Monday, November 7, 2011

Films Viewed (October 2011)

Shoot the Piano Player remains the prime Truffaut that I don't quite get, more a playful mishmash of genre styles than his other movies from that era. A formerly famous musician in exile gets caught up in various gangland misadventures and a tangled romance. I think I just prefer when Godard did this sort of thing, which would probably really bug Truffaut considering their complicated relationship and rivalry.

Le Rayon Vert, brought to me courtesy of the Charles theater revival series, is a mid-period Rohmer, a director I have only encountered via his "Six Moral Tales" series. A difficult woman flops in and out of various encounters and situations over the course of a ruined summer vacation. I love any film that dares question the surety of summer fun in the sun, and I found Linkthe films modes of alienation to be very engaging. Just call me Mr. Sunshine!

I was really happy to see In A Better World despite having never heard of the Oscar-winning Danish film. Masculine roles are explored via the story of two troubled boys and their distant, complicated fathers. Perhaps made more resonant thanks to the nuanced perspective of a female director and my professional experience as a teacher of dudes.

Videodrome was a classic key Cronenberg I had yet to encounter, a film ahead of its time and a look towards our frightening future of image consumption. A surreal dream of a film that rides the line between horror and Neo-noir skillfully until finally giving in to gore. Another quality Gunky's Basement screening.

It is amazing I have not seen The Grapes of Wrath before now. A digitally restored VHS copy has been floating around my personal possessions for years, purchased when I began teaching and found a crate of the novel among my potential texts for my first teaching assignment. Like a lot of things that year, I never quite got to it. A great film to see now.

Take Shelter is already clearly one of my films of the year. A family man struggles with apocalyptic visions in workaday Ohio. The masterful choices make the film powerful and effective, leaving the viewer guessing until the very end. Michael Shannon has never been more perfectly cast.

Dracula (1931) was a nod to the season and a diverting choice off the Netflix Instant queue. Tod Browning's version of this classic tale appears aware of how campy it is, and the whole thing is just so creaky, ridiculous, and over-the-top that a modern viewer can't help but hear the MST3K gang riffing on it in their heads. I prefer Whale's Frankenstein from the same year for having a bit more meat on its bones in terms of subtext and atmosphere. I don't think I've ever seen the film in its entirety until now, but the text has been referenced so many times it felt entirely familiar, especially the first twenty minutes.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 7 features (5 in theaters)

Charm City Cineaste Four Year Anniversay: 2007-2011

Just a quick note to mark the beginning of a fourth year of this blog.

CCC has become a strange sort of feedback mechanism for me. Through it, I am able to quickly share my thoughts about films I've seen and have a handy reference to aid my filmic memory. Did I see Rachel Getting Married? Yes, I did. In January of 2009.

I remain happy with the current format as a writing exercise. I know sometimes I don't feel like writng these capsule reviews, but I give it my darnedest. We live in a culture of instant communication and the format is a nod to that. At the same time, the lag on my posts means a film is often out of theaters by the time you read my thoughts. But maybe I am just the tipping point to putting it on the queue for later viewing.

Speaking of the queue, how about that Netflix, huh? What seemed like the happy future of film viewing has become quite the mess, current indicators being that Netflix is going to stay the course for now. I remain a Netflix subscriber, but I know millions have left the service, and there were some involved conversations in my household over our subscriber status, especially during the Quikster fiasco.

I still believe that streaming remains the future of film watching, but I am no longer sure what form that future will take. So many things we feel comfortable with (the video store, the movie theater, the television/cable channel) just don't seem to presage what is coming. In the meantime, Video Amercain is offering membership deals for anyone who dumps their Netflix account in a movement they are cheekily hashtagging as #occupyvideoamericain. It seems there is still some fight left in this beloved Baltimore institution, and I hope my travels will take me there more often in the coming months.

So, here we begin another year of me seeing movies and briefly writing about them. My focus on film exhibition in Baltimore is gone, but my current life/work situation dictates that unless the film is delivered to my doorstep or available instantly, a short walk to the Charles theater on a Saturday morning or Friday night is about all I have time for these days.

Thank you for reading and I hope I can continue to be of service.