I suffer for my art. I’m not getting too deep into it here, but I made some choices this week that had some repercussions, and even as I write this nearly a week later, I’m still feeling ‘em. This is Chinatown. Anyway, I finished reading a book, got some writing done, and generally had a pretty good week, in spite of some painful sleep deprivation.
Brave: Upon second viewing, I still want this movie to be so much more than it is. Pixar takes on the Medieval fantasy epic and ends up with a mild bit of entertainment. It’s beautiful to look at, and the characters are fun. But there’s not nearly the amount of awe or heart one would expect from Pixar or a movie called Brave, featuring a red haired princess with a bow. I know the production was rather storied, with the original writer/director getting the boot part way through. And the film does feel tonally awkward, like something was lost in translation between directors, maybe. I keep hoping they’ll do a sequel that can get past the issues of the first and tell a more exciting, more heart-felt adventure tale. Merida could be a very good character, and something Disney/Pixar needs, a proactive female hero. But this movie does not live up to its potential.
The Driver: This film has three major problems. Ryan. O. Neal. I don’t know what was in the water in the 70s that made people think O’Neal could be a leading man or anything more than a background extra (assuming scenes called for lifeless hunks of wood to drain energy from the shot). He’s absolutely dreadful. A bowl of gravy is more dynamic and exciting. You can see that this movie (along with Thief) were hugely inspirational to the far superior Drive, but even in that comparison, Ryan Gosling’s dead-eyed Driver is SOOOO much more interesting to watch (and this from a guy who finds Gosling a bit hard to look at). Otherwise, I enjoyed the movie. It had a lot of that pointless dickery between characters that was so common in the 70s, but the look and feel of the film make it worth that slog. Honestly, if Ryan O’Neal were replaced by another actor…or a crash test dummy with a photograph taped on the face for example, the movie might be considered a classic. As it is, it’s worth a watch if you like the era or are a big Drive fan, but there’s no reason to rush right out and see it.
Doctor Strangelove: There are parts of this movie that I love. There are other parts, mostly the last ten minutes or so, that I simply don’t get. Peter Sellers is absolutely fantastic as Mandrake, and as Muffley. But as the titular Dr. Strangelove, while wacky, I didn’t find him especially good. In fact, it seemed more like a Gene Wilder character…and I don’t mean that in a good way. Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott are intensely crazy and wonderful. And the movie is shockingly dark. Maybe not so shocking, considering it’s a comedy about Nuclear War. But it’s grim, man. Some of the dialog is so horribly funny. As a whole, I find the film too uneven to sing the praises of, but at the same time, it should be seen.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: “Why is there a watermelon there?” As a young lad, I watched a few movies more than a few times. They spoke to some essential part of me in some way. Howard the Duck, Big Trouble in Little China, The Princess Bride, and yes, Buck Banzai. An homage to the adventure heroes of the past (specifically Doc Savage), Buck Banzai was still dripping with the wilder elements of the 80s. An all star cast of that-guy actors turn in heart-felt performances, giving it their all for a movie that probably shouldn’t have worked. Though funny, the film isn’t the joke it might have looked like on paper. There’s some serious (and seriously strange) world building, developing a history for its characters, even tertiary ones. I can not recommend this movie strongly enough. But you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to embrace the madness. And it’s there, believe me. It’s one of the most powerfully strange films ever made. And at no point does it pull back and give you a moment to readjust. You’ve got to roll with the punches. It’s so worth it, though.
Tales from the Crypt: Yeah, this movie’s dull. A bunch of TV actors and Peter Cushing enact a handful of lifeless horror tales. Anthology films are usually hit and miss. This one is miss and miss by more. The TV show, for all its many faults, is a far more worthy effort.
I finished Hedy’s Folly, a good overview of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil’s inventive collaboration. Like a good book should, it got me wanting to read more about various elements. And like a lot of these history books I’ve been reading, gave me some story ideas.
You’re Next: Had this film just had a tripod or a steady cam, I’d have enjoyed it a heck of a lot more. The first half is pretty blah, but the second half makes up a lot of ground. It’s funny, intentionally, without being jokey. The gore effects are practical, which is a welcome surprise in this day of crappy looking CG blood. It’s pretty darned violent, without being annoying about it. And as I said, the second half is really good. Once they get the obligatory and not especially surprising twist out of the way, and shift the tone a bit, it improves drastically. But that shaky cam. I simply can’t get past the shaky cam.
Sudden Fear: Hardly one of the best Noir out there, this tale of a petty slight being repaid ten fold is still quite good. Joan Crawford is not an actress I’ve ever found particularly drawing up to this point, but she’s excellent. I may have to refocus a bit on her in the coming months. And the giant skulled visage of young Jack Palance is terrifying and wonderful. Seeing the story play out is at turns heartbreaking and exhilarating. Noir fans should definitely check this one out.
Gojira: As a pretty big Godzilla fan, it’s kind of odd to say this, but the first film is actually not anywhere near my favorite of the series. Going back and watching it, I see it more as a film about the shattered societal mindset of post WWII Japan. Much of what I love about the series is missing here, with the exception of the emphasis on the every day struggles of people in the face of unthinkable horror. As the folks at Criterion said in their Three Reasons trailer, “It’s not just a monster movie.”
|The 'Director's Cut' was weeeeird!|
The Snow Maiden: A Russian folk tale fantasy film, the production design is beautiful, and the story is interesting. But the pacing is a bit ponderous. There are so many singing numbers, it gets to be a bit much. Still, the look and feel of the movie are very good if you’re in the mood for medieval fairy tale settings. I just wish the story was more interesting and the pace a bit quicker (it was Russian, so I know I'm asking a lot).
The Other: “I’m king of the mountain…Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” Two creepy-ass twins are living on a farm in the 30s in this slow paced supernatural tale. The twins seem to have some kind of psychic ability, being guided by their old Russian grandmother. One kid is a little bastard and one is a whiney snot. I think this could be an interesting story, but it isn’t. It’s just kind of boring. Oh, gosh. And then there’s the twist. Ugh. The twist. I think maybe this is the movie I’ve been mistaking for The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane for years. I remember being freaked out by seeing it on TV at a friend of a friend’s house when I was probably 6 or 7. Both have that weird, uncomfortable 70s horror movie vibe, creepy kids, and a slow pace.
On Saturday, I got the word that a short film script I wrote is ready, and a potential actor is being contacted. That made me very happy. And over the course of the week, I’d finished up doing an outline for another script. So, I spent much of the afternoon and evening working on that. I got about a third of it written. Not bad so far. But there’s a long way to go.