Thursday, April 19, 2012

Films Viewed (March 2012)

A Separation lived up to the hype, an engaging and dramatic Iranian film about a couple's disintegration under Sharia Law. You think you might not want to see this, but, trust me, you do. This was a well earned Academy Award.

Songs for Cassavetes was part of my last rentals at the Charles Village Video Americain (two stores in the chain remain open). A film about the turn-of-the-century American music and arts underground focusing on the legends and emerging stars of the scene. The kind of film I didn't need to see when I was living it, but one I definitely appreciate now as a statement of the principles I still continue to live by.

Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King has been on "the list" for forever. It is an interesting trope of the lionizing/canonizing "rock docs" that they always choose a certain work that is the greatest by the group. I am now very curious to hear "Charmed Life", but I suspect it will leave me feeling like I usually feel about Half Japanese.

"You're Not Fooling Anybody" and "You're Still Not Fooling Anybody" were paired on the same VHS tape. Very controversial work in the Tarantino era. Now, I feel like it is akin to beat-diggers pointing out other DJs sample sources. Not that exciting. Still, a masterful editing job that points out (convincingly) that Tarantino "sampled" a plot-line from another film for the heist from Reservoir Dogs.

"A Day's Pleasure" and "The Kid" were a double feature at The Charles, which continues its Chaplin retrospective. I will have to miss this month's installment, but I highly recommend you check it out. "The Kid" was especially enjoyable, if I bit creaky and melodramatic at times. To be fair, when you are birthing an art-form, you're gonna do some things that will later become cliche.

Coriolanus was a tough-minded Shakespeare adaptation, very in tune with the issues of today. Set in a dystopian future world but still done "full Elizabethan" in terms of dialogue, the story charts the rise and fall of a warrior who would be king. Well, he would be king if he didn't like killing and fighting so much. Great performances highlight this rarely-adapted or performed work.

Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! was the Everything is Terrible collective's most recent collection of lovingly compiled video garbage. This time around, the focus is on dogs, and the ostensible "frame" is a re-make of Jodorowksy's Holy Mountain. A mind-melting 90 minutes, presented at the Whole Gallery.

Wanderlust had me in hysterics in the (otherwise empty) Landmark Harbor East theater in which I viewed it. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston's characters stumble into a commune after their Manhattan life crumbles in the new economy. David Wain directs a stellar supporitng cast. Perhaps made more resonant to me by how often I have rubbed elbows with the "other" American music and arts underground (the one with the jam bands and the drum circles).

It is safe to say that The Hunger Games was a good night at the movies, even for a neophyte to the series like myself. Jennifer Lawrence was note perfect, the dystopian world fully realized. I look forward to more of the films, but I fully admit I will probably never get around to reading the books.

I will never not enjoy watching Sunrise, an early silent film that never fails to personally satisfy and gratify me. A "symphony of the country and city" in which a man is tempted to leave his wife and then reconsiders. A beatifically shot, wonderful window into a lost world and culture.

Everyting is Terrible: The Movie and 2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift were similar experiences to the above works of the EiT Collective. Just an amazing mind-melt. The first focused on those dusty "educational" videos in the free rental section of the video store of yore and the ones you would find from the 1980s at the 1990s flea market. The second expanded on the theme, gained form, ate my brain.

Project Nim examines what happens when you raise a chimp as a human. Can it acquire language the way a human baby would? This documentary raised many good questions not only about language acquisition but also about the (flawed) humans conducting the experiment and their intentions.

I am glad to have seen Khodorkovsky, despite its plodding, pedantic tendencies. An engaging and illuminating film that serves as a window into the end of the USSR (and the rise of Putin).

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Video Americain / Whole Gallery
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 12 features, 4 short films (9 in theaters/venues)

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