Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Movies: This week's about love of all kinds. And a psychic mind battle.

I'll try to make this round quick as I'm not feeling so hot and I ended up watching a couple more movies than usual this week.

Behind The Candelabra (2013) Steven Soderbergh

I liked this one. Michael Douglas's take on Liberace as this lonely, controlling guy is equal parts sympathetic and concerning. Matt Damon has a way of making his clueless character endearing. Soderbergh is great at creating this pervasive sadness and isolation amidst fame and excess. This is the kind of thing where you just want to reach out and stop everyone from going down these dark roads, and it's not so much because you like them, but more because you care about how they're treating each other. There's a very deep investment in the relationships between these characters that lies at the heart of the enjoyment and sorrow that I experienced watching this movie. I also watched the movie through the corner of my eye for a bit because there's also a lot of pretty gory plastic surgery. Not like an excessive amount, but like still a surprising amount.

Undefeated (2011) Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

It's, you know, it's a sports documentary. I love those. They're usually heartbreaking and exciting. This one's about a High School football team that was notoriously bad, turning it around and making a run to win their first playoff game in school history, but really it's about these kids in Tennessee and how their coach looks out for them and teaches them about life and being a man. It's a sports documentary. It's fine. You'll like it.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) Ang Lee

I liked this one too.  What was interesting to me was how effectively Ang Lee uses that pastoral motif as an indicator of freedom.  When Ennis and Jack are in their respective cities or towns or whatever the shots are constricting and small with Ennis and Jack trapped in these crowded lives that they don't care about, but when they are in Wyoming all the shots are wide and open and it's just Ennis and Jack, and it feels free.  It's a simple idea, that cities are places of isolation and that the wilderness gives you freedom, but those big shots of the Wyoming sky and the mountains and the water really sell that.

Romeo + Juliet (1996) Baz Luhrmann

I don't know much about the nuances of Shakespeare, but Tessa assures me that a lot of these line readings are off. I was more focused on how exciting all of it looks. The Capulets have this cool, Spanish gunfighter / mafia aesthetic, and the Montagues have, um, hawaiian shirts? Everything about this movie is snappy, pushing the audience along, and it feels like Baz Luhrmann was doing his best to make it as quick and flashy as possible in order to get the audience so swept up in the spectacle that they wouldn't get a chance to realize that what they were watching was (ugh) THEATRE. I've always remembered being down with this movie. Leguizamo's Tybalt was the coolest, and DiCaprio's Romeo was such a little shithead. I like the part at the end where Romeo's too busy talking about how pumped he is to kill himself for love that he doesn't even see Juliet is beneath him literally reaching up to give him a "ha we did it we tricked the grownups" smooch.
You know what was weird? The way that Luhrmann keeps the camera moving and cutting, it made this one feel sort of like an Edgar Wright movie. Is that weird?

Scanners (1981) David Cronenberg

Not my favorite Cronenberg, but still one I enjoy a lot. It's weird seeing a less craggy Michael Ironside. He's so imposing and humorless looking, such a great bad guy. There's a pretty sizable portion of this movie that just sort of plods along, but the final confrontation between Ironside and the bewildered protagonist makes sure you leave the experience with no doubt that you just watched a Cronenberg movie. I also like how Cronenberg thinks computers work, like you can call a computer on the phone and explode it and it just sort of bleeds and melts. Do you think Cronenberg likes Katsuhiro Otomo? He must, right? Did that American live action Akira start production yet? Is it too late to get Cronenberg on that? Would that be awful?

The Canyons (2013) Paul Schrader

I had a lot of fun watching this, but man, this is a BAD movie.  Tessa said something like "if you didn't know who James Deen was, and someone told you that one of these actors is known for being a famous pornstar, you wouldn't be able to pick out who it was.  This movie is like porn acting without all the sex."  And she's right.
There's a lot to enjoy about this movie, if watching and loudly mocking bad movies with your friends is your thing (it's certainly one of mine, I'm a millenial in a low-income tax bracket just like any of us).  My personal favorite was James Deen's very purposeful facial expressions.  It's as if someone told him before shooting that he should remember that acting isn't just in how you say the lines, but how your face looks when you say those lines, and he just took that advice and could not stop thinking about it.  Every James Deen scene it's like James Deen is desperately trying to get you to identify his character's line reading.  This is the line where I'm upset.  This is the line where I'm concerned.  Oh shit this line, this line is my favorite, it's the one where I'm manipulating you.  It's this utter refusal to be subtle that carries into the rest of this continuously awful movie.
There's this one scene where this character Ryan is asking his boss for more work or something because he needs the money and the way the shot is framed, the boss is leaning on a desk that Ryan is sitting in front of so that his crotch is level with Ryan's face (itunes won't let me do screengrabs, and I can't find a picture of this moment online so bear with me), and it's like Paul Schrader is screaming at you like "DO YOU GET IT IT'S ABOUT SEX AND POWER YOU FUCKING MORONS DO YOU GET IT," and you're like "yeah dude, I get it. I got it when this fucking scene started," and then Schrader's like "OK BUT IT'S ABOUT SEX AND POWER DON'T WORRY I'LL REMIND YOU ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS SCENE WITH SOME LENGTHY EXPOSITION IN THE LITERAL NEXT SCENE."  And that's what happens for the rest of the movie: A thing happens every other scene and the scenes in between are spent with the characters talking about what just happened.
Anyway it's a garbage movie, and if you're still curious about it there was this great New York times piece about the production of it that's actually worth your time.
Oh also there's this scene where Lohan is reading her texts through this bullshit thing called TextTV, which I guess is supposed to be some sort of app that projects your text conversations onto the television screen because I guess a lot of people in this movie were having this problem where they were like "I love reading texts, but if only I could read them on a television screen like a movie star does," which is a totally realistic thing that I'm sure real people have thought about.
Oh and I just remembered that Brett Easton Ellis wrote this movie?? What a shit movie.  Fuck that guy.

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