Sunday, July 14, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/7/13-7/13/13)

    A Dork’s lifestyle can be challenging.  Sometimes, one is forced to really reach down and test one’s metal.  By which I mean, I stayed up WAY too late to catch two movies in theaters this week, and I’m darned tired.

True Grit:  “Please don’t fire.”  Ugly people and beautiful landscapes dot this oddly funny but very grim film.  Jeff Bridges is about as ornery an old cuss as ever there was.  It’s a nice epic quest film with a revenge plot woven in.  While the Western genre seems to have gone largely into remission, there are occasional outbreaks of these quality films.  Taking the best of movies of the past, mix it with modern sensibilities and excellent, quality craftsmanship, they rank among the best.  Gone is the Duke, wobbling his way across the screen in his tidy little shirt.  These Westerns feel more lived in.  I like it.

Bend of the River:  Jimmy Stewart is a guide with a shady past, trying to get on with his life.  Farming.  Maybe ranching if he can find some cattle.  Through the wilderness, on a riverboat, against dangerous men, he will do his darnedest to get the wagon train to their new home.  Keep your eye out for a very young Rock Hudson, a not so young Henry Morgan, and the ever cute Julia Adams.

    Sunday night, Brad and I headed up to the AFI so I could finally see one of my all time favorite films on the big screen.  Yes, it started at 7PM, is just shy of 4 hours, and I had to get up at 5AM the next day.  But worth it.

Lawrence of Arabia:  What can I say about Lawrence of Arabia that dozens or hundreds of film critics and fans haven’t already?   Beautiful, grand, sweeping, poetic.  The music, the cinematography, the acting, the script.  It’s a perfect film.  Seeing it on the big screen for the first time was quite a treat.  With the music swelling and the screen encompassing my vision, I could almost feel the sand in my eyes and the Sun on my skin.  I absolutely love watching Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, a weird guy with a grand vision, a madman ready to create a new world.  No surprise to me this film is in my top ten of all time.  Absolutely amazing.

Things to Come:  Many, many years ago, when I first had access to a VCR, I acquired a VHS that had both Metropolis and Things to Come on it.  Metropolis was something for sure.  But this would have been a horribly cut, low quality print (I remember it didn’t even have music).  But Things to Come was a particular revelation.  It felt epic and sprawling, though it’s actually not very long, with several major segments that cover various time periods.  And it combined well with my love of broken civilizations and utopian dreams.  Seeing it again, for the first time in many years on a very nice, cleaned up DVD, I was carried away again.  Raymond Massey is at his Shakespearian best, pumping out grandiose soliloquies in celebration of Human potential and condemnation of those who would hold us back.  I absolutely love this film, and seeing it in such crystal clear quality…Excellent.

Pacific Rim:  I’ve gone on at length about this with co-Dork Brad.  I had a sad realization sometime last year, I guess in the early buildup to this film, that I am actually not a Guillermo del Toro fan.  I thought I was, but I’m not.  I like a couple of his movies, but I’m often more disappointed than anything else.  I am, however, a big kaiju movie fan.  I think, in part because of the trailers and in part because of my del Toro realization, I was not really excited about this film.  CGI monsters don’t thrill me like rubber suits.  And CGI robots even less so.  But, like The Lone Ranger, this movie was much better than the trailers led me to believe.  Yes, the CGI is kind of off-putting, but it looks a heck of a lot better than the Transformers films (I can actually tell what’s happening 90% of the time).  The script is pretty basic (Top Gun).  The actors are fine, I guess.  I don’t think much of Charlie Hunnam.  He’s painfully generic.  But otherwise, it’s pretty good.  The film does capture some of that awe and crazy of classic kaiju.  I do wish more of the movie were like the Tokyo flashback (or Australia footage), which I think is probably the single best bit in the film.  The constant rain and darkness was a bit much.  It’s rated PG-13, but unless your kid is a total wuss, it’s the kind of movie a 9 or 10 year old would LOVE.

Something Weird:  “Do you like…TV acting?”  Well, the title sure fits.  This movie is so awkward and weird.  It looks like old family films from the 60s, hacked and taped together with little sense of story or pacing.  Several shots last way too long.  A whole bunch cut off too early.  The dialog is clunky and painfully delivered.  And the story is nutty…to say the least.  It’s worth watching for sure.  This is the kind of movie MST3K was made for.  So, electricity makes a guy a psychic, he hangs out with a witch, the FBI (or somebody) passes him LSD, and murder.  OK.

Why am I in this movie?!

Flower Drum Song:  “You don’t get ‘em like that over here anymore.”  The first thing that struck me about this film was that the cast is actually Asian, not just a bunch of white people in awkward make-up, as I expected.  It’s an interesting look at generational changes among the Chinese community of San Francisco.  Fresh off the boats, first generation families, second generation kids, and the tensions between them.  Plus lots of songs and 60s glam.  Overall, I was just impressed that a whole cast of Asian actors played well rounded characters in a film that neither fetishized nor dismissed the community.  These were neither the mustache twirling villains, nor the ultra-wise sages.  These were romantic men, lovelorn women, and just normal folk (with singing).

The Far Country:  Jimmy Stewart and a bunch of grizzled old faces get into some problems on the Canadian border.  A corrupt sheriff with too much control over his town, Jack Elam, and lots of folk want Jimmy’s cows.  Some good ruggedness, with Stewart playing a pretty unlikable guy.  Love the scenery.

Summertime:  “We are all that hungry.”  Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi are ridiculously charming in this beautiful movie.  Hepburn is adorable as the lonely spinster trying desperately to have an exciting adventure abroad.  Brazzi is the classically smooth Italian willing to awaken her passions.  And Venice, with all its pocks, faded colors, and ancient wonders makes for an amazing backdrop.  So nice to see two mature people falling in love in a mature city.  The camera is like another lover, longingly gazing on the actors and the city.

    Capping my week with another David Lean film was nice.  A good ending.  However, on Saturday, I also caught about 10 minutes of The Big Bang Theory.  What’s wrong with you, America?  I’m not going to say it’s the ‘worst show ever’ just that it’s the same show they’ve been doing for decades.  In 10 minutes, I heard jokes going back at least as far as Who’s the Boss?, but probably back to Barney Miller and beyond.  GAH!!!  Anyway, I haven’t been doing too much reading, though I have made it further into my re-read of the Bible.  Reading Genesis is like watching a bully picking on a kid.  “Stop hitting yourself,” God seems to say, as he’s making Man slap himself in the face.  He’s like a kid pulling the wings off of flies, except that he doesn’t just discard the twitching fly when he’s done, he demands that it loves him.  Crazy.  I’m almost through Genesis, so we’ll see what horrors are in store in Exodus soon.


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