Sunday, December 1, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/24/13-11/30/13)

    While it certainly had nothing on the previous week’s Fantastic Fest, this Week in Dork was still nice.  I read a full book and finally finished another I’d been nearly done with for weeks, got out to see a film, and cranked out a few more Criterions.  Not bad.

Speedway:  Fairly standard Elvis picture.  It’s not bad, and has some good bits.  But it’s not especially memorable.  The songs aren’t great, and the plot feels like it’s already been done in another Elvis movie or two.  There are much better Elvis movies.

Marketa Lazarova:  This movie looks fantastic, and it feels pretty darned medieval.  The people are rough and toothless, brutal monsters suffering by firelight in the bitter cold of snowy darkness.  I had a problem following all the various relationships between characters.  I know there was some kind of pattern in the dealings.  Some folk wanted revenge or something, some people wanted money or crops or whatever.  There was an angry lord.  But who was working for whom, and why, and what they were all doing…I don’t know.  There’s stuff about paganism and Christianity, and the general brutality of men.  But I don’t know what the heck was going on most of the time.  The sound design is extremely weird, and makes the film feel very unreal.  It’s not even ADR, it’s like dialog for a separate film was recorded in an echoing church. (edit: What this review doesn't get across is that I couldn't get the movie out of my head for days, and in the end, I think it was kind of amazing; and I know I'll be watching it again).

Nebraska:  I grew up in ‘small town America.’  With apologies to my friends and family that still live there, it frickin’ sucked.  And this movie captures the awful, petty, depression of the whole thing.  There are scenes I swear I lived through.  I think I knew half these people.  The cast does a fine job, and everyone feels totally right for this sort of thing.  Bruce Dern is excellent, and Will Forte is surprisingly good.  I laughed quite a bit, but admittedly, some of that laughter was from horror.

The Silence:  Hey, do you like feeling good about life?  Well then, don’t watch this.  The third in Ingmar Bergman’s ‘trilogy of faith,’ this haunting story of a couple sisters (…really?) and one’s child staying in a hotel is aesthetically beautiful, and psychologically ugly.  The film cooks with uncomfortable erotisism.  And there are a lot of awkward questions you’ll find yourself asking about who these people are and what their past was like.  And what’s up with the kindly old waiter?  He’s awesome, right?

Design for Living:  A wonderfully kinky comedy from the Good ‘ol Days before the Good ‘ol Days everyone’s always talking about.  This isn’t the chaste, clean-cut comedy of the 40s and 50s, this is sex-charged, full of dry wit and ribaldry.  I sometimes wonder what movies would be like if there hadn’t been the prudish backlash of the 30s through the 50s (and again, if to a lesser degree, in the late 80s through the early 00’s).  Though I would argue that the Hayes Codes forced writers to become much more clever in their dialog, with innuendo and double meanings, movies like this are a reminder that writers were already quite clever before necessity mothered invention.  This film is an absolute must.

Peter Ibbetson:  A weird little kid grows up to be a contrary architect.  He’s stuck on a girl from his youth, and gets into all sorts of trouble over her.  It’s all fairly forgettable melodrama.  Certainly not a movie I need to see again, it’s mostly noteworthy for having Gary Cooper and a young Ida Lupino.  But it’s nothing to work hard at finding.  It’s no classic.

    I finished reading Alan Dean Foster’s Icerigger, which was a very cool classic space opera.  I’ve got to get back into reading more sci-fi.  There are so many books I want to read.

The Blood of a Poet:  OK.  I’ll admit it.  I just didn’t understand this film.  It’s somewhat surreal.  It’s poetic.  But I’ve never been much for poetry.  There’s a lot of stuff that symbolizes …stuff.  I don’t know.  Some of the imagery is cool.  A few sequences are quite nice.  Overall, I’ve got no bloody clue what anything meant.

Resident Evil: Retribution:  Yeah, this is a bad film.  Bad acting, bad dialog, bad effects.  But it’s also a great deal of silly fun.  The series gets more and more odd and convoluted as time goes one.  Elements are written in, then written out with little head for logic or consistency.  But whatever.  Lots of stuff blows up, lots of kicks happen in slow-mo.  It’s great.  And stupid.  And great.

The Time Machine:  “Which three books would you have taken?”  Through random happenstance, I saw this favorite again.  Man, I love this movie.  I remember being somewhat disappointed the first time I saw it, because it missed so much of the book, but getting over myself, I realized it’s a masterpiece.  Awesome lead performance from Rod Taylor, great sets, wildly weird music, and a darned fine story.  And the Morlocks are so creepy and nasty.  So cool.

A Canterbury Tale:  “Facts are always important.”  While the War wears on, some city folk take refuge in a country town and meet the strange folk who live there.  Looking back to the classic literary work, the region around Canterbury becomes a strange sort of Eden where they try to remain sane and safe.  I’m fairly certain I didn’t understand a lot of the WWII related, UK related references.  But the characters are interesting to watch.  The young American soldier reminds me a great deal of David Lynch, with his slightly over-loud mid-westerner voice and ‘aw, shucks’ attitude.  One thing is sure, the film looks beautiful.

Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer:  An interesting documentary about writer/director Preston Sturges, it reminds me once again that the behind the scenes world is and was often as crazy, wild, and character-filled as anything to hit the screens.

    Late Saturday night, I finished a terrifying book, Our Final Invention.  I should have finished it a while back, but I got sidetracked with only like 50 pages left.  Again, it’s really good.  I just got distracted by shiny lights.


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