My Week in Film (1/18 - 1/24)

Little Odessa (1994)
(Directed by James Gray)

Pretty much everything that makes a James Gray film a James Gray film is here. Somber, Brighton Beach, Russian immigrants, the mob, and family. Oh, yes, family. Anyway, that's garbage. Tim Roth plays a hitman who is ordered to go back to Brooklyn for a job. He doesn't want to do it, but he returns anyway, and soon he's having to deal with the father who hates him, the little brother (Edward Furlong) who looks up to him, I guess, and the mom who is dying. The story's told slowly and a lot of the film kind of relies on the sort of mournful tone that Gray and his players achieve. While technically, the film's just fine (lots of long takes, magnificently composed and shot), there are a lot of story problems. Mainly, the character of Edward Furlong is always at a place where he shouldn't be, and there's one action that really has just about no motivation. I also have problems with the ending and Tim Roth's final action because it's very unclear as to what it's supposed to imply (well, there's a meaning there, but I'm not sure why that particular image is invoked or whatever). So, pretty good film, lots of great individual scenes, but there were a few things that kept me from loving it. He definitely got better later on.


Suzanne's Career (1963)
(Directed by Eric Rohmer)

Film #2 of the Moral Tales. This one is about two callous youths who more or less mess around with this one girl, Suzanne, for a while. One of them dates her even though to all extents and purposes he doesn't like her at all, and the other one kind of stands around not really sure of what he should do. These two characters reminded me a bit of the ones in Norwegian Wood - at least, the camaraderie between the two friends did. One does things the other disapproves of, but they both understand their relationship, and don't particularly want to change it. Anyway, making me think of Norwegian Wood (even in the context of the character's douchy behavior) is always a good thing. The things that didn't particularly work for me in Bakery Girl aren't here anymore or, at least, they're not as pronounced, and I was able to enjoy the thing a whole lot more. It's also a good 30 minutes longer and it's sadly relatable in a way but the film's ending is what makes it a whole lot better - a surprising reveal which makes us question where the film's sympathies have been all along, and things just get a whole lot sweeter.


What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1984)
(Directed by Pedro Almodovar)

Carmen Maura is a put-upon housewife who does nothing but clean and clean all day, and basically slave away at a household that's falling apart. To get her through the day, she constantly pops some kind of pill called no-doze. Her husband is a cabbie who's obsessed with some German singer he used to know, her oldest son has begun to sell heroin, her youngest son enjoys the company of pederasts (a plot point that's somehow hilarious, that visit to the dentist! lol!) and her mother-in-law picks up sticks in the park and adopts a lizard. And then things get weirder. Somehow this all stays under control, I don't even know how. A lot of this film is really funny, sure (seriously, that dentist!), but it all gets balanced by how suffocated Maura's life is. Everything is shot in a dreary manner, and I don't think it's just cuz what Almodovar is shooting is really plain and stuff. I'm guessing it's to counteract the melodrama and the weirdness, and I'm guessing he's criticizing how women kind of get stuck into these slave positions and how they have no other options (Maura's character is illiterate). By the end of the film, I was actually pretty moved (psychic powers and all) by this portrait of a crazy family. People move apart, sure, but everyone's still family. I don't know you at all, roujin. I don't know you at all.


Sergeant York (1941)
(Directed by Howard Hawks)

Interesting film. It's very neatly bisected between York's farm life and his reluctant time in the army. One half's all about slow rhythms and everyday living, and the eventual reformation of York from drunken roustabout to a hardworking and devout religious man. The second half of the film's about the eventual reconciliation between religion and government: the bible tells us not to kill, but what do we do when our government asks us to go and fight a war? I found it interesting that it wasn't a straightforward "God is on our side" kind of thing. Gary Cooper is pretty damn charming all throughout. I really dug him when he was drunk and rowdy, but even more so when he was plowing the land, and looking for odd jobs. The shift from a drunk -> pious man is pretty erratic, but it's done in a really touching scene, and the film gives us some of that "old time religion." Anyway, I got the feeling that it felt pretty bloated at points (particularly the end), but I was pretty touched by the whole thing I suppose and didn't care much about it by then, and I was reminded me of nothing in particular and felt nothing in particular, just some things I picked up in school. Just nonsense really. That's all.


The Cassandra Cat (1963)
(Directed by Vojtech Jasny)

The film's basically about this small town who gets all shaken up when a magician rolls into town with a cat that wears glasses. The big deal is that whenever this cat takes off its glasses, it changes people into different colors - the colors of their true self. So if the cat turns you red, that means you're in love. If the cat turns you yellow, it means you've been cheating on your loved one, etc. So, this small town gets all shaken up when during a magic performance, the cat reveals everyone's personality. The film totally blows its load during this scene. It last a good 20 minutes with first this really surreal magic performance pictured above then with the orgy of color that turns into some really bizarre musical number. It's awesome. The grownups get all flustered about all these revelations and they band up against the cat, but the children, who are the bestest, decide to fight back. The film plays like some lost fairy tale, it's really cool. The ending of the film is actually kind of heartbreaking and there's this one shot of the this beautiful girl's eyes that kind of got me all sad and jittery and I couldn't speak for about a minute and, sure, it's an allegory about things but that's never mattered to me. I'm only interested in the truth. I've been digging for it for years. Tired beyond belief, he retired into the woods and was never heard of again.


Avatar (2009)
(Directed by James Cameron)

Is that all there is?


The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (2009)
(Directed by Werner Herzog)

Works primarily as a comedy, thanks to Cage. He's hilarious. But there's not just that. He's actually surprisingly layered, which shouldn't actually be surprising since his genius should be obvious to anyone who has a watched movie, ever. There's also a weird sense of desperation in the air. The air's sticky and heavy, and it feels like everyone's a little sweaty. Things are strange in this town. Cage walks through it with a weird posture and an even stranger gait as he holds up fucked up college kids while leaving the club, demands sexual favors, and does weird things. He starts out okay then turns worse. Is there anything more? Kind of. There's a small amount of tenderness reserved for Cage's scenes with Mendes. There does seem to be a type of connection there, and the film might even be called their weird ass love story and the lengths he'll go to to protect her (?). Things are strange at this time of night. The end is the beginning and smilies cannot accurately convey the appropriate feelings regarding the circus show that is that iguana/alligator cam nonsense. Is it glorious? Are you dancer, roujin?

As to Herzog, eh.


A Serious Man (2009)
(Directed by Coen Bros)

You can never be truly certain of anything, roujin. None of the things that are happening to you can be explained. Accept the mystery that is life and don't ask questions. Be a good person and stuff. Or, well, yeah. I can't explain the mysteries of life through physics. It's like he says, the whole thing is just a fable, meant to be illustrative, right? So many things happen to me that there has to be a reason for it, and there have to be consequences for the things that happen... in this office. I am just typing things without thinking about it, yes, it's true. goddamn, it's so densely layered and composed, and probably my only complaint is that kind of almost comical sound effect for the visits to the Rabbi. Well, that's not really a complaint since I did find it funny. I don't know the whole thing is kind some fully worked out creation with its own inner logic that allows for things to happen and not happen, like car crashes and stuff, and maybe God does exist, or maybe he doesn't, and by the end of the film, there's this really unexpected kind of quietly earth-shattering revelation through cross-cutting. Father and son. Father and son. It either is or it isn't. THIS IS NOT A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT.


Duck Soup (1933)
(Directed by Leo McCarey)

I don't really like Groucho that much, but I looooooooooove Harpo. So, I was really hating this movie until he and Chico showed up. There are a lot of funny scenes like the one with the hats and the mirror one (funniest thing ever). Again, it's all Harpo. Then the last 20 or so minutes happen and the movie embraces chaos and it's one of the funniest things ever. Again, it's all Harpo (that Paul Revere thing made me lol). It just tosses aside any semblance of structure and just tosses a million jokes at you, and I was happy. I felt happy. So, Harpo. What a guy! ::)


Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
(Directed by John Ford)

Beautiful film. Great colors and landscapes and sunsets and horizon lines and costumes and things like that, which is what I usually say if the other things don't impress me (probably). Seeing Henry Fonda with a ponytail is probably something that slightly disturbs me to be honest. Claudette Colbert felt a little out of place though she does have some good scenes. Basically, Fonda marries Colbert and takes her out to the country to lead a pleasant country life and be farmers and stuff, but then the American revolution kind of puts a hamper on things and the English (or, really, just that one dude with the eyepatch) recruits the drunken Indians to just burn everything. Their life is uprooted. There are some tender scenes and most of the film is actually just them trying to build a life and have a kid and stuff and the fighting and the burning feel more like interruptions. But, I don't know. Whereas the community aspect of other Ford pictures really hit home with me in this one it just didn't. I don't know. I just felt really slow and the story and the particulars weren't that interesting to me and I was a little sad because I wanted to like this film and then I didn't and the people in the house were sad. Sad that roujin had let them down and squandered his wages on the usual things and had been found in a gutter three nights previous with nothing in his pockets but mints and toothpicks. The light is just a dream.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Little Odessa

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