My Week in Movies: August 13, '11

Na srebrnym globie (On the Silver Globe)
Andrzej Żuławski, 1987
Much of the enkindlingly ingenuitive "On the Silver Globe" is why the concise expression "brilliant" cannot sum up true brilliance. Like "Stalker", it dwells in existential angst akin to that of, at best, Shakespeare, at worst, our university diaries. Where Tarkovsky's chilly post-apocalypse has not impressed me in this regard, however (in fairness, a rewatch is due), "Globe" ponders matters with the spirit of many an artist's dream - a world begun from scratch, emblematic of raw humanity's quandaries, potentials and delusions (for recent comparison, think, to an extent, parts III-V of Refn's "Valhalla Rising"). This is greatly complimented with breathing compositions representatively simultaneous in their transference of both the disorientation of and assimilation to a new planet as resourcefully depicted through the stern Baltic, the gravid Caucasus and the august Gobi. Most of the exhilaratingly pulchritudinous picture is so alive and directly first-person the camera becomes - literally, at times - its own character within the narrative, made harrowing in part through jump cuts so slight they're often closer to dropped frames. Though remaining engaging throughout, when the story's haphazardly conceived society educes into something resembling a cerebrally intimate rendering of the Eloi/Morlock conflict from Wells' "The Time Machine" it does lose the perpetuity of its mesmerizing aesthetic, becoming more an intermittent tableau through to its imagining of otherworldly post-Soviet war fed by passionate abandon, selfish ignorance and a little rock 'n' roll. This relative downshift may be attributable to the obvious - that Żuławski's production was sabotaged by its politically sensitive enablers and "Globe" exists forever fractured.

Le procès (The Trial)
Orson Welles, 1962
Welles' grounded yet entrancingly dreamlike surreality captures a very real aura of indictment both personal and in the public eye, effulgent with displacing wide shots and daedalian extended takes. "The Trial" is a technically masterful attack on "this famous legal system" that extends down a rabbit hole of liberty as seen within the confines of contemporary society. Exemplary!

30 Minutes or Less
Ruben Fleischer, 2011
Worlds better than "Zombieland", the playfully referential (to '80s cop flicks) "30 Minutes or Less" marks the first time I've found Aziz Ansari remotely funny and features its share of hearty belly laughs from all the on-screen principles in general, most notably Michael Peña in a surprisingly uproarious turn. I'll forget about it in a week and it could use less sloppy language and "Slumdog" slurs, but it's a solid popcorn rental. And those are official "Friday the 13th: Part 3" anaglyph glasses from the recent DVD re-release of what is probably Jason Voorhees' best film! I should know, I've worn a pair while watching my own copy. Most movies would have gone generic, so "30 Minutes" receives major kudos for this fun detail.

Jûsan-nin no shikaku (13 Assassins)
Takashi Miike, 2010
One of the better in the handful of samurai epics I've seen, comparable in some regards to Kurosawa's, specifically "Seven Samurai" (which has also been said of Kudo's original, while here enough of Miike's signature creative savagery factors), though with the exception of "Throne of Blood" I've never been much for such things.

Further first-time viewings:

River's Edge - Tim Hunter, 1986
Alrighty, then. Worth it for Glover and Reeves, and maybe its perpetually damp aesthetic.

- Federico Fellini, 1963
As with many certified essentials I wind up respecting on certain levels but not genuinely liking, I wish I didn't have to be that guy who says "8½" is only okay. Thing is, following five years of irrational procrastination after blind-purchasing my Criterion copy, I've finally wound up finding "8½" to be just that, and oftentimes a chore. It is obviously far from devoid of merit, particularly with its lovely close-ups and stranger dream moments, but I see present a surplus of what has dissolved my enthusiasm for international new wave. I'd like to think in time I'll experience revelations and eventually regard this higher than... well, at least the four titles preceding it on this list. We'll see.

Sucker Punch - Zack Snyder, 2011
So-called empowerment backfires in Snyder's widely substance-free version of "The Little Princess" that goes physically everywhere while remaining mentally nowhere, apparently for the purpose of recoiling to a series of meager "aha" moments before the perorational anti-moral of glorified tolerance finally tips it over the edge into certified awfulness. With this simultaneous surplus and detriment of territory covered, we have little to no grounding for the would-be dazzling (albeit compositionally inconsistent) effects sequences, rendering them nonsensically extraneous bores. It's disappointing to see Snyder reverting to poorer quality after his impressive "Watchmen" adaptation, but at least this is a league or two ahead of "300" (then, what isn't?).

Dung che sai duk (Ashes of Time) - Wong Kar-wai, 1994
Having seen this film's 2008 "Redux" cut as opposed to its original form, I cannot be sure whether the striking pace and tone similarities to 2004's "2046" have been incorporated after the fact. So while there is a chance the disconnected dream-like state seemingly purposefully restraining me at several arm's lengths might not be quite so prominent an aspect of the original work thereby somewhat invalidating my criticism of it, at least the lack of feeling is prettier here than it is in "2046".

The Help - Tate Taylor, 2011
Everything gets compared to "The Hangover" these days, so here goes nothing: "The Help" is "The Hangover" for great-grandmas. Petticoats and lesbians and curse words, oh my! An above-average ensemble cast plus a little Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Chubby Checker (listed in order of appearance) doesn't come close to raising this afternoon dreck from its sewer of mediocrity so deliberately safe and obligatorily formulaic it's as if Melvin Van Peebles and Spike Lee never existed and it's impossible to make an African-American rights film with any flavor whatsoever. I would say the intentions are honorable, but when key conflicts are irresolutely tossed off as mere heartstring-tuggers in favor of a much more focal plot charting the baking of feces into pie, I can't. Furthermore, while it's all too vanilla to truly offend, the most profound relationship developed is not one of exemplary equality, but between a maid ("maid" being the film's politically correct term for "black person") and a white woman portrayed as so daft the only reason for her acceptance is that she simply cannot recognize an then-recognized class displacement, giving the impression the racists are in fact the smart ones. Perhaps it's intended to come down to the difference between "smart" and wise", but something that subtle in a piece this spoonfed? Anyway, if laying down a high ticket price to see two and a half myopic hours of made-for-television quality film about Bryce Dallas Howard eating shit as retribution for her every moment on screen being cheaply designed to make you hate her sounds good, "The Help" is for you.

Total: 9

Rewatches (1): Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)
- I had forgotten how funny the first act of the heist-gone-awry picture "Dog Day Afternoon" is! Talk about a flick with everything - this one runs the gamut. It holds up brilliantly on repeat viewing between Pacino's thoroughly charged performance, Cazale's wild card intensity, Lumet's visions of Brooklyn, etcetera, etcetera. It was already beloved, but it's most certainly made a leap upward on my all-time favorites list as of this rewatch.


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  2. stop writing in pretentious purple prose, you're doing a disservice to all those movies by sounding like a pretentious college kid who has a hard-on for lengthy words.


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