interesting they can be sometimes, like Who Killed the Electric Car?, even though cars don't interest me at all. And yes, I am a dirty Canadian hippie and even though I know if he'd been elected he'd still be too right-wing for me, it make me wish so hard that someday I'd wake up and find out Al Gore won the 2000 election. Sigh.

Waitress: I'd wanted to see this for a long time, as soon as I read Dustin Rowles's review. I mean, quirky indie featuring Captain Tightpants himself? Count me in! But going to Waitress because you want to see Malcom Reynolds is like going to see Brokeback Mountain because it would be totally hot to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make out. This movie made me hurt. It made me hurt because it felt so, so real - a strange way to describe a semi-magical romantic comedy - but it's true. The sadness that goes beyond the melancoly moping most often seen on screen at the heart of Jenna's life hits you like a hammer.

And it's strange really, that a movie set in the South with magical food and quirky waitresses and grumpy old men and a surprise pregnancy can feel so original, but it did. I've never seen this movie before, in any way. I don't know what switch must have been flipped a few months ago regarding my crying at the movies, but it flipped hard. This movie had me crying more often than anything else - sometimes because I was sad, sometimes because I was happy, sometimes because this movie just hit me so hard. It stays with you, this feeling about this movie.
If you want to read another love letter to Waitress, check out Daniel Carlson's, another writer for Pajiba.

Sullivan's Travels: Another one of my "I loved The Lady Eve so much..." movies, this was also directed by Preston Sturges. It's got a neat idea behind it - director wants to make movie about how life is for the poor, so decides to go undercover with ten cents in his pocket because he's always been priveleged - but it doesn't stick to it. In the early part of his voyages, he keeps winding up back in Hollywood, which is funny and carries the theme of the movie well. Then he really does live amongst the poor in hardship - which would have been more effective if it had been covered in more than a two-minute-long montage. Finally, through a series of unfortunate events, he is considered dead by the world at large but really is in a hard labour camp and learns the importance of humour. I thought Veronica Lake was better than I expected (though to be fair, all I knew of her before was Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential); Joel McCrea was good in the comedic parts, not so much with the drama; and while I appreciate the message I think it would have been better served by a funnier movie - aka, The Lady Eve.

Oh, and the name of the dramatic movie Sullivan (McCrea) wants to make? O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Thin Man: Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) are indeed better than I could ever have imagined. The rest of the movie? I could take it or leave it, except perhaps the Christmas party scene with all the sloppy drunks.

Jesus of Montreal: I'd already seen this, but it was even better than I'd remembered. The first time I saw it I didn't click that Robert Lepage was acting in it. I could go on and on about how awesome Lepage is and gush over The Andersen Project, but that would detract from Jesus. Anyway, great movie still, and the talent of Lothaire Bluteau makes me weep for English Canadian cinema. Why is it that we raise any Canadian so-and-so who makes it in Hollywood to near-mythical levels, yet ignore the talent within our own borders? Arrgh!

Jeffrey: Had also already seen this. Not as good as I remembered, sadly. The last scene does retain its charm, fortunately, but not much else does.

Dead Again: Holy CRAP was this movie good! Kenneth Branagh! Emma Thompson! Film noir in '40s Los Angeles! Unreliable narrators!!!

Ok, let's tone down the fangirl for a moment. All I really knew about this movie was that a) it was one of the movies Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were in together, b) they each played two roles, parallel lovers across time, and c) it was really hard to find. BBC Canada played it a couple months ago, but they like playing all the best movies at 2 in the morning.

I can't ever give you a straight answer on whether or not I like Kenneth Branagh. He's very very smart and a good adaptor of Shakespeare, but he gives in to weird choices too often (casting Matthew Lillard in a '30s-set Love's Labour's Lost complete with song-and-dance numbers? casting a Desdemona with a thick accent? Keanu Reeves?!?!). He's really very cute sometimes, but looks like a complete moron with any sort of facial hair (which includes all five hours of Hamlet.) He married Emma Thompson, who I totally want to grow up to be, but then allegedly cheated on her. He played Hamlet and Henry V and Benedick and Iago, but isn't the best actor I've seen in any of those roles (except for Benedick).

Whether or not I like Kenneth Branagh is a question to which I clearly devote far too much energy. Nevertheless, I will still watch just about any movie he directs, especially from the early '90s - of which Dead Again definitely counts. I won't attempt to summarize the plot, because I think it's best the more of it which is left a surprise. Suffice it to say that it involves dual storylines about a murder in 1949 and current events of 1991, and uses reincarnation, hypnosis and past lives without being cheesy or stupid. Also, both Ken and Em are in American accents for most of the film, which was a bit of a surprise to say the least.

Sigh. Why couldn't those two crazy kids make it work?

It has its faults, to be sure, but I really enjoyed this movie it made me long for a parallel world where there were more twisty turny movies with excellent casts and scripts.

Bringing Up Baby: Not what I expected. Very, very silly. Other screwballs I've seen, like the muchly aforementioned The Lady Eve or the absolutely dreadful Twentieth Century, are at least grounded somewhat in realism. Even though Henry Fonda's falling all over couches, he can still be considered a straight man because he's not really in on the joke. In Bringing Up Baby, everyone is in on the joke.

This is really, really fun when it's just Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant bouncing off each other. He's all buttoned-up and bespectacled and looking like he's waiting for someone to back him into a corner and breathe on his glasses, to quote Professor Harold Hill; meanwhile, she's the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl but she's Katherine Hepburn so we still like her. It's not so much fun when we get to the police station about an hour into the film and no one can speak. It's stupid misunderstandings that have brought them here, and I refuse to believe that "someone else is talking, so I will open and shut my mouth futilely like a guppy" is an acceptable excuse for not getting the damn point across. See, the thing is, I loved the parts with just Grant and Hepburn so much that I hated getting to the jail because other people just kept stepping over their words and doing away with what made the previous hour so damn enjoyable.


At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any more movie reviews this week?


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