Movies of the Weeks #26 #27 (2017)

The notable premiere for this couple of weeks is my first ever 4DX movie. Taking all precautions, I had gone to see Baby Driver under normal circumstances in advance. Having liked it, and given the nature of the movie, it made sense that if ever-then now, so 4DX it was. Perhaps it’s a gimmick I like more than 3D (which I loathe), because it’s less prevalent and not being forced down my itsy bitsy throat. Unfortunately, it made me feel a bit queasy at times, especially as I was getting used to it. Some parts of BD worked better than others with it – funnily, the greatest enjoyment came from the slow, cradling, lull moments, not the big action drifts, although the mere intimation of a car breaking and you breaking with it is an effect I like. I’m undecided if I’ll return for another 4DX experience, and if so, then most likely for something pretty special. Which brings us to…

Movie of the Week

Baby Driver (2017)

babydriver

Some time two weeks ago:

  • Baby Driver (2017): If you’ve read my Scott Pilgrim review, you know I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright. So there was no way I would miss Baby Driver, a venture into the rather stale genre of bank heist movies. It would be somewhat silly to focus too much on the plot (boy acts as driver to pay back debt, while falling in love with girl), because BD stands out due to its pure Wright-ism. I’m constantly bedazzled by the exceptional editing in Wright’s movies, the kind that doesn’t only make transitions from one scene to the next, but always leaves something unsaid in between. BD is fueled by this and by its dynamic rhythm, so astutely expressed through a great score – you know it’s great, because if you were to listen to it outside the movie, it wouldn’t tell you much. Sometimes I might just enjoy a bunch of songs from a soundtrack independently, but here, the music is really cool because it’s so much of an integral part to the movie.  All this, alongside a few distinctive characters, make BD into a properly enjoyable, Friday night movie with that extra zip, to make it memorable. 8/10

Wednesday

  • The Beguiled (2017): I’ve generally found Sofia Coppola’s work situated on the edge of the unbearable. Barring her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides (1999), and her only truly strong movie, Lost in Translation (2003)Copolla’s films have been overwhelmed by the veneer of philosophical artsyness she smacks on top of them. The Beguiled, which brought the director the top prize at Cannes, is somewhere in the middle. It deals with an injured unionist soldier, during the American Civil War, who is found and sheltered at a girls’ school in Virginia – i.e. ‘the enemy’. There, after a brief convalescence, it begins to look like the sexual deprivation of everyone around is getting the better of them and the story escalates/descends into an allegorical conclusion befitting some of Coppola’s lesser efforts. It’s a shame, because two-thirds of the movie in, I was quite enthralled by what looked like a beautiful composite of womanhood, in the midst of a mystical, almost abstract forest. This all goes to waste in an ending which veers towards the demonstrative, lynching its male protagonist (a rather loathsome, Wickham-esque figure, for those Jane Austen lovers out there), although it had set itself up for much more. Alas, that’s Copolla, whose only truly memorable film is memorable because it’s her most restrained.

Thursday

  • American Sniper (2014): For whatever reason, it took me three years to watch AS, although I tend to enjoy Eastwood’s swashbuckling style and Bradley Cooper is a likable fellow – even when killing people in the developing world. For all the controversy over how American the movie is, I kept thinking about how different the Afghanistan war looks on movie to more recent wars – something like Good Kill (2014), focused on drone-bombing, would just wipe out most of the tension in AS. Beyond this, I generally find the war movie genre to be a tired one and this Oscar nominated abomination (OK, it ain’t that bad) does little to disprove me. It’s mostly your run-of-the-mill, patriotic, trauma-ridden, soldier-patient, which is simply to say that it’s been done a lot and the ‘true-story’ elements to it are not fleshed out enough to make a difference. 6/10

Friday

  • Dirty Dancing (1987): It’s weird it took me so long to watch DD, because I am a (remorseless) fan of these utterly slushy pop-movies about dancing and singing stemming from around the 80s – Grease (1978), Footloose (2011 – the remake), Fame (1980). Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s chemistry ensure DD is pretty much enjoyable, although there are many things to dislike about it. First and foremost, the editing here is the polar opposite of that in any of Wright’s films, and done poorly to boot – hence a lot of story feels phoned in. Luckily, the dancing and the romance come from a place of sensuality, making them matter – even if I doubt anyone can go from novice to masterful as quickly as Grey does in this flick. I was a tad disappointed by the ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ scene, which I always expected to be metaphorical, maybe a nice gesture after relieving Baby from some bullying a-holes, or some other real romantic thing like that. Alas, it was literal. 6/10

Saturday

  • Friends with Money (2006): A movie from the mid 00s filled with well-known actresses that I have not seen? Sign me up, please. Starring peak-Jennifer Aniston (if there is such a thing), Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack as a group of friends in their 30s/40s with quite varying familial shortcoming, what’s interesting about FwM is how real these characters feel, most of the time. I particularly felt for McDormand, the perpetually angry one, and Keener, the one lost in the wrong marriage; in contrast, Aniston’s ‘Olivia’ is quite the weird one, dysfunctional in choosing men and a tad fetishistic, I couldn’t quite warm up to her and definitely found the conclusion far-fetched. It’s funny that in a movie about so many complex issues, the focus falls on the hot one not being able to get a good guy and a good job because, really, she isn’t even trying. This made the movie drag for me, although I quite liked how not all mysteries were neatly tidied up by the end. I’m not surprised to see that director/writer Nicole Holofcener did much better in a more focused movie like Enough Said (2013), which I recommend as a reference point.