Playing catch-up on some films
Haven’t posted in awhile, but here are some thoughts on some films I’ve watched recently. I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but the section about Interview has some commentary on the ending. If you don’t want the movie ending partially given away, you’re best off skipping it.
Interview is a remake by Steve Buscemi of a 2003 Dutch film. The film is extremely simple in terms of setting and cast. The characters, on the other hand, are very complex and are portrayed as such by the talent of Buscemi and Sienna Miller. The film unfolds through a series of alternating drinks and questions in an awkward, naturalistic way which never entirely gives away either character’s motives. The ending, however, decides that this hazy night isn’t enough. Instead of a subtle and ambiguous conclusion, we’re left with some sort of Usual Suspects-style surprise ending which entirely undermines and clashes with the rest of the film.
I’m really starting to like Aaron Eckhart. I’m not putting him in the must-see category that I put Christian Bale and Jason Statham in, but he was fantastic in Meet Bill and Thank You For Smoking – two films that both possess a very modern style and sense of humor. Eckhart’s character, Bill, is a tragic and comedic figure trapped in his wife and father-in-law’s world. He tries to escape from his personal life through candy and tries to escape from his professional life through a donut franchise. Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis (of SNL “A-Holes” fame) were a fun surprise as the Whittmans, owners of the donut chain that Bill wants to be involved with. Really, all of the secondary characters were pretty good, including The Kid who Bill mentors. I must admit I didn’t realize until almost the end of the film that he wasn’t actually given a name. I’m terrible with noticing that sort of thing.
Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart, the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, is a simple, elegant tale of childhood dreams and self-doubt. 14-year old Shizuku, a prolific reader and aspiring writer, tries to figure out what she is going to do with her life. Quite a task for a junior high school student, when her sister still hasn’t figured it out yet and her mother has gone back to school herself. It’s of course a bit absurd that Shizuku puts herself under such pressure to figure out her future at such a young age, but isn’t everything bigger, more important, and more urgent when you’re a child? The film is in classic Studio Ghibli style with basic character design and lush landscapes and settings. While Whisper of the Heart starts slowly, focusing on childhood relationships, but quickly becomes engrossing as we get caught up in Shizuku’s hopes and uncertainty. It’s worth noting that the cat statue, which plays an important role as an inspirational piece to Shizuku, is brought back in fantastical form in the follow-up feature The Cat Returns.
Film Geek is a fun little low-budget film that pokes fun at Scotty Pelk, a film geek who is probably at least semi-autobiographical for writer/director James Westby. Scotty seemingly loves all films. I can’t remember a single line in the movie where Scotty says anything negative about any film. The lists that pop up of Scotty’s favorites, including his top Cronenberg films and favorite horror flicks, are a cool alternate way of exploring Scotty’s meticulous and all-encompassing knowledge of film. Scotty is an off-putting, awkward character, yet you can’t help but admire his love, knowledge, and dedication to film. Film Geek is not a meta-film in the way that Inland Empire or Contempt are; it’s more of a film about obsessive film fandom than film itself, which really is far more relatable.
Not film exactly, but I’ve just found that Twin Peaks is on cbs.com. This should be relatively exciting for those of us who want to see the extremely influential series without having to get a dozen different discs from Netflix. CBS uses something close to whatever Hulu uses, but without the pop-out feature, which makes using dual monitors less convenient.
I just noticed this actually, but a lot of the directors whose work I’m most interested in are often attached to certain actors/actresses more so than other directors. David Lynch, whose work is incredibly fascinating if not always coherent or even enjoyable, often employs actors including Grace Zabriskie, Jack Nance, and Harry Dean Stanton. In addition to Woody Allen’s favorites Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, and more recently Scarlet Johannson, he also liked featuring Anjelica Huston and Julie Kavner. Guy Ritchie is great with Jason Statham, Christopher Nolan with Christian Bale, and Wes Anderson with pretty much everyone in his movies.
Arbitrary song of the day: VHS or Beta – You Got Me