My Week in Film (7/14 - 7/20)

I watched more than I expected to. That's good, isn't it?

The Host (2006)
(Directed by Bong Joon-Ho)

What's great about The Host is the way that it mixes genres without regard for courtesy. Sure, it delivers fantastic action but what's to stop it from throwing a great gag out of nowhere? And it's not happy by just being a hell of a lot fun, it's also a great piece of family melodrama and has some biting commentary to spare. That's why The Host works. It seems to me that more action films should aspire to be this entertaining and be willing to transcend its genre trappings and go further. Why the hell not, you know?


Unknown Pleasures (2002)
(Directed by Jia Zhang-ke)

It's hard to say the film is enjoyable but to call it unsuccessful would just be wrong. I mean, if the point is to depict China's directionless youth then Jia has done it. Plus he somehow found a way to convey this not through dialogue but just through random shots of his characters doing everyday things. These are faceless characters influenced by American pop culture since there's nothing else to consume. They're going nowhere and that's the point. Fucking depressing point.


Chop Shop (2008)
(Directed by Ramin Bahrani)

Movies like these feel like small miracles. They come out of nowhere, feel so natural and show you a place you've never seen before that they feel completely original. Of course, this kind of film about scrappy street kids is just another in a long line of films about scrappy street kids from pixote to... whatever (films I haven't seen but are dying to). It's all new to me though. The relationship between Alejandro and Isamar and everything around them feels so true to life that you can imagine them actually existing. You begin to care for them and as they keep struggling, you struggle with them. Kinda beautiful.


Summer Palace (2006)
(Directed by Lou Ye)

It feels like I've seen something like this before. Young woman goes off to college, finds herself, has a bunch of sex, no, wait, I haven't. I think these kind of films are usually told through the male perspective so it's refreshing to see it the other way. However, I don't really have anywhere to go with that so I'll just go and talk about something completely different. There's lots of things that were awkward to me, the numerous sex scenes (I would count them but I would feel embarrassed), the diary-like voice over, the weird as hell "time is passing by" montage and the "where are they now?" finale. Strange stuff. Anyway, while I enjoy the general disconnect present in the characters, it's almost become a cliche in Asian films. A lot of the stuff at the university feels "been there, done that." It's only that we get further into the story that more complexity and a certain ambiguous nature is introduced. However, it's at this point where the film becomes pretty much voice over only.

And, now, I'll copy/paste some thoughts I had right after I saw the film.

Yeah, it's not bad or dull but there are too many things that rub me the wrong way. It reminded me of The Dreamers, actually, although probably only in a superficial way. Specifically, in one shot where, the main girl (bad with names, srsly) opens her door to find that the entire campus has gone absolutely crazy. It's not the same as The Dreamers (since the political upheaval of the day crashed into them) but it did have that same "whoa, what the hell is happening out there?" kind of vibe. The politics (the era or whatever) in the film seem to be in the background. We get shots of students rioting (and a montage of the Berlin wall falling) but those things are only linked to and never given any explanation or resonance.



The Girl Next Door (2004)
(Directed by Luke Greenfield)

I'm not sure what my intentions where when I decided to watch this film. Well, maybe, I do but I don't want to get into them. I was in the mood for something dumb, something stupid, something trashy. Did this disappoint? Yes and no. I think the film wants to be both sweet and dirty and kind of fails at both. Sure, Cuthbert is hot as hell but there's zero belieavablity in the porn star angle. When two of her porn star friends show up, the difference is made even more clear. So, Jhon, would this film be better if the title character actually looked like a porn star? I don't fucking know, maaaaaaaaaan. What I do know is that this film isn't so dissimilar to The Wackness. Both films make it their business to detail a young man's adventure to finally bust a nut. They're both adolescent fantasies. At least, this one's upfront about it.


The Insider (1999)
(Directed by Michael Mann)

Michael Mann makes films about men. Real men. Men who concern themselves with their jobs. Foxx drives his cab, Cruise kills people, Farrell bangs hot chicks and solves crime. Pacino gets people to come on to 60 minutes, Crowe is a science nerd. These men are busy with thought and action. Always thinking about their job and their duty. I think it's the fact that the actors never forget who they are and never go crazy and try to reach for that "Oscar moment" (although I'm sure could prove me wrong here) that makes this film good. However, a lot of this gets fucked up by Mann's eagerness for greatness. He just won't let the scene breathe. He's always doing some silly camera trick (camera next to Crowe's ears) or laying a perfectly fine scene with overly dramatic music. Regardless of this, The Insider works as fine drama despite itself.


The Dark Knight (2008)
(Directed by Christopher Nolan AKA JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF)

The #1 film of all time.... fucking sucks!!! Okay, not really. It's actually pretty fun and engrossing piece of pop filmmaking with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Oh, yeah, it's a comic book/superhero movie as well and you know how those are... The thing is for the majority of this film is that it doesn't feel like one which for me is a big plus since I couldn't care less about comic books (but did you see the watchmen trailer? fuck yeah!). It does feel like an updating of Heat for the 21st century (full of fetishistic costumes and all). Anyway, enough with that crap. I need to deliver some deep insight into this film's hamfisted politics... err... this film is pretty badass for a lot of its duration. However, I kept hoping The Joker would go even further and just completely destroy everything (I'm scared of myself now). Ledger's performance is indeed great (although he gets to monologue at length about the film's themes; The Mist style) and it probably overshadows a lot of the film because it gets the point where you only want to see him. Eckhart is more or less his match. The film doesn't drag but I'm wondering if it's all too much.


Sense and Sensibility (1995)
(Directed by Ang Lee)

What a weird experience it was to watch this film. For the first 20 or so minutes, I wasn't very engaged in it and then when that 21st minute passed, I was gone. I don't know where my mind went but while the images played, it dawned on me that these movies do absolutely nothing for me. I don't care about the costumes, I don't care about the class issues, I just don't care. It might be a case where maybe I just didn't give the movie enough of a chance and perhaps I had far too many stop/start issues with it but each time I focused on it again nothing about it grabbed me. I saw actors that I liked and I saw them so clearly "act" and it just annoyed the hell out of me. Then Hugh Laurie showed up and I started thinking "hmmm, I'd rather be watching House. Why aren't I watching House again?" Maybe it's not the movie's fault and maybe I'm just completely dismissing it without having given it a chance but I can only speak for my experience with it and that experience was extremely fucking boring.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Chop Shop


Eric said...

Glad to see Chop Shop is good. Netflix keeps recommending it to me but I've never heard of it before.

You have to admit the disappearing pencil trick in The Dark Knight was pretty good.

roujin said...

The stuff with Batman is never as satisfying as the stuff with Dent and the Joker so that's a turn off. Still a really good film and the best superhero movie evar.