03-18-07 - 2

Recently watched movies reviewed. I hate any kind of spoiler in reviews so I write very vague reviews.

The Edukators - 4/5 - I got this because I'm a closet anti-capitalist and have dreams of creating real social change (and revenge) through anarchist action, so this is sort of vicarious-porn for me. The first half of the movie is satisfying enough in that way, but you start to get the feeling that it's just such trite obvious crap. But then the second act kicks in, and it's a huge shift. At this point you get the feeling that an American director would wrap things up and give us satisfaction with some violence and deaths, some major tragic acts. Instead it stays thoughtful and the characters all deal with their thoughts. A very nice movie in the end.

Mutual Appreciation - 4/5 - This is almost the movie you would make if you wanted to make a sarcastic stereotype of urban hipster cinema. And yet, despite that, I enjoyed it and it worked pretty well, partly because the acting is so simple and earnest, it feels like real people in a student film project and it sort of works.

The Story of Qiu Jiu - 2/5 - the Chinese version of "The Trial" but without the humor. So tedious and repetetive. The major redeeming thing about this movie is the slice of life into Chinese culture; most of the actors are not professionals, just real people, and the city scenes are real cities, not sets full of extras. Would've been a nice 15 minute short.

Swimming Pool - 3/5 - I'm still not sure what to think about this movie. On a totally superficial level, it has the beautiful slow direction of Ozon and the sexy body of Ludivine Sagnier half naked all the time and fucking everything that moves, so your attention is sort of engaged by that. On a secondary level, it seems to be a retread of the horribly cliched older British repressed woman (played by Charlotte Rampling who seems to be type-cast in that role) who travels south to the warmth of the Mediterranean where people live wild and free. Ozon does do a good job of threading an eerie premonition throughout the movie and a stillness which foreshadows the ending, but does a twist ending really redeem the fact that 99% of the movie is totally trite tittilation?

The Grifters - 1/5 - wow, what is the point of this movie? It's so broken on so many levels. It's hillarious to watch John Cusack switch randomly between doing his sort of standard self character, and then going into old-timey Grifty Mc. Grift hard-boiled pulp novel dialogue. The movie sets you up from the beginning expecting a big clever con; a whole complicated scenarios is layed out and Cusack's mentor tells him "never go for the big con; the greatest thrill for a grifter is to con another grifter, to beat him at his own game" - so we totally expect Cusack is going to screw up and go for the big grift, to grift another grifter. Then the Annette Bening character lays out the big con she used to be running. And then - none of it ever happens and we're totally disappointed. I can't believe it won all these awards, this movie is so awful and there is zero point to watching it. If you want to see a good con movie watch "House of Games" or "Nine Queens" instead.

Take My Eyes - 3.5/5 - decent movie about love and spousal abuse. It's somewhat broken because the husband is just made a bit too ridiculous and unlikable, and the little aside with his family that's supposed to make us sympathise with him doesnt' really work and is unnecessary. Fortunately it's Spanish so the scenery is beautiful, all the people are sexy, and that adds a lot.

Zorba The Greek - 2/5 - yikes. Yet another disappointment in my attempt to get through the classics. From the first frame of the movie you know this is the same story as "Swimming Pool" - repressed British/American visits the Mediterannean and blossoms in the emotional openness of the French/Italians/Greeks/Spanish. Okay, you accept that and just go along for the ride and try to enjoy it. But it just fails, and laughably so. Perhaps most disturbing, the Greeks are portrayed as savages, they hardly seem to speak at all, just cawing like crows and grunting, they're provincial, small-minded, afraid of technology, murderous, barbaric - it's shocking that this was written & directed by Greeks. Then our Englishman - he's just so completely wooden that you can't sympathise with him at all, and he never really transforms, even when he's thrust directly into love and violence, he just becomes despicable when he doesn't stand up for himself or his lover. Also the black and white really hurts here; if we actually could get some gorgeous color shots of the greek isles it might make this watchable, as is, not recommended.

The Awful Truth - 3/5 - this is sort of a classic Cary Grant screwball vehicle with lots of banter and quick comebacks and everything you want from one of these movies. But, it's really not very clever, a bit too screwball and not enough smart dialogue. If you want one of these types of movies I recommend "His Girl Friday" or "The Philadelphia Story" instead.

Uptown Saturday Night - 1/5 - this is a "classic" Bill Cosby / Sidney Poitier comedy, from what some consider the golden age of 70's swinging black comedy. Wow, it's bad. I sort of can't tell what parts of the movie are making fun of things and what parts are just so bad that they're funny. Poitier does a horrible horrible job of trying to act like a regular working class person, he really can only pull off the sophisticated well-spoken roles. Cosby is actually really great, but just seems awkward in the material and never really gets to shine. I can't believe they made a whole series of sequels.

The Perfect Crime - 4/5 - "El Crimen Ferpecto ? it's Perfecto with a P !" ; quite a delightful little caper movie, surreal and energetic. As usual with Spanish movies it's full of style, color, beautiful people, and lots of sex. We get the sort of surreal graphic over the top violence that's so fun, a deluded ridiculous protagonist who's so charming we go along with him, and throughout just lots of fun touches that keep us entertained, and the ending doesn't disappoint. It is very sexist, and I was a bit disturbed with the "ugly girl" character who's basically super hot and just sticking out her teeth. This movie reminds me of a thought I often have - I wonder to what extent Almodovar should really get credit for the "Almodovar Style" (which is flamboyant, surreal, sexy, colorful) and to what extent that's just Spanish. If he really did create that style, then almost every Spanish movie in the last 10-20 years has copied him.

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