As the year draws to a close, I’m trying to see some of the various movies I missed for whatever reason. But, as each one kind of sucks, I’ve also been descending more and more into my obsession with old films.
The Big Combo: Rough, tough, and mean. The Big Combo has the requisite cracking Noir dialog, ugly brutality, and dripping (though obscured) sexuality. It even features gay hitmen (though it never comes out and says as much, it’s quite clear) played by Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman. Cornell Wilde is the sucker. Richard Conte is the smarmy villain. Great stuff.
On Sunday night, as I was recovering from HestFest, Brad and I went out to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Gilda.
Gilda: My second viewing of Gilda, no doubt effected by seeing it on the big screen, made me enjoy it much more than my first time ‘round. The dialog is awesome, with Glenn Ford so amazingly hateful and cruel. Rita Hayworth is obviously gorgeous, but she’s also delightfully nasty. And their constant war of words, looks, and implications is a joy to watch. Unfortunately, the last third of the film, though it features some cool scenes, goes way off the reservation, dropping the overall quality of the film. It feels like studio interference. Still, a good movie.
Doctor Who: Survival: And I’m done. Gah. The final story of the classic Doctor Who series is one of the better of the Sylvester McCoy era (even though it features The Master). But that still only puts it up there as a mid-level arc. I completely understand why the show was cancelled, and why its popularity had slumped. From the last season of Colin Baker to the end, there are few rays of light. This one features horse mounted cat people and some listless British youth. It’s also quite short, being only three episodes long. So, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. For the last couple years, I’ve been on a quest to rewatch Doctor Who from beginning to end, in as close to order as I could do (what with the gaps and with stories being released after I’d passed that point), and it’s been fun. But I’ll admit, the last four years of the show are, for the most part, really awful. And I’m more and more convinced that many of the worst aspects of the new series were birthed during this time.
The Virgin Spring: Stark, beautiful, haunting, disturbing, and maybe a bit challenging. The Virgin Spring deals with Paganism, Christianity, savagery, and the sublime. It features one of the most horrendous and squirm-inducing rapes ever put to film. The cast is excellent. The cinematography is gorgeous. A fine film, but not an easy one.
The Purge: When I talk about ‘what’s wrong with modern horror’ I’m talking about this film. Or, this film is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. Here’s a pretty solid idea for a movie (if 30 years too late to feel relevant); society was on the verge of collapse, due to rampant crime, so a radical change was made, creating a once a year suspension of the law. For one twelve hour period each year, people can do whatever they want, kill whoever they want. Reveling in this violence isn’t just accepted, it’s considered a person’s patriotic duty. OK. Cool. This could be the basis of something really good (and was, in a classic Trek episode). Unfortunately, the script feels like it didn’t get much beyond the rough draft phase. The characters aren’t even nuanced enough to be one dimensional. And every time anything is about to happen, you’ll find yourself saying, ‘ah, here’s is the scene where they do this thing.’ Everyone is exceptionally stupid, doing the dumbest thing at the worst time in order to move the plot along. And that right there is the key problem with most horror films made since the end of the 80s. Lazy writing has created an industry standard that allows for characters to do whatever the writer needs to get the action going. X person is perfectly safe, with no danger of ever being hurt whatsoever, as long as they just don’t turn that knob…so, what’s the first thing they do? Yup. Turn the knob. EVERY TIME. I’m so sick of this bad writing. So sick of it. And if that wasn’t enough, the whole film is shot…say it with me…hand held. Yes, that’s right. Everyone’s favorite; the shaky cam. Are you tired of being able to tell what’s going on? Are you sick of having some frame of reference? Well, worry no longer, this movie jitters and shakes, while someone having a seizure waves a flashlight, so you’ll have no friggin clue what’s happening. Yay!
|Here comes the suck.|
The Magician: I need to watch this movie again, as I was half passed out during much of it, but the film is certainly odd. I’m still fairly new to Bergman, having only seen three of his films to date. And this one feels more like The Seventh Seal than like The Virgin Spring, a bit more surreal and ‘theatric.’ There were some things I liked, and it warrants a second look. So in a year or so, I think I’ll try watching it again, and see if I like it more then.
World War Z: I would absolutely hate to think that the collection of morons and twits they assembled in this film might be in some way responsible for saving civilization. Every stupid-ass choice, dumb decision, and foolish move seems to be the first done. Bloody idiots. Getting past the obvious moronic choice of the producers to abandon the book (which probably could have made a compelling basis for a film), and the appalling CGI zombie ant-swarm effects, and the crappy PG-13 pseudo-violence, I can not get past how idiotic everyone is, and how kinda boring the whole thing ends up being.
Renoir: “He always makes me look like a girl.” The Great War is raging, and old painter Renoir is hold up in his beautiful rural home, painting and torturing himself over his two sons who are off at war. It is strange to see the idyllic setting and the sad, out of touch old man, knowing the horrors that were raging. Family conflicts and old wounds are observed by a new model who arrives at the direction of Renoir’s recently dead wife. The movie is quiet and quite beautiful, the gorgeous countryside and the stately old home make me wish I’d stuck with painting.
Summer Interlude: “Nothing means anything in the long run.” A successful, but aging dancer (they get ‘old’ while still quite young) is haunted by the wonderful and sad memories of a Summer spent on an idyllic island. Her fickle, petulant younger self had a sweet, but also brutal love affair with a serious young man. The scenery is amazing, the wistful look back at vacationing drips with nostalgia, the mistakes we make when we’re young, and the regrets we have when we get older. It’s tragic, sad, and beautiful.
I Married a Witch: “Did you ever have one of those days when just…nothing seems to go right?” An odd, madcap comedy. I can’t say it’s great, but it’s sure weird. A goofy old warlock and his daughter who were stuck in a tree for a couple centuries get unleashed on the modern world, and hijinks ensue. Not sure that it deserves a place as a great classic, but it’s a fun, light entertainment.
Other than doing some more general reading of this and that, that was my week. Not especially exciting, but not completely unpleasant. The biggest thing was when I finished the run of classic Doctor Who. Though the end of the series was pretty bad, thinking back over the whole run reminded me of a lot of the great stuff.