Continuing my explorations in cinema, here are the movies I watched in April 2012:
Being a fan of Andrew Niccol’s previous work, The Truman Show and Gattaca, I was looking forward to seeing this movie from 2011. In the future, humans have figured out how to stop aging. But to prevent overpopulation, artificial limits are put on a person’s lifespan, and time left to live becomes a trading commodity, replacing money. The poor die young while the rich can live forever. Like Niccol’s previous work, the movie featured wonderful writing, good acting, and an engaging story. Great film.
Thought I might learn something about cinematography with this DVD from 2006, though it’s just a bunch of talking heads. Absolutely no examples from actual films at all. Still, some of the interviews were very interesting, especially the ones with Vittorio Storaro and Gordon Willis.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I had seen a bunch of bits and pieces of this film since it’s so iconic, but never saw the whole thing until this past Easter Sunday. And it definitely lived up to its iconic status; I loved it. Great mix of humor and tragedy. And of course the “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” song is insanely catchy. Though I was familiar with the song previous to watching the film, the spirit of the film and the song match so well, watching the film makes the song even more catchy. The blu-ray also featured some great commentary tracks and a deleted scene (with lost audio) in which Butch and Sundance watch themselves get killed on a newsreel in a theater. I don’t know why they deleted it; I think it would have fit wonderfully in the film.
This 1997 film by Martin Scorsese tells the tale of the Dalai Llama. I guess it was educational.
I was curious to see how James Cameron’s insanely successful film from 1997 would look in 3D (I love 3D), and it was an extremely impressive conversion. I can’t imagine all the insane amount of work that must’ve went into it, but it was hard for me to tell it was a conversion. The only scenes that looked a bit odd were the ones in which a night sky full of stars was the backdrop. It just looked too close to the foreground, as if the actors were acting in front of a poster-board with stars painted on it. It did not look like the stars were far in the distance. As for the story, I had never actually seen the first half of the film, didn’t know anything about how Jack got on the ship or what the story with the jewel was all about. Geez, that romance was corny corny corny. Is that really the sort of guy women want? Bleh! Oh, and of course every time I saw the captain I thought: Theoden King!
This film from 2011 tells the story of an alienated father and son trying to find a way to relate to each other through the training and fighting of giant boxing robots. The story is based on an old sci-fi short story, not the boxing head-popping robot toys. The special effects were amazing, and it was refreshing to see a heartfelt story behind the action. Fun popcorn movie. But they certainly didn’t explore all the possibilities the premise of fighting robots could provide; it will be interesting to see if they create a sequel or not.
I hate Spock.
The Godfather: Part 2
I very much enjoyed this famous 1974 sequel. Again, I had seen many bits and pieces of the film before, but never the whole thing all the way through. It was a great film; one of the few sequels better than its predecessor.
Burn Notice: Season 3
OK, it’s not a movie, but I have been watching Burn Notice DVD’s lately, and recently finished Season 3 from 2009. Great show. I’m too behind to watch it on TV, but I’ll keep watching the DVD’s when I can.
My Neighbor Totoro
I’m continuing to catch up on Studio Ghibli’s famous films, essential viewing for animation fans. This film tells the story of two sisters who discover magical creatures in the woods behind their house who help them, in a way, cope with their mother’s illness. Great film, full of a believability and spirit you don’t see in many of today’s animated films that are instead full of pop-culture reference gags. (Though I still enjoy a good pop-culture reference gag.)
This Spielberg film from 2011 tells the tale of a horse who is “recruited” for war while the boy who raised him wonders whether or not he’ll ever see him again. A great movie for people who think horses can feel human emotions. I myself must admit that I am a blatant equusist; I am prejudiced against horses. I don’t think they can have human emotions. So it was very hard for me to relate to the horse’s war struggles. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with a human loving an animal (I know I quite loved my dear dead dog Patches), but I don’t like the idea of love for an animal being romanticized on the level of intra-human love in the context of a film’s story. Does that make sense? It’s a similar problem I had with Spielberg’s A.I.; I just couldn’t feel a relatable emotion with a little robot kid who doesn’t have real emotions in the first place. And in War Horse the Germans, of course, spoke English with accents during the war, don’t you know? Because Heaven forbid an American should have to read subtitles!
This Kurosawa film from 1980 tells the story of an impersonator who replaces a dead emperor during dangerous times as old Japanese kingdoms battle each other. After watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru a couple months ago, it was nice to see a film of his that was more epic in scope, and Kagemusha did not disappoint. Great film.
Visions of Light
This documentary from 1993 about cinematography actually had examples from movies! Woohoo! Great stuff, but it still wasn’t as educational as it could’ve been. It would be nice to see a documentary in which a cinematographer actual goes through the steps he takes to make his creative decisions instead of just looking at a bunch of final products and saying how good they are. Still, this DVD was educational and even inspirational.
This 1964 film tells the story of Thomas Becket (played by Richard Burton) who is friends with King Henry II (played by Peter O’Toole). The King appoints Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury in hopes that, because they’re friends, he’ll have a bit more control over that position. But Becket ultimately has different religious beliefs than the King, and their friendship begins to rip apart. Though some of the film feels a little dated and fakey by today’s standards (nice cardboard crown there, Henry), the story was engaging. I didn’t think the writing was so great; the characters seemed too blatant about their emotions, and too long-winded when it came to expressing them, like some classical play. But I guess that’s because it was adapted from a play. But with a film, I think you can show an emotion much more effectively just by a look in a character’s eye, the way the shot is framed and colored, and what sounds accompany the picture. No need to say anything sometimes. But Becket won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Heh.
This movie from 2011 tells the story of a guy who works in a tower. A bit like in Fun With Dick and Jane, his boss is arrested for something scammy, and it seems the guy and his working pals who had all their savings in the boss’s company may now go bankrupt. So they decide to break into the boss’s apartment, find where he’s hiding all his money, and steal it! The humor was a bit hit or miss for me (some of it seemed too forced), but overall it was quite funny.
I had never seen this classic film from 1942 before. Still, I knew many of the famous lines. And maybe that’s why they didn’t quite work for me. I had heard the famous lines so many times before, it felt like they were just being recited. Overall, it was a good well-written movie, but I don’t know why it became such a huge classic hit. I didn’t think it was that incredible.
Castle in the Sky
Another Miyazaki film from Studio Ghilbli, this one from 1986. The movie tells the story of a boy and a girl with a strange magical necklace thing who set out in search of a legendary floating island called Laputa. I think I would enjoy any adventure film with castles and airships; they really set off my imagination. So far, of the ones I’ve seen, this is my favorite film from Studio Ghilbli. Loved it.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
This documentary from 2011 was weird. It was supposed to be about the product placement in movies. But the filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, decided it would be neat if the documentary itself was funded entirely by companies in exchange for product placement. The result was a rather empty film. It was like an ad that just advertises itself. What’s the content? The content is the ad itself! Er, OK, what? The pitch meetings were interesting to watch, but the documentary as a whole didn’t make much sense to me.
This documentary from 2010 follows Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond (one of my favorite sitcoms), as he travels to Russia to help them adapt his sitcom for their country. Hilarious film, and very interesting to see how the TV business works in Russia.
So that’s, what, 19 this month? Movies rewatched this month include: 13 Assassins, The Truman Show, and The Prestige. Explorations in cinema continue this May, I hope.