The near-universal adoration of Quentin Tarantino has always somewhat perplexed me. While I still consider Pulp Fiction one of the 4 or 5 best movies of the 1990s, it’s the only one of his, either as director or writer, that I have any real love for. True, at times the dialog in Reservoir Dogs allows it to escape the monotonous and grueling death march of its overworked and underdone plot. And while I do have an abiding and inflexible love for True Romance, it’s almost entirely because of my near-obsession with The Brothers Scott and their bodies of work. The remainder of his oeuvre (that I’ve seen) is rife with sloppy, flabby messes, each bearing the overlong, under-edited mark of someone who was lauded as a genius too soon, and believed it. His current offering, Inglourious Basterds, proves that, while it’s too much to expect an old dog to learn new tricks, the older the dog, the more satisfied you are when they only urinate on the linoleum. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Arthaus’ Category
While there’s some rum, and a little bit of the lash, 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World has more of syllables than of sodomy. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but when you’re dealing with an historical drama where life in the Napoleonic War-era British Navy is integral to the storyline, the least you can do is to not make a liar out of Sir Winston Churchill. After all, it isn’t unusual for movies like this to feature scenes where the poopdeck is just lousy with seamen.
Sometimes movies get so close to being perfect that when they fall short of the perfection they hope to attain, they fall farther and harder than a movie that doesn’t even try. The sophomore effort of Rian Johnson, director of my favorite movie of 2005, Brick, is just such a movie. That isn’t to say that The Brothers Bloom is a bad movie–in fact, it has moments of greatness. It isn’t even to say that it’s an uneven movie–the first two acts build a convincing and sometimes beautiful world full of entertaining and fantastical characters. What it is, is a movie that changes gears so abruptly between the second and third acts that the audience is left lurching like a driving-school Dodge Omni with a 5-speed and a worn-out clutch. (more…)
Watchmen, both the comic and the movie, suffers from a kind of Two Face schizophrenia. In the comic, Moore’s dialog vacillates from very good to over-worked “style for style’s sake” pap. For instance, the Rorschach psychotherapist scenes were well done, while a lot of Rorschach’s half-sentence fragments, especially later in the story, felt tin to me, like Moore was simply trying too hard. His plotting has a similarly vexing quality. The intertwining of The Black Freighter theme, the psychological realism of the main characters that plays on throughout the narrative, and moments of the prison sequence are all handled with such finesse that they seem to jump off the page. But each of these are moments of brilliance layered on top of lunacy that, at least for me, take the reader out of the story completely. To put it succinctly, he’ll ask the question “why can’t the comic medium be taken seriously as an art form?” and he’ll answer “because I have a giant alien squid for the deus ex machina of my grand finale.”
I watched Unforgiven a couple days after seeing Gran Torino, and there was one thing that stuck out for me: Clint Eastwood’s voice. In Unforgiven it’s pretty much a normal speaking voice, although he whispers most of his lines. In Gran Torino it’s a throwback to the character he played in Heartbreak Ridge, where every single line is spoken through gritted teeth with a sandpaper voice box. The only difference, I think, is that then Eastwood was affecting the voice to fit the character of Gunny Highway, and now he’s just so old and mean that that’s what he sounds like. (more…)