Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eric Reviews Everything He's Ever Seen (Numbers 100, 120, 140, 160, and 180)

I was looking through my list, trying to figure out how I was going to present these movies every day and settled on doing it by twenties. Why shake up the good thing I established in the first post? I also considered opening up a new blog for this because I feel like its going to be a lot more expansive and much more it's own distinct being than everything else I've done on the blog. Then I figured that would only bother the loyal reading community we hold here, so I didn't do that. I did review five more movies, though. They can be found below.

100. Across the Universe (Directed by Julie Taymor)

I saw Across the Universe out of a sick desire to learn what fresh hell The Beatles were being put through. I’d already put up with I Am Sam’s all Beatles cover score and figured a movie built entirely around covers was going to take this previous low and blow it out of the water. I was very disappointed, so I wasn’t disappointed. 

When Bono’s allowed to sing “I Am the Walrus” and Eddie Izzard’s role is to dance around a gaudy green-screened circus in corpse make-up I am not happy. The singers have adequately strong voices, paling against McCartney and Lennon’s, or even Harrison and Starr’s, they can’t act a lick through the nonsense stringing the songs together. Jim Sturgess is a handsome fellow but he isn’t much of an actor, and Evan Rachel Wood’s out-of-focus nipple, though not an official member of SAG, stole the show from the rest of the cast. 

There are a few memorable moments, but they only come out of the inspired production design. Strawberries bleeding their juice over a canvas and Easter Island-like heads peopling a luscious were interesting while failing to gloss over the predictable character arcs and corny dialogue. What was essentially a group of music videos stapeled together met my lowest expectations, and has served only to embolden my disgust for Beatles tributes, covers and/or modern musicals. 

120. V for Vendetta (Directed by James McTeigue)

The credits told me “written by The Wachowski Brothers” and my mind did a double take. No way did something like that come from someone like them. Alan Moore provided the story and characters, but they had to have taken more than just those bare bones when putting the script together because believing they went from The Matrix: Revolutions to V for Vendetta takes a chasm-sized leap of faith. Give a big hand to graphic novelists, credible actors and competent directing, everybody.

V for Vendetta was so in tune with my fifteen-year-old sensibilities. It was about revolution against a conservative society, pairing nicely with my distaste for Bush-run America. It had a badass vigilante anti-hero preaching justice through knife throwing. There were explosions that looked like they could really fuck you up, and a quick, sweet story that never felt to stretch too far beyond the reasoning of the censor-happy futuristic universe it lived in.

Most important to me now as it was then is Natalie Portman. Before Sinead O’Connor I’d never seen a female celebrity with a shaved head before Portman as Eve, and I haven’t seen an attractive one since. She was smart, precocious, and sexy though her trials living in a cold, unforgiving world, and one of my favorite heroines for her earnest-feeling bouts of scared indecision, and her ability to make me root for her from the moment she walks onto the film. 

After the movie, and after the shock of the Wachowskis I turned to my friends and awaited their thoughts. I assumed I was going to be alone in my enjoyment, but I was wrong. V for Vendetta struck a heavy chord with my liberal, excitable self, and the feelings ran from one socially conscious youth to another the world over. Would I feel the same now as I did then? Not sure. I’d like to think so. I really would.

140. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles)

I'm dealing with the misfortune of Bruno giving my recollection of Borat a bad aftertaste. I watched both in theaters, thought Borat was hilarious and that Bruno failed to recapture the spark and humor of its predecessor. More than that, it reminded me of all the problems I had with Borat that I'd glossed over on the first viewing.

It's worth watching the way Sacha Baron Cohen dupes naive, proud Americans into revealing their xenophobia but the segments between these candid encounters don't always live up to the standards of comedy set up in the secret mockeries. 

I bought Borat thinking I'd laughed so hard I could only laugh more with repeated viewings. This was misguided indeed. Most of the fun comes from how shocking people's confessions are, and the unexpected zany turns Borat's journey takes. Definitely the sort of movie that should be watched with a large, happy audience once, and never again. 

160. The Aviator (Directed by Martin Scorsese)

Considered one of Scorsese's minor works yet also winner of five Academy Awards of the eleven it was nominated The Aviator strikes me as a strange oddity. I've met a handful of people my own age who've seen the movie, and while it's getting an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes I never hear it fondly remembered. I purchased it on the cheap and was scoffed at. What is this anomaly? 

My mother rented The Aviator from the library and sat us down as a family for to watch it when I was just fourteen years old. I wasn't entirely sure who Martin Scorsese was at the time, and from my limited experience knew that biographical movies were boring and formulaic. Perhaps my affinity for the film comes from my expectations' shattering, but when I think back on The Aviator I hold it in as high of regards as After Hours, Gangs of New York or The Departed, which I like very much. Not one of Scorsese's greatest achievements but not a film to be taken lightly.

It introduced me to Leonardo DiCaprio as a skillful actor, not just the apple of girls eyes I knew him as from Titanic and Romeo + Juliet. I found out Cate Blanchett can pull off a great Katherine Hepburn impression, and got to see John C. Reilly in something other than Chicago. This movie came to me in a time in my life where I was starting to actually notice how expressive the camera work and set design and costuming could be. The world of The Aviator was thrilling, exciting, and outside of what I believed to be 'good movies.' 

Stylish and graceful, The Aviator won me over. The acting felt powerful and the style felt unmatched. This is another movie that I haven't revisited in an quite a while, but I don't think I'm going to feel much differently from how I initially did. I'll have to do a revised write-up if it loses its draw. Fingers crossed. 

180. The Incredibles (Directed by Brad Bird)

The circumstances surrounding The Incredibles are quite remarkable. I went to The Incredibles with my very first girlfriend, on our very second official date. I don't mean to brag, but I can't remember if we held hands. I think we did, close to the end of the movie. Anyway, I wasn't and haven't been very impressed with The Incredibles as a Pixar movie, nor as an animated movie, and even nor as a feature film. 

Oh, sure, the animation was fine. It holds its own on those terms when compared to the other Pixar dynasty members. Thought when I think about Pixar movies I never think "oh yeah, The Incredibles, that's a great one." Disney movies in general can never escape being grouped together in my mind, so Pixar's even smaller library of films faces harsher ranking. 

When I think of Pixar movies I have distinct memories of awe at the characters. I've cared more about Pixar's animated characters than I have many characters played by real life in-the-flesh human beings. Marlin's attempts to bring Nemo back to safety nearly brought tears to my eyes. I had almost every line of dialogue memorized from the first Toy Story not because the lines were especially great but because the toys were all so special and believable. I have none of these emotions tying me to The Incredibles. I never got into the story deep enough to consider devoting precious brain-power to Mr. Incredible and his family. I don't even remember any of the characters names. 

I've seen The Incredibles since its theatrical release and have been as disappointed or more each time. I try and give it as fair a chance as any other movie, but it always ends up at the bottom of my list when recalling the other far greater features Pixar has given me. Maybe I'll have to be a parent to understand what Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are going through with their marriage and children, but if that's truly the case The Incredibles didn't do enough to make these figures relatable or deserve affection.

I'm posting this a day late, but I got 2/5 of it done on Saturday. That means I'm almost keeping up, right? Right?

 - Eric T. Voigt, Chugging On Diet Root Beer By the Two Liter

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