Sunday, June 22, 2008

Film review time.


Slow weekend here, really. Did some more walking and exploring in Manhattan. Today was the first day in a long time that I haven't ridden the subway -- went to the park earlier and read through some more of The Corrections and the Sunday Times. Now we're having a sunshower. I'm having pinot, dry in my room.

Saw a couple movies on my Netflix this weekend. Thoughts:

On The Darjeeling Limited

It's no different than being in a rock band, really. Fans want you to churn out something that's a new arrangement of the old mechanical parts that they loved to begin with; critics want something fresh and critically interesting. You, if you are like most artists, strive for a middle road that stays true to your own style and roots but ventures into new territory. I would say Wes Anderson falls into the first road. I am a fan, though, and therefore don't approach his work with a critical eye, frankly. It's comforting. No matter how many times I move and take weird deflections on my life course, Wes Anderson's movies will still feature the same kind of shots, the same mishmash of obscure classic rock influence on the soundtrack, the same sort of artifice in cinematography, many of the same actors, and the same note of upbeat sadness at the conclusion. I am fine with this. The Darjeeling Limited is a Wes Anderson film on a train, were The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou had been a Wes Anderson film in the ocean and Rushmore had been one at a prep school. This is a welcome bit of constancy in my life.

On There Will Be Blood

There is no way, absolutely no way, that you could put a Wes Anderson film in front of me with his name removed from the credits and convince me that anyone else had composed it. However, during my watching of There Will Be Blood, I had totally forgotten that this was Paul Thomas Anderson's long-awaited return to cinema. This was impressive to me, because at various time I took note of shots of incredible cinematography; then the credits rolled and I thought, "Ah."

The film is beautiful. All three of the 2007 nouveaux westerns, this one, No Country for Old Men, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, were nominated for best cinematography. It's not hard, frankly. If you're willing to take the expense and time to film in the West, nature provides the rest. However, the Assassination of Jesse James was for me the weakest of the three for me because it dwelled on that -- panoramic shots of the West are lovely, but that film's overindulgence makes it drag.

As far as No Country is concerned, I've been itching to see it again see the first screening concluded -- I feel like it's the kind of film that deserves a second viewing. But I can't shake the feeling that it beat out There Will Be Blood for best picture because the voters fell victim to the Crash awe. By that I mean this trend in recent pictures to show how several seemingly disparate narratives tie together to show how the world is linked. Syriana, Crash, etc. I read a review of Lions for Lambs yesterday suggesting that film was written in the same way. No Country is not expansive in its attempt to show the interlocking of the world, but it does dabble in it, whereas There Will Be Blood fixates on the psychosis of one man. Were Daniel Day-Lewis less of a virtuoso at depicting this particular kind of character on screen, the film would have totally flopped. In that, and in its insistence on analog filming and spectacle in a digital age, it is something of a throwback. I'm not saying that alone makes it a better film, in some fogeyish sort of way. I only wonder if it was treated on its own merits.

I've now seen 4 of the 5 movies nominated for best picture last year, all but Atonement. I will disregard that one anyway -- it could be good, but I'm not really willing to consider anything co-starring Keira Knightley a serious Oscar contender. Not yet. Anyway, of the other three prestige dramas, No Country, There Will Be Blood, and Michael Clayton, I can easily say I thought There Will Be Blood was the best. Those films are sufficiently similar to be measured on their own terms. But how is one supposed to compare There Will Be Blood, a two-and-a-half hour festival of darkness, to Juno? The latter may be just as good a comedy as the former is a drama. But I don't know that it even works to put them in the same category. That is, I don't think Juno ever really had a shot; the nomination was simply a way for the committee to say, "Hey, we think this movie is pretty good."

Rain has stopped. It isn't too hot. The Brewers are 7 games over .500. Life's all right, for now.

EDIT: Oh, and I forgot to mention, I had happy hour on the company's dime this week at a rooftop bar on Broadway. Just saying, it was cool.


Chris said...

There Will Be Blood is in my queue. I'm desperate to see it. You just knew that PT Anderson would never get "back" until he stopped trying to make another PT Anderson movie.

I watched A Clockwork Orange last night. Loved it. Without Malcolm McDowell, though, it would have been unwatchable.

Rachel said...

Nice on the happy hour. Yesterday we had a bridal shower at work. Mostly it's a lot of work, but sometimes we have titling pizza parties and it's the ambiguous and curious world of thesis titling all over again.