Thursday, January 29, 2009

2008 part 11...

Alright, the films of 2008 is coming to an end, maybe one, two more entries...there's still a bunch of stuff I'd like to see, but a lot of it is in limbo between theatres and DVD, and I can't really afford to go to the theatres much right now anyway. So, yeah, I need to move on to something new anyway. I thought about doing the "999" challenge- nine films each in nine different categories (check it out on Divine Exploitation and Tomb It May Concern), but I think the real challenge for me right now (aside from finding a fucking job) is to watch more of the stuff in my collection that's been piling up for years and years, so I'm gonna do that.

In the meantime, ten more from 2008:

1. Doubt- Yeah, okay, sure, I got no real complaints about this one. The acting is great, and it deals with complex issues in complex ways. I suppose what with the title being "Doubt" part of the point is to leave the viewer with doubt as to what actually happened between the priest and the boy (oh yeah, I figured you already knew, but this is about a Catholic priest [Philip Seymour Hoffman] accused by a nosy, bitchy nun [Meryl Streep] on doing what Catholic priests do to young boys to a young boy), but after watching film after film from last year with abiguous endings, I sort of was hoping for something...different. But, see, this is the kind of film where an open ending works. We don't need to know what actually happened, the point isn't what actually happened, it's much more complex than that. I've read some criticisms that this is basically just a filmed play. So what? The acting is good, the dialogue is good, it looks's not like they could have thrown a car chase or a shootout in there to break up the dialogue. Really, this is just a very strong, actor-driven film, reasonably compelling and thought provoking, really, something like this should represent the average of your mainstream dramas, as opposed to the upper eschelon, but as it stands "Doubt" is, ahem, doubtlessly above average. I hate myself.

2. The Haunting of Molly Hartley- I don't get it, is this film Christian propaganda, or is it sort of anti-Christian, kind of Satanist propaganda, or is it just dumb enough to think that you can make a mainstream film dealing with Christianity in today's political climate and not have be at least somewhat about religion? There's some Christian shit going on in here. Anyway, this flick was blander than margarine on Wonder bread, despite the presence of not one but two actresses from the new 902010 show, Shannon Marie Woodward from "the Riches" and Jake Weber from "Medium" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, which isn't to say that any of these performers would necessarily make a bad movie good, but there's a pleasing array of attractive and/or talented performers to be found here, all with absolutely nothing of interest to do. Y'know, it's not like a horror film has to be gory to be good, I'm totally cool with PG-13 horror, I'm cool with PG and G rated horror, as long as it's scary or interesting somewhow. "The Haunting of Molly Hartley" isn't any of these things. Margarine on Wonder bread, man, with tap water to wash it down.

3. Midnight Movie- More horror that seems vaugely Christian-themed, or at least it has people saying the Lord's prayer to avoid getting killed by a demon, or whatever the thing killing people in "Midnight Movie" is. I sort of tuned out after a while. Like, after the first five minutes, when it became evident that nothing was going to happen. This one isn't just bland, it's pretty dumb as well.

4. Paranoid Park- After "the Haunting of Molly Hartley" and "Midnight Movie," Gus Van Sant's second-to-latest was a welcomed change of pace, but I still had some issues with it. They say that the definition of insanity is doing to same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and I'm pretty Gus Van Sant is pretty insane because he's kind of been making the same movie over and over again since "Gerry." That film, "Elephant," "Last Days" and now this...granted, to some extent, he does get different results. "Elephant" I found pretty mesmerizing, while "Last Days" I found pretty much unbearable. "Paranoid Park" is fortunately more like "Elephant," unfortunately it's a little too much like "Elephant." In fact, I think if Gus Van Sant were really the Andy Warhol-type figure he seems to fancy himself, he just would have called this "Elephant 2." We have the same uberhip teens (in Van Sant's world, everybody is uber hip, teens, parents, teachers- everyone except the cops, though ironically the cop gives one of the best performances in the film, but anyway, this is a world where the dad has full sleeve arm tattoos and nobody has ever heard of childhood obesity), the same minimalism, the long tracking shots down school hallways and across fields, there's a hook (this time, skateboarding), a killing (of a railway security guard)...we've been here before, and it was more powerful the first time, which isn't to say that "Paranoid Park" isn't an interesting film, it's just not that interesting a film, or something. It really made me miss the less aggressively pretenious Van Sant who made the poppy yet iconoclastic "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho." I mean, I'm glad he's still out there, trying to do something challenging, I just wish he's try to challenge me with something else.

5. Ghost Town- This film, from David Koepp (writer-director of Stir of Echos, writer of Spider-Man, Panic Room), is wholly acceptable. Ricky Gervais is funny, and well, what else do you really need in a Ricky Gervais comedy? It lightweight, sappy stuff, but there's nothing aggressively wrong with it. And it's funny (aside from Gervais, you've also got some pretty droll performances from Tea Leone, Aasif Mandvi and Kristen Wiig), which is more than can be said for a number of comedies from last year that tried a whole lot harder ("The House Bunny," "The Rocker"). Plus, it's a movie you could probably watch with your parents, and it's always good to have something like that in the hopper. Seriously, though, not that bad.

6. Rambo- I found myself completely and totally unable to pay any kind of serious attention to this movie at all. RAMBO sucks. Sylvester Stallone (who also directed) is a fucking steroided, bloated freak. I'd say he's a clown but I like clowns, so he's something else, something that sucks. Everyting about this movie is just fucking stupid.

7. Nobody Loves Alice- More bland, low-budget horror. This one boasts a strong lead performance by Nitzan Mager as the titular crazylady, and nothing, NOTHING else. Don't bother.

8. Never Cry Werewolf- The title seemed modestly clever (NEVER CRY WOLF was one of my favorite movies as a kid), and the description sounded a bit like FRIGHT NIGHT, but, man, this is no FRIGHT NIGHT. Did I say something about bland, cheap horror? At least NOBODY LOVES ALICE is a genuinely low-budget film. This one seems to have a least a few bucks behind it, not millions and billions, but like a made for the Sci-Fi Channel kind of budget (wouldn't be surprised to see this film show up on the Sci-Fi Channel), but it's just so uninteresting. Kevin Sorbo, apparently a right wing creep because he was in AN AMERICAN CAROL, and who can't pull of a semi-comedic role here to save his life (or my interest) co-stars with one of the girls from the new DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH series, who's supposed to be doing some kind of a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER thing but just seems as disengaged as you will be trying to watch this. How can a movie about werewolves be this boring?

9. He Was a Quiet Man- Flawed but interesting drama-comedy-thriller hybrid with a geeked out Christian Slater as an angry, depressed corporate drone who dreams of going on a shooting rampage at work. When he finally gets up the courage to do it, one of the other angry, depressed office drones has beaten him to it, and Slater becomes a hero after taking the shooter out. Things improve for him at first, but only superficially, his anger and depression, left untreated, eventually get the better of him and ruin everything. I think. The ending was kind of vague, but at least it had a point. No masterpiece, but it's watchable, and it's about something, so that's cool. I dunno, it was decent.

10. Love Story- This I was looking forward to, a documentary about Arthur Lee and his band Love, one of the underrated greats of the psychedelic 60's. LOVE STORY has all the right elements- interviews with Lee and his bandmates, producers and contemporaries, but it's just kind of...blah. There's no concert footage, or any live or alternate recordings of Love's classic songs (Little Red Book, 7 and 7 Is, Alone Again Or...) so all we get is versions we've heard before. The archival footage is minimal, so though we get some good new interviews with the band members, there's nothing really interesting visually going on. And despite how great the band was and how eccentric Lee (who died in 2006, the interview seems to have been shot in 2005) was, the story of Love just isn't that interesting, or at least we're not given enough different viewpoints to get an interesting picutre of what went on. The band formed, they played, they were brilliant yet unappreciated, Lee had an ego, everybody did drugs, the Doors got more popular than them, they broke up. Lee's later legal troubles (he spent 5 years in prison for drugs in the 1990's) aren't covered, nor is his battle with leukemia (he was the first adult patient in Tennessee to undergo a stem cell trasnplant), nor is what happened to the rest of the band after Love. In an era of compelling rock documentaries about difficult eccentrics (YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME, about Roky Erickson, THE DEVIL & DANIEL JOHNSTON), this one just isn't that great a film. Sucks, too, because Love was certainly a great band, and probably there's an interesting film to be made about them.

2008 film watching malaise has officially set in. I didn't care much about any of these. "Doubt" and "Ghost Town" were fine, "Paranoid Park" was ok but too much like "Elephant," the rest I could have totally done without. Just a few more, though, just a couple of more entries like this. It doesn't feel over yet, I have to keep riding the wave. But soon, something different. Soon.


Holger Haase said...

Just now discovered your post. Pity you didn't jump on the 999 Challenge. Hey, one of the categories could have been 9 Films That Have Been Lying Around My House For Far Too Long. :-)

harris smith said...

ha, that would be more like the 9999 challenge...