Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thumbnails on recent movie viewings

Capote - Mostly boring, but Hoffman's take was worthy of the Oscar. My father-in-law is from the same region of the country, and I noticed Hoffman got the body language and hand movements exactly right. Eerily so.

Thumbsucker - It's now official. I will never again waste time on a "small film" about "the little earthquakes" in our lives. This has the exact same problem that The Squid and the Whale, You and Me and Everyone We Know and Junebug did. The short version is none of these contain people I know. Or, they do, but these stories don't ever give us a reason to like these characters. Nearly everyone has something that makes them compelling, and none of these movies manage to do that. Fiction above all things should manage to invoke characters you care to spend a couple hours with. The one exception in this list was the adult leads in "You and Me", but it's undermined by the fact that we are shown the sex lives of all the children in the movie and nothing of the adults. As a matter of fact, all the movies mentioned here have children saying explicitly sexual things, which is a horrible trend. Screenwriters of the world: Cut it the hell out already. (Actually, I was not able to make it through Junebug, so I don't know if any of the children are used in that way. However, in fast-forwarding in order to see if there might be an interesting development, I noticed we're treated to a very pregnant woman masturbating. Perhaps the movie presented it in the proper context so that you felt something other than shame for the actress who had to do that scene, but I'll never know.)

Last Days - I think I'm off Gus Van Sant movies, too. Elephant was strangely compelling, and I didn't really enjoy the way the narrative was concluded, but commenters made me re-examine my expectations, and I'm now OK with how that movie played out. (I still prefer Douglas Coupland's take on the Columbine stuff: Hey Nostradamus!.) Last Days is unabashedly about Kurt Cobain's suicide, and as the title indicates, the days leading up to it. Where long meandering shots following characters around in Elephant really put you into the world of those high school kids, they distract in Last Days. Watching someone wander around stoned out of their gourd is boring when you're stoned yourself. It's excruciating when you're sitting in your living room (or a theatre) with nothing stronger than a Coke and some popcorn. I think we see the Cobain doppelganger stagger down the same grassy hill 3 separate times, comprising 15 minutes of the total running time. Hey Van Sant: At least thumb through this sometime, k?

Well, all those shitty movies (well, Capote wasn't shitty, just dull) where playing up against some pretty tough competition, because in and amongst viewings of those POS's, the lovely wife and I were enjoying the first season of Dead Like Me on DVD. THIS is how to tell a story. THIS is how to make characters, even nasty ones, gripping. THIS is how to do it, mang. We've pretty much stopped buying movies other than kid flicks that the progeny will watch a bunch of times, as we can barely find time to watch rentals these days, but we've decided that when prices come down, we're owning both seasons. Dead Like Me is a fantastic series, and further proof that TV writing is running circles around movie writing these days.


Hey, to put it another way:
"Low-end American narrative filmmaking is in crisis. I know, news flash, right? What I mean is that hardly anyone seems able to tell a well-constructed story anymore. Most younger filmmakers these days have no background in the old-fashioned narrative traditions, like literature or drama, let alone in the Freudian and/or Marxist theories of personality and society that underpinned them for most of the 20th century. Movies today come out of other areas of pop culture, whether that's music videos or photography or advertising or TV or just other movies.

"This isn't entirely a bad thing; it may not, in the long haul, be a bad thing at all. But it does result in a lot of lumpy little movies that might offer a visual sensibility, a consistent mood and some kind of philosophical or political message, but totally refuse to give you real characters interacting in some believable, dynamic real-world situation."
- Andrew O'Hehir of


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

We've been renting the 1986 BBC productions of Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett. Someone had the genius to realized that if you adhered with monomaniacal scruplosity to Doyle's descriptions of Holmes and to his dialogue, you see how completely crazed Holmes really is. Brett is brilliant. And only the British could get away with playing the racist Victorian stuff straight (which makes it all the more shocking, and thus more effectively self-indicting than if they played it down or apologetically).

Check it out. You won't be disappointed. I hope; actually I did check out Scrubs, and found it unbearable. Sorry....

Yahmdallah said...

Well, ya tried anyway. That's good enough.

Admittedly, this season has had a few clunkers. And no lines as good as: "Listen Super Girl, I'm gonna break you down into so many little pieces that my grandmother, who can do a thousand piece puzzle of the CLEAR BLUE SKY in less than an hour, will never be able to finish putting you back together again, even if she does go back in time to when her vision was perfect."

Or: "Okay, think of what little patience I have as, oh I don't know, your virginity. You always thought it would be there until that night Junior year when you were feeling a little down about yourself and your pal Kevin, who just wanted to be friends, well he dropped by. And he brought a copy of 'About Last Night' and a four-pack of Bartel's and James and ba-dow hoo-hoo-hoo it was gone forever. Just like my patience is now."

joe said...

Have you gotten into the second season of Dead Like Me yet? I loved the first season for the same reasons as you, but was really disappointed by most of the second. The first episode seemed particularly off even after one allows the writers latitude for recapping the first season.

Yahmdallah said...

Yeah, we finished it last week. I agree it gets off to a shakey start, but I thought it had many fine episodes. I especially like the ones dealing with the little sister, and the one where ...


Patinkin/Rube finds and gets to say goodbye to his daughter just floored me. Yea, my eyes did nearly sweat.


What I did find odd was how they changed the rules on how living people see them. Apparently only those who would recognize them from their lives see them differently.