Friday, September 2, 2011

Films Viewed (August 2011)

Cowboys & Aliens employed an ampersand in its title. I saw it with my father. We both agreed it was "all right."

"Proud Flesh" was a short film made by two experimental filmmakers and musicians (Chiara Giovando and Jenny Graf Sheppard) which featured several of my friends as actors. A Western of sorts. I was happy to have an opportunity to see it so many years after its completion, as it has not been commercially released and was only screened locally a few times. A trailer can be seen here.

Beginners was a bit too precious for its own good at times, but had a compelling, Link(based on a true) story at its core. A man discovers his father is gay after the death of his mother, continues to have problems emotionally. It was a pleasure as always to watch Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer on the screen. I enjoyed director Mike Mills' art films, and have watched his progression into more mainstream fare with interest. Netflix confuses him with the bass player for REM, but that is not him.

Jaws remains a good time at the movies. Having seen it so many times as to have borderline memorized it, one is allowed to notice smaller details, especially when a 35mm restored print is on the big screen. The film also marked a welcome return to the Charles theater revival series, which will continue into the fall (for details, go here).

Tabloid was a lesser Erol Morris documentary, but still told a bizarre and compelling story comptently. A beautiful but unstable woman falls instantly in love with a young Mormon man. Things get decidedly complicated (and tabloid-worthy) from there.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. has title-punctuation problems but was otherwise a sharper variety of romantic comedy from an indie directing team. Of all the rom-coms this summer, I chose this one. Great cast and pleasingly complicated. The ending was improbable, but I must forgive it that flaw.

During a trip to Chicago, I saw The Future. Here, it is clear that is a movie. Miranda July manages to stay true to the vision and voice of her debut film, but takes things in a much darker and despairing direction. A couple in their mid-thirties realizes that they are in their mid-thirties. Let us just say, in some ways, the film was a direct hit on the creeping dread of someone born in 1976. Should be playing at the Charles theater in the coming weeks.

The Man Who Fell to Earth was another Roeg to check off the list, and was not the space fantasy I expected. Far from Ziggy Stardust: The Movie, what transpired on screen was much more realistic and cynical. A perfect snapshot of mid-seventies rock star excess and post-Watergate cynicism/paranoia.

As Hurricane Irene approached, I spent a weekend watching various Netfilx items of interest. First up, Jim Jarmusch's break-out film Stranger than Paradise, which reminded me of the attitude and interests of the art and music underground denizens I encountered in the 1980's, when I was just getting started out trying to be cool. Two NYC toughs go on the make with a newly-arrived Hungarian woman. Gritty yet mannered, cool to the touch and deadpan, the film marks the beginning of the Jarmusch style, which I have greatly admired for some time.

Pale Flower popped on and off the Netflix Instant as the storm raged outside. A tough-as-nails Japanese Noir from a director I have yet to explore. A hardened killer recently released from prison meets a highborn lady looking for excitement in the gambling dens of early 1960s Tokyo, and the two begin a run through the urban jungle. Guess how it turns out? Not too well.

Bananas is an early Woody Allen film. Things are schticky and Mad magazine anarchic as Woody's protagonist gets mixed up in the politics of a Latin American country. Fun, diverting, and about to expire on the Netflix Instant queue, so why not?

Trash was also about to expire in more ways than one. A junkie hustler wanders through the New York City of the 1970s and becomes involved in various capers and misadventures. Andy Warhol "produced", Paul Morrissey directed. So trashy and insane and non-acted it became somewhat compelling. Here is an article about other underground films that have been streaming on Netflix Instant.

Something Wild
was a successful 1980s re-invention of the romantic comedy road movie from director Jonathan Demme. Three actors (Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta) are so on-point and in their moment it is astounding to watch. A professional man is "kidnapped" by a wild woman who asks him to pretend to be her husband. A joyride that soon spins out of control. Blink and you will miss a cameo by Baltimore's own John Waters.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
The Music Box Theater(Chicago)
Suburban Multiplex
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 12 features, 1 short film (7 in theaters)