Movies of the Weeks #31 #32 (2017)

I knew the day would come for me to squeeze in two weeks in one without writing excessively. Well, here it is. The day.

Movie of the Weeks

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Sense and Sensibility

Tuesday, the week before

  • Dunkirk (2017): Nolan’s big war movie reintroduces that which set him apart in Memento (2000) – unusual time mechanics. Here, the three story layers unfold over different time frames, converging in the moments of the Dunkirk evacuation. It proved very effective to me and made the movie stand out beyond the sheer scale and competency with which it was produced. The sense of captivity, of hopelessness and despair, were reinforced by the clever timeline overlaps of the three layers. It’s silly, but I got a similar feeling watching Triangle (2009). The ultimately positive movie experience wears the blemish of a dollop of patriotism at the end, but it was expected from a venture striving for a bit of the mainstream. 8/10

Wednesday, the week before

  • Sense and Sensibility (1995): Full disclosure: I am a bit of a Jane Austen fan, or at least a fan of of Austen-movies/mini-series. I managed to dig deep into Pride & Prejudice, so deep I struck some zombies on the way to the bottom. Or perhaps that was the bottom. Anyway, S&S is a true classic, with a phenomenal cast, considerably more star-laden than the mini-series of Pride and Prejudice (1995) released the same year, which pretty much defined Colin Firth’s career for a long time. Emma Thompson’s sensibilities are key here and they manage to do modern day justice to Austen’s romantic ironies of two centuries ago. At times I do wonder whether this whole striving for a good marriage thing is too archaic to remain interesting, but it’s in the nuances where good adaptations set themselves apart from lesser ones. The nuances here are spot-on. 8/10

Thursday, the week before

  • The Bleeder (2016): As a big Rocky fan, once I read about the making of this movie – the story of Chuck Wepner, whose fight against Muhammad Ali supposedly inspired Stallone – I had to watch it. The quality execution of a so-so real life story makes it worth its time for those who have an interest in boxing/fights, but ultimately, the movie lacks punch (haha, I had to). 6/10

Monday

  • The Remains of the Day (1993): After watching S&S, I realized my grave shortcomings in Emma Thompson’s movie portfolio. Simply pouncing on the first thing at hand, the sensitive historical drama centering on a butler in the service of a pro-German lord around the war proved another positive experience. The picture got eight Academy Awards nominations, but no love in the shape of golden statues, although both Thompson and Anthony Hopkins were great. Perhaps it had something to do with another WW2 centric movie being released that year, a small thing entitled Schindler’s List (1993). The Remains is definitely more limited in scale, but with a wider chronological spread, which makes it both more intimate and providing historical perspective. 8/10

Wednesday 

  • Mamma Mia (2008): Rewatching Mamma Mia on a whim comes as naturally to me as opening a Youtube tab and putting on some ABBA – though the latter is definitely more effective. Gathering a bunch of stars of whom none can really sing is the one element that bothered me most when I first saw the musical. Now, I was fascinated by how easily all these popular ABBA songs could be woven into a coherent (sappy, overly sentimental, unlikely) story. Alas, unless you’re as big an ABBA fan as I am, it’s hard to recommend this stuff. 6/10

Saturday

  • Tootsie (1982): I had seen Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) as a child, so with that in mind, I gave Tootsie a go. The Oscar winning movie (Jessica Lange – Actress in a Supporting Role) posits some pertinent questions of the movie-making establishment without being too preachy about it. Out-of-work actor Michael (Dustin Hoffman) tempestuously decides to audition for a female role and actually gets it – by undermining the gender stereotypes for even the soapiest of TV show. It works exceptionally well both as a critique of structural misogyny, and a witty piece of comedy. Some suspension of disbelief is required, especially in regards to the ending, but in a sense the disbelief that a man could play a women for so long, unbeknown to so many, is just a funny jab at the lack of interest of who the woman really is – beyond an unassailable sexual conquest, of course. 8/10

Movies of the Week #30 (2017)

That went well. Still a week in retard, here we go.

Movie of the Week

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

mulholland-drive-restored-poster

Monday

  • Neruda (2016): I’ve had this one on my watch-list for what feels like an eternity – mainly because of the subject matter, but also as it starred Gael Garcia Bernal and was directed by Pablo Larrain, an exceptionally consistent director. In this poetry-litical saga of Chile’s Nr. 1 communist, Larrain outlines some of the paradoxical elements in Neruda’s role, pent up by an a level of privilege that’s uncharacteristic of communist dogma. Then again, dogma is one thing and fighting the good fight of the people is another. Neruda is not compromised per se, but he is not the Messiah figure either, in a complex political environment of South America so ripe with Messiahs. The movie is full of nuance and takes an interesting turn towards the end, when the line between reality and meta-reality is blurred with an effective conclusion. 8/10

Tuesday

  • War of the Planet of the Apes (2017): For a movie with “war” in the title, there’s not that much warring going on. Sure, there’s a big battle at the end, but for the most part it’s an emotionally charged experience due to the simple, yet powerful interaction between the ape-tagonists. Heavily influenced by Apocalypse Now, especially in the portrayal of humanity’s overzealous resistance leader, the movie concludes a trilogy of exceptional worth – intriguing in its characters, relevant in its social commentary and lush in its visuals. For whatever reason, I found myself on the verge of shedding a tear every other fifteen minutes. Definitely take your time to watch this third coming of the Apes. 8/10

Wednesday

  • Tickled (2016): It proved next to impossible to convince people to take the time to join me in this unusual looking screening. This documentary begins by exploring the world of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ only to pivot into a terribly entertaining and daunting true-crime stories. It feels so surreal to begin with, that the rather downbeat, middle-of-the-road conclusion it ends on was bound to be a disappointment. Part of the reason behind this is that the movie outstays its welcome by a bit – simply in the search of a proper resolution, which fails to arrive satisfactorily. I don’t even want to go into it much deeper, because if the idea of endurance tickling didn’t arouse your interest, I’m afraid nothing will. I will draw a perhaps strange parallel to Foxcatcher (2014), whose unusual protagonist seems to suffer in a similar way to Tickled’s behind-the-scenes tickle-master, from a form of overwhelming hereditary expectations and an alienating, bizarre, disturbing yet pitiful understanding of social norms. As a follow-up, you should also check out The Tickle King (2017), a twenty minute short about the fallout after the movie’s release. 7/10

Friday

  • Mulholland Dr. (2001): Having just finished reading Lynch on Lynch, the book in which the director talks about his process and specific events that contributed to his (notoriously fluid) creation process, I just had to rewatch Mulholland Drive. When I first saw it, just after its release, I disliked it very much. Upon revisiting it, not a long time later, it felt like a completely different experience. Perhaps it was too much to be asked to jump head first into Lynchland like that. What attracts me now to the story of two out-of-luck/in-search-of-luck actresses, played by Naomi Watts and Laura Herring, is the struggle for identity. As both of them also play another couple of characters, the line between who is who in reference to what becomes blurred. Where the movie really starts, where it takes place and what it means,  these questions remain somewhat open-ended. There is a certain way in which the structure of society, of a certain business (none more so than showbusiness) irons out the atypical in search for the functionally unique – a paradoxical situation, for sure. Getting to the core of it is the struggle and most of the time it just doesn’t fit into the scope of life. So, yeah, I quite loved Mulholland Drive. 9/10

Saturday

  • The Incredible Jessica Jones (2017): This quirky, yet not spectacularly original flick about another young aspiring playwright character/actor proves a decent time-passer, but easily forgettable. Its subversion of the odd movie-norm helps it stand on its own two cinematic feet, as does the couple of imperfectly fleshed out central characters, portrayed by Jessica Williams and Chris O’Dowd. However, if you’ve seen Strouse’s previous People Places Things (2015), you’ll kind of know the themes he likes to juggle with and if you haven’t, you’re perhaps better off giving that a first look. 6/10

Movies of the Weeks #29 (2017)

I got lazy last week, so now I’ve got this unmanageable load of movies to get through. Shame on me, I guess. And it is a shame indeed, because a lot of the stuff was talk-worthy, even watch-worthy, but now they’ll seep through the cracks of overpopulation. So I’ll just split the last two weeks in two posts, for your convenience – and mine.

Movie of the Week (kinda)

On Body and Soul (2017)

body n soul

Week #29

Monday

  • Hot Shots (1991): I had more or less enjoyed Jim Abrahams previous deadpan/literal comedies – with Airplane (1980) or Naked Gun (1988)/Police Squad (1982) the most memorable. Although Hot Shots got some favourable reviews and it stars a young Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer, the Top Gun parody doesn’t do much beyond the expected. The humour patterns are very Abrahams, and the talent is good enough to put it to film, but the gags just aren’t that memorable. So yeah, maybe skip this. 5/10

Thursday

  • Planeta Petrila (2017): You could read about my take on the opening movie of the Ceau Cinema festival last week. It’s an HBO production, so you’ve already got it running on the cable channel. In short: To the extent that ‘Planeta Petrila’ celebrates the birth of some form of (artistic) life from post-industrial wreckage, it is a great success. However, it feels detached from the wider community of the town and in not taking an inquisitive stance on the viability of life in former coal mining ‘colonies’, it shies away from the bigger social and environmental questions. 7/10

Friday

  • Le tout nouveau testament (2015): I tried something with this Oscar nominated (?!) Belgian film about a jack-ass god (i.e. the Christian deity). In this iteration, god is an abusive husband and an uncaring father to his daughter (well, we know what happened to his son as well), and really, a just a bad guy for the whole of mankind. It’s a funny, somewhat subversive idea and once the daughter informs everyone on earth of when they are going to die, you know there’s going to be family troubles. But this god is just a real useless, frustrated middle aged man, with no powers whatsoever, so the movie just takes him down a notch or two. Unfortunately, it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t particularly interesting either. I’m sure you can pick out some smart anti-patriarchal commentary out of the thing, but, a week later, I’ve already forgotten about it. 5/10

Saturday

  • On Body and Soul (2017): I had been looking forward quite a while to the Hungarian winner from the 2017 Berlinale – like, ever since my sister told me how people got sick and the screening had to be interrupted. When I was set up in a small projection room, filled to the brim with people and little to no air-flow, I half expected the worst. Alas, it seems the Romanian gut and mind is more resilient than their German counterparts. This tale about a quality inspector and a financial director working together at a slaughterhouse is unusual and captivating to begin with. When it turns out the two socially-reluctant characters share the same dream, it helps them get close to one another and they bond. For more than an hour I was excited both by the sensitivity with which the subject matter was handled and the witty truthfulness of working in the agro-industrial sector. Then, just as the leads are about to get intimate, On Body and Soul loses track of its own course and nearly compromises all the beautiful work put into getting there. The characters go haywire, the movie becomes graphically dramatic and then just as quickly does a 180 to set things right. I felt seriously let down, while trying hard to hang onto the first two-thirds of the experience. It just about worked, but I couldn’t help feel disappointed by the end, both with the movie and with the fact that nobody fainted. 7/10

Sunday

  • Una (2016): What attracted me to this movie was not the child abuse theme, which usually makes me feel so at ease on a Sunday afternoon. Instead it was Ben Mendelsohn and, to a lesser degree, Rooney Mara, two actors of strong caliber, with the capacity to make such drama work. Unfortunately, although the duo do their best, the movie falls pretty flat overall and, once more, I find myself a week later with few to no memorable moments in my head. It just feels heavy handed and convoluted, I guess, in spite of the performances and the occasional nuances. The fact that the two leads are both dislikable doesn’t help much either. 6/10