Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the BountyI couldn't finish it. I'm sure it's a great drama full of huge ideals and brilliant acting (actually, Clark Gable isn't that good, as far as I can tell from his other films), but once again, the plot was long and had too many elements and turns to pull together into a coherent plot, at least in the first ninety minutes. Did I mention that it's long?

I say this, despite my love of sea stories. Do without this one.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Great Ziegfeld

The Great Ziegfeld William Powell and Myrna Loy, though not together in this film for very long (as the film focuses largely on Ziegfeld's varied acquaintance), still manage to exude their typical chemistry. I have never seen those two in any films that didn't just make me want to hug them both. Powell alone has some panache, and a great deal of pleasant sarcasm, and Myrna Loy has enough humor to remind me happily of Ginger Rogers (one of the funniest ladies I've ever seen), but together, they make magic. I guess some screen personalities just happen that way.

Until Loy makes her appearance in Ziegfeld, I actually had some trouble sympathizing with the character, and the lavish stage scenes, though they made me gasp and wonder even now, actually seemed to drag on quite a bit. I fast-forwarded them once I got the drift. I think the camera might have moved too little, and my postmodern brain can't handle a shot longer than seven seconds unless Fred Astaire is in it. I don't want to blame the camera for the boring songs, though; I want to blame the songs. They were boring. Boring songs. Long songs that didn't say anything interesting. Short melodies repeated much too often, and meaningless lyrics combined into something dreadfully tedious. Yep.

Only watch this if you're interested in it as a curiosity. As a work of film, it's notable but not earth-moving.

Fun with Dick and Jane

Fun with Dick and Jane An earlier version from which Jim Carrey's remake was made, this film, though obviously closely related to its remake, actually appealed more for its periodicity (though the remake was quite timely). The  middle-class spending which served largely to convince me I grew up in oppressive poverty actually elucidates American fiscal habits and our casual relationship with debt. Jane Fonda's portrayal of a woman determined to maintain the veneer of luxury both amused me, and made me feel pity.

The crime elements actually are quite funny. The way the two would-be criminals bungle their way through (assisted no doubt by the inferior police forces in seventies films) their first crime until they become almost shockingly proficient, and delightfully blase.

It's a great period piece. Check it out if you want to catch a wonderful glimpse of the past, and Jane Fonda's amazing body (mostly clothed).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mistress of Spices

The Mistress of SpicesI love the actors in this movie, but I don't think I can fully stand behind it, or them. Several creative and colorful images enhance the production. I felt particularly fascinated by the language of spices, whose vocabulary, I must admit, seemed to have been expanded for the purposes of the plot.

Despite the imagination of the tale, and several of the interesting thematic elements, I can't help feeling that a moral outweighs the artistic considerations. In my own words, the movie seems to be saying that you can have sex outside of marriage (outside of the rules of your culture), and still have the support of your traditions. It doesn't work like that. As I watched, I constantly found myself saying those exact words: "It doesn't work like that." The mechanics of the theological realm created inside this story seem alien to my Western theological roots. The gods Tilo (Aishwarya Rai) worships are her spices. They speak to her in a kind of sub-linguistic revelation, helping her help others, but they have established some arbitrary rules (no touching skin, no love, no leaving the store). Tilo pushes the rules and disobeys her spices, who punish her by turning her good intentions into various pseudo calamities, until she turns her future fully to the spices (in a scene I didn't entirely understand). Apparently, at that point, a *spoiler alert* deus ex machina decision by the spices says she's allowed to break the rules too, because they trust her now.

It doesn't work like that. The whole film was full of the kind of paranoid superstition that will drive you mad (or at least, obsessive/compulsive), and none of the consistency of theological doctrine. Religions generally have had a somewhat tenuous relationships with causality, but in this movie I think they pushed too far.

I think, looking at the film as a value system, allowing Tilo to break the rules undermined the strength of her position as a figure of faith and tradition, and knowing the jealousy of the spices, I'm not certain it was necessarily a bad thing, but I sense an inconsistency that I can't quite put my finger on.

I dunno. It's very romantic. Check it out if you like romantic bollywood.

The Guyver

The Guyver This movie fell squarely between Power Rangers and something black and white with Godzilla. It reminded me a little of Big Trouble in Little China, but in a bad way. I fully understand why nobody likes or recommends this movie. Critics won't rate it, and the audience at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a whopping 38%.

Let me tell you: the creatures defy any reasonable suspension of disbelief. They look cute. Even Doctor Who - universally known for camp and low budget - regularly invented aliens more frightening (even in the sixties!). The bad guy was slimy. Despite his admiration of the human mutations he creates (he calls them "beautiful"), he consistently molests the poor female lead. Clearly this directorial decision is meant to make us cringe and identify him as icky, but it made the character one-dimensional and inconsistent (a criticism that seems much too drop-in-the-bucket for the film as a whole).

There's more. I fell asleep. I never fall asleep. During the FIGHT scenes!

Mark Hamill, well-known for his mediocre acting skills (although his voice acting is both interesting and consistently good), actually sparkled for his brilliance. Too bad he dies miserably, and with that awkward mustache.

I think the most indicative thing I can say about the male lead (whose name, for which he is probably grateful, I never bothered to figure out), is that his hair was flat. I love the eighties. Don't see this movie.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


InceptionWith typical post-modern reluctance (shown by his usual almost painful undermining), Christopher Nolan once again took his audience through to a conclusion that on some level satisfied the audience, as proven by the statistics on rottentomatoes.com (93%). The movie reminded me very much of the British Life on Mars, in that the emotional ride necessarily becomes the basis on which we found our enjoyment because the literal facts remain confusing and unsatisfying. This idea of the real becoming subordinate to some less real/imagined . . . something (I can't ever call it a fantasy, because most of them contain some very nightmare-like elements) seems to circulate among British writers and filmmakers. Even Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat has toyed with the idea as he created The Flesh and then dared the audience/Amy to decide which was better.

Nolan actually did a very good job bringing the audience along in his intricacies (unlike Primer). I didn't get lost, and I was successfully able to maneuver my way through red herrings and legitimate clues. Although I honestly believe the ending is meant to contain some ambiguity, the audience maintains a steady emotional investment in a certain circumstance. It would be disingenuous of Nolan to steal that away entirely, and so I choose to believe that he did not cheat us on essentials, but only subtly defied us to put our weight on any single possibility. Like Life on Mars, our satisfaction in the conclusion becomes not based on belief, but based on choice.

Anyway, I liked it very much. I'd watch it again, if I weren't moving this weekend with two more overdue items at the local library.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac Watching this stage version, my original impressions of the play were reaffirmed. The script is delightfully witty (albeit a bit over-rhymed), but Cyrano gets a bit too wordy in the final act. I remember Gerard Depardieu's version, and I thought it was a bit much, but after seeing this version, Depardieu's Cyrano seems pretty definitive.

Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner, and Daniel Sunjata all fulfill their roles wonderfully. The supporting cast absolutely hold their weight. I'd recommend this version whole-heartedly as a brilliant look at what the live play should be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tron Legacy

Tron: Legacy An amazing update. Although I wish Bruce Boxleitner had gotten more screen time (for sentimental reasons), this experience satisfied me. The special effects were both reminiscent of the original, and thoroughly updated (although at some point, keeping the old forms seemed a little pointless). The plot had some emotional depth, and the action scenes were entirely memorable, and thoroughly suspenseful.

As all films have flaws, I think this one would be entirely in the character department. The characters had difference enough to be functional, but not enough to become more than two-dimensional with perhaps a lot of shading.

Anyway, I liked it.

Last Chance Harvey

Last Chance Harvey This beautifully acted film really captured something important. The characters were played pathetically and realistically by two truly touching talents. All of the cliched scenes from any of a hundred rom-coms or chick-flicks in the hands of these craftsmen turn meaningful. Their age and emotional complexity add depth to what, in the hands of the young, would be mundane, trite, or even nauseating. I never once felt ill.

Brilliantly done, and an emotionally fulfilling experience.