dir: David Fincher
Isn’t everyone sick of these goddamn books and movies by now? Haven’t we been dealing with them long enough? Can’t we just let them go, and move on?
Apparently not, since they’re making American versions now, complete with American and British actors speaking with what they hope are Swedish accents. Why are they speaking with Swedish accents? Who the hell knows. We know they’re ‘speaking’ Swedish to themselves, it just ‘sounds’ English to us within the context of the flick, but why some of them would use Swedish Chef accents and some of them wouldn’t makes it all slightly perplexing.
I guess that’s appropriate, since these are meant to be mysteries. Of course, since I’ve read the books and seen the Swedish versions, which had those pesky subtitles and Swedish actors, there’s really no mystery there anymore. Making Hollywood versions presumably opens up a whole new audience of people who hate subtitles, which is a fair number of people. And since they enlisted David Fincher to direct, we know they’re going for the prestige angle, and not the trashy cash-in angle.
In a perfect world, they could do both, since all it does is keep those wretched Millennium books on the bestseller lists. But this isn’t a perfect world, so here we have the purest exploitative trash elevated yet again onto the big screen to honour our eyeballs and to make us lament that Stieg Larsson was ever born, let alone picked up a laptop and wrote these pot-boiling tales before thankfully dying.
dir: George Nolfi
Great, another film convincing paranoid schizophrenics that someone really IS out to get them…
This fairly good flick, which I liked a lot, is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the mentally ill science fiction writer who’s been dead a long while. Almost every science fiction movie, if not every movie is either based on or should be based on something Philip K. Dick came up with. And why not. His most famous adaptation is of course Blade Runner, but there are probably nearly a hundred other monstrosities based on his stuff out there as well.
The important element you need to grasp about Dick’s writing, if you know or care nothing about him or his writing, is that paranoia underlaid virtually everything he ever wrote. Almost every novel or short story of his that I can remember has a protagonist, who may or may not be crazy, who senses or gleans that someone is either after him or tinkering at the edges of his reality. And always always always, if someone thinks ‘they’ are out to get him, ‘they’ always are. None of his protagonists ever realise in the end that they were just being irrational and paranoid. Never ever ever. Now that’s some good support for the delusions of the mentally ill right there.
The Adjustment Bureau not only reflects this ‘shadowy figures messing with my life/head’ concept, it extends it out further so that the entire architecture of all our lives seems to be already prefabricated. It just needs some adjusting, every now and then, because our free will is, actually, an illusion. There’s a Plan, and we’re never going to be privy to it. But some beings are. And they’ve got hats.
dir: Debra Granik
It’s criminal that it’s taken this long for Winter’s Bone to be released into the cinemas of Australia. It’s a damn shame. Usually the length of time it takes certain films to appear here doesn’t bug me, because 600 flicks get released each year, and for every flick I’m not getting to see, there are dozens of others I could be seeing instead.
But there’s something about this flick that, on some level, makes me angry that I had to wait eight or so months before I could see it in the salubrious confines of the Cinema Nova multi-arty-plex.
The film itself, and the main performances, are better than fine, they’re great. There’s some problems arising with the ending, but I can forgive them since for around 100 minutes, Winter’s Bone, which is essentially a detective story, had me riveted to my seat. There’s not a fire, disaster or siren’s call of promised orgasmic pleasures that could have coaxed me out of that seat before the end.
On the other hand, I know these kinds of films that seem to focus on, shall we say, the salt of the earth, reek of condescension and insult to those who think they’re being exploited or mocked. It doesn’t strike me as relevant, but then, I’m not from the Ozarks or the Appalachian Mountains, and I wouldn’t know moonshine from shoe shine.
dir: Roman Polanski
Okay, okay, I’ll get this out of the way right from the start: yes, Roman Polanski is a scumbag, and, no, I’m not condoning anything he’s ever done or said, nor am I exonerating him by watching and reviewing one of his films. No, it’s not the moral equivalence argument. No, I’m not saying that his art justifies anything he’s ever done.
And yes, Hitler’s watercolour paintings were okay, not great, but not awful either.
So if I acknowledge that Roman Polanski is worse than a million Hitlers, will you let me just review the fucking film?
The Ghost Writer is so old school that it really does feel like a throwback. If it wasn’t for some of the technology involved, like mobile phones, GPS and memory sticks, the flick could have been indistinguishable from something set or made in the 70s. It’s a very 70s flick, regardless of some of the subject matter.
It’s 70s because it’s languid, paranoid and, despite some of the wintery open spaces, claustrophobic. I guess it makes sense that someone like Polanski could capture that feeling because a) the 70s were his heyday and b) he can probably relate to a main character feeling under siege from the media and the courts. Just a guess, there.
dir: Akira Kurosawa
The Kurosawa fest continues. One of the most famous but least seen films of the last fifty years deserves a review, don’t you think. And since I saw it for the first time a few days ago, now seems like the prime time to launch into another pointless diatribe about a film few people will be inspired to run out and see.
Rashomon has been quoted as an influence in cinema for the last million years, or at least every time a story presents different versions of the ‘truth’. That’s the ‘truth’, as opposed to the truth. The simplest way of explaining this concept is the assertion that there really isn’t any objective truth because people see and experience events subjectively, as well as the fact that they lie to serve their own agendas.
So, now, every time a film shows a sequence, then shows the same event from another point of view, they bloody well are contractually obligated to mention Rashomon. The Usual Suspects? Rashomon. Wonderland? Rashomon. Hero? Rashomon. Dora the Explorer? Rashomon.
It would be less tiresome if it were actually true. Rashmon’s ultimate point wasn’t about this lack of universal truth, or our inability to have certainty about what really ever happens. The point was about whether there is any point in the continued existence of humanity. Whether we’re ever really going to be able to put our pettiness aside to at least have some consideration for each other.
dir: M. Night Shyamalan
You don't need a ouija board, an on-line fortune teller or one of Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends at five dollars a minute on the phone to tell you that this film has ""stinker"" written all over it in twelve-foot dayglo letters. It's put out by Disney, the director is following up the commercial ""Working girl at a Liberal Party conference"" financial success of his first film, The Sixth Sense, and it has Bruce Willis in it yet again. And,
not that it matters, but one acquainted with the net could not ignore the sheer abundance of middling to mediocre reviews this film has garnered. And the last factor not in its favour is the implication that the film had something to do with comic books. Nothing gives off that sphincter loosening aroma of failure like
the words: "Based on the comic book/graphic novel", or "In The Tradition Of", or "I'm sorry, I must have had too much to drink."
With none of this in mind, I ventured forth into the Greater Union cinema, still seeing no indication of anything that Great or Unionised about the place. The audience was full of your usual cud-chewing, mobile-phone-ringing, talking during the quiet bits fuckknuckles that we've all come to know and love. After a stream
of increasingly meaningless and indecipherable trailers, I lay back and prepared myself either to be dazzled or for a restive, comfortable nap.
Let's look at the elements included herein:
Nothing turns up a film snob's nose up quicker than a film that achieves extraordinary box office success. The Sixth Sense was a money juggernaut last year, and many people were ejaculating all over the place about it, for better or worse. For many, expectation was very high for his (Shyamalan's) sophomore effort. I thought 6th Sense was a tremendous film, even watching it knowing what the twist was well before hand, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Willis was restrained, the kid was magnificent and spooky without being reclaimed as cutesy, and it was wonderfully filmed and put together. Colour me a fan of my man Shyamalan.
Bruce Willis is a film enigma. For every Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys and Die Hard he's been in, there's Armageddon, Colour of Night and Die Hard 4: My Colostomy Bag Has Ruptured. He has a capacity for being tremendous in film roles, he just needs to be reminded by the director every few minutes or so that he was married to Demi Moore for many years, thus bringing him back to earth and making him feel humble again.
dir: David Lynch
A few minutes after watching the film, I found myself at a pub which just happened to be conveniently located around the corner from the cinema. I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there, nor what I was planning on doing once I was there. I sat at the bar, confused and wondering.
One of the girls working behind the bar must have come towards me to ask what I wanted to drink, but I must not have heard her at first, because when I realised where I was, she was shaking me by the shoulder, concerned with the current location of my mind and presumably my wallet.
"Eh, are you okay?"
- "I'm not sure."
"What's happened to you, were you beaten up?"
I felt around my face and body "No."
"Were you in a car accident?"
Again, I answered in the negative. "Do I look that bad?"
"Well, you look like you just found out your mother just died. Ah, wait, I've worked it out now."
She walked away from me, poured a double shot of some stiff drink into a glass, and handed it to me.
"On the house."
- "Th-- Thankyou. Why?"
"You'll need it. You just watched the latest David Lynch film, didn't you?"
- "Yes, yes I did. How could you tell?"
"We get that a lot around here." She waved her hand in a broad arc, encompassing many of the other people sitting around the pub. Many of them had the same shellshocked, post traumatic stress disorder facial expression that I must have had plastered all over my face.
David Lynch makes films of a particularly unique variety, encompassing everything from the absurd to the grotesque, and certainly from the sublime to the patently ridiculous. Mulholland Drive is an extention of every film Lynch has made previously, only more so, if that makes any sense, which this film certainly does not.
Mulholland Drive won last years Palm D'Or at Cannes, which is a ringing recommendation if I ever heard one, and numerous critical plaudits from critics too frightened to admit they didn't understand a fucking thing that happened over the course of the film.
dir: Jonathan Demme
Whilst cinemas around the world have been awash in the stench of remakes for as long as I can remember, it appears that recent years have been even more prone to the epidemic than ever. Almost as bad as the pernicious outbreak of sequelitis that afflicts contemporary moviemaking, not just Hollywood, is the self-pleasuring / self-consuming process of remaking decent films into crap contemporary movies. I’m not sure that’s the actual business model used, but it seems eerily accurate in terms of results.
The producers of the DVD for this here waste of polycarbonate and chrome make a fatal error in the packaging of the release, at least the Region 4 version that I got to see. The two disk set contains, as well, in the spirit of giving you more bang for your buck, the original film that The Truth About Charlie is based on; Charade. In doing so they make the film they’re actually trying to sell look even worse. The Truth About Charlie is a bad film in its own right. In comparison to Charade, which they helpfully provide as the ideal comparison point, it is downright dire. In truth the film stinks in comparison to just about anything.
dir: M. Night Shyamalan
Be careful what you wish for, because someone might just strap you to
a chair one day and jam it down your throat using a splintered chunk
of wood. In my last cinematic masterpiece of a review I made a big
issue about poorly directed hyper-efficient Hollywood movies where a
lack of vision results in editors constructing their projects as if
they're animation on a sequence of post-it notes that you have to
flick with your finger for it to make sense. Two second cuts and
jittery camera work abounding. At the complete opposite end of the
spectrum exist the films of M. Night Shyamalan, whose measured pacing,
and long, well-constructed shots you would presume exist as an
antidote to the current madness of strobe light cinema. But does that
necessarily mean they are better films? Or do you keep getting woken
up by your own snoring?
After bitching about it so much and so often, I will admit that for me
it was like icy cold water after a trek through the desert. There were
a bunch of scenes where I was just marvelling 'Goddamn, this scene has
been going for more than a minute! They actually had to remember a
whole bunch of dialogue! How splendiferous.' Of course if you're
noticing stuff like that, it means you've been taken 'out' of the film
by your observations, which is not an ideal state of affairs. The
curse I face the more films I watch and the more I learn about
film-making from reading dry-as-fuck cinema studies texts and
listening to interviews with directors and cinematographers is that it
becomes harder and harder for me to be just be taken in and seduced by
a story. Instead much of the time I'm coping with drammaturgical
dyads, diagetic and non-diagetic sound, Freudian trajectories and all
sorts of other pretentious crap that sometimes gets in the way of just
dir: Brad Anderson
This is a film about a pretty strange guy. Trevor Reznik (Christian
Bale), no, not Trent Reznor, who is a strange guy anyway, is an
emaciated insomniac who works a blue collar job and seems to be losing
his marbles. He leaves himself messages which he doesn't understand,
his only meaningful relationship is with an understanding and
supportive prostitute called Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the
world itself seems to be working against him in exciting and new ways.
Bale's transformation into this sickly creature has to be seen to be
believed. I'd heard much about the fact that Bale had lost a lot of
weight for the role, but I could not imagine the lengths the guy would
go to in order to be remembered. It's staggering, it really is.
It's one of the most amazing examples of self-mutilation I've ever
seen for a job. Sure, womenfolk do it all the time and it's
considered par for the course in Hollywood, but he makes himself look
so emaciated that I imagine had they shown a picture of Bale as this
Reznik character to concentration camp victims in 1945 the poor
survivors would have shrieked in horror, and wept tears of pity and woe
in his honour.