Sunday, January 29, 2006

Flick the Button - I told you I was watching good ones...

1. Shaolin Soccer: I saw a dubbed version, so I feel like that cost me the full experience. It is very funny, and extremely clever. One of the best things about the two Chow movies I've seen is the quirkiness of the smaller roles. I liked Kung Fu Hustle a lot better. While that might be because I saw it first (and a better print), I also think it's a more complete film. I also think this movie was hacked up a little too much. It could've used another 20 minutes. Steak knives.

2. Spirited Away: I liked this significantly more than Princess Mononoke, though I think I understood it a little less. One of the problems I saw in Mononoke was that I didn't think there was anything in it that made the animation special. In this, the world created by Miyazaki definitely could only have been created this way, and for some reason that makes a difference. This movie seemed just so completely creative and original, unlike anything else I'd seen, including Mononoke. I can't get many of the scenes out of my head. All that adds up to a Cadillac.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries: On a purely technical level, this is an exceptional film. The acting is very good, the scenery is breathtaking, and the photography singes the mind's eye. The plot breaks no new ground, but in a way that makes it a better film. I think the movie deconstructs the politics of Guevara - the focus is on the decency in all humanity, I think - in a way that doesn't play to the middle, but also shouldn't turn off viewers. The scenes at the leper colony are especially outstanding. I can't put my finger on what was a flaw, but it didn't hit every high note. Perhaps I think it was a better film because of it's simplicity (I think a comprehensive and complicated character study might be impossible to film), but the simplicity also left me wanting more, I guess. Steak knives.

4. Roger & Me: Having seen Fahrenheit 9-11 and Bowling for Columbine, I always felt kind of dumb for never having seen this. I'm so torn on Moore. When he stays focused on the center of his argument, his films can be powerful and concise. This is the case in all three. There are simply heartbreaking vignettes, even considering that it's agitprop. But then again, Moore tends to travel down the most tendentious of loose strings, which truly hurt his central argument. In Fahrenheit and Columbine, the dead ends and four-degrees-away scenes are more annoying though. Here, they're a little more entertaining, and less annoying. The Amway saleslady and the Bob Eubanks portions especially (and did Eubanks get into a ton of trouble when this first came out for that joke? I can't see how he didn't). I'm really unsure on how to rate this. On one hand I want to call it you're fired, because it just doesn't feel as powerful as I thought it should, but on the other, I think it's at least a set of steak knives, for the one question that this movie really raised to me: what is the connection between cowardice and wealth. Steak knives.

5. The Ipcress File: This one really surprised me. Moody, dark, extremely smart, and very well acted. The score was absolutely fantastic. Caine was classy, brilliant, and badass all at once. A personal aside: my favorite genre of fiction when reading for purely pleasure is spy thrillers. This reminded me of the better thrillers I've read. Just really good. Call it a cadillac, but mostly because I like this kind of movie.

UPDATE: Added because for some reason I forgot to post this in one of the last few and realized it when reviewing for a year-end post...

The Ladykillers (2004): Hanks' character overwhelms him. The supporting characters are annoyingly and uselessly quirky (come on, a GI tract problem?), very unusual for the Coens. Unlike the Ealing version (which I also saw this year), more seems to be focused on the heist itself, and this actually isn't good. It's odd, because when I saw the original, I thought not enough time was devoted to the heist. Here, they give more time, but it still doesn't work. This version made me like the original more (and I'm considering upgrading it to a steak knife). Have the Coens lost their fastball (though I thought Intolerable Cruelty was decent), or was that run of Fargo-Lebowski-O Brother-Man Who Wasn't There just too amazing to keep up? I lean toward the latter (I consider all 4 to be cadillacs). Here's hoping they get back to it. You're fired.

and not a movie, but it took so much time...

Lost (Season 1): I won't get into it too much, beyond saying that this show makes me think just about every other show I watch (or the Lady makes us watch) look like shit (except Arrested Development). The main idea I want to get across though is the way TV shows on DVD make the show seem that much better. The program looks better because of the digital quality, the sound is better, and the ability to maintain continuity in plot (because you don't have to wait two damn months to get to the next episode). The Lady and I considered downloading this season's episodes to catch up, but we decided we'd rather wait for season 2 on DVD and catch up to start season 3. So don't mention anything in comments about this year! We'll get there soon enough. But yeah, I think it's awesome.