Saturday, March 08, 2008

Week In Review - oo8/10


I Heart Huckabees - I like it. I've seen it before. It has an amazing cast. It looks like they're having fun. The story is kind of whatever ultimately, but if you think of it as a quasi-intellectual version of Ocean's 13 it's very satisfying entertainment.

The Wild Bunch - I used to really love movies like this. I don't as much anymore. The archetypes get to be a little much for me - he's the stoic, he's the practical one, he's the irreverent one and so on. Even if this was a huge departure from the black hat white hat dialectic. I like the fact that Peckinpah ad libbed what came to be some of the signature scenes in the film. But I think I might have permanently shifted my paradigm away from finding poetry in a resolute march to one's death in a very literal sense. The "blood" is just too bright red.

The Tin Drum - What a strange film. I kept saying that as we watched it. It operates on a lot of levels - emotionally, historically, psychologically, developmentally. For me it never really fused together. I found myself going in a lot of directions with it thereby more distracted than engaged. I read a brief history of Danzig/Gdansk afterwards and it made a lot more sense. I'm sure than in 1979 the WWII era was much more part of our cultural consciousness than it is now.

Julia - I assumed this film would be a tour de force of acting based on the fact that it stars Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Jason Robards and a young Meryl Streep. The story is really about Lillian Hellman, her best friend Julia is almost incidental. The movie doesn't know what it wants to be - political thriller, bio-pic, buddy picture - which is it? The structure is really stagey and stilted, making it hard for the performances to be grounded. When Jane Fonda is good she's good, the timbre of her voice serves the story. When she's bad, she just sounds like she's whining. As Lillian, Jane Fonda was at her worst.

The Valley of Elah - The first hour and twenty minutes of the film is very good. Much like Haggis's previous effort Crash, it renders the contemporary world with precision. Then in the third act, out comes the quiet but smug moralizing and sentiment. Charlize Theron impressed me, as usual. Though as the movie went on, she had less to do behaviorally and it seemed like she or the camera was trying to squeeze something out of her face that wasn't there. Tommy Lee Jones did some fine work. It's not easy for me to like him and I certainly did in this film. In the end, I just didn't buy it. Okay, so a big military scandal wasn't responsible for his death. It was simply a result of the scandal of sending soldiers to an unjust war. Jones's character sends a distress signal up the flagpole in the end. So did I, but for very different reasons.

Diary of a Country Priest - Robert Bresson's 1950 film was waaaay ahead of its time. It combines the best of Italian neo-realism with a penetrating psychological portrait of the main character. I was completely absorbed by it.


Berlin Childhood Around 1900 by Walter Benjamin - I'd read that this was a superlatively beautiful book. Exhaustive poetic impressions of the author's youth. It's impressive that one could submit oneself to the process of allowing those impressions to resurface. Absolutely. Reading it was more meditative than intellectual, requiring reminders that that was okay.
It's a memoir. Which isn't fiction, but it's getting closer.

Getting Away With It - Steven Soderbergh's post-modern journal/slash biography of Richard Lester. Soderbergh comes across as much zanier than Lester. Which makes me wonder if he was playing off of his impression of Lester, much like one starts speaking in a drawl after a couple of days down South. It was written in the days after Schizopolis and details seeking its distribution among other things. Clearly Soderbergh was a little barmy in the mid-90s.

Fiction, anyone, anyone

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