Themeless Quick Hits

This weeks “Themeless Quick Hits” is another themeless mash-up of uncollected films. Mostly, some are, but there was no solid, complete theme.

Lawless

dir. John Hillcoat – 2012 – 7.00 – Several years ago I watched The Proposition by John Hillcoat, but not because of the director but because of the writer. I have been a fan of Nick Cave and his various band lineups for the better part of my lifetime and I was fascinated that he was interested in writing a western film. I have very few memories of that film now but they got that band back together to tell the story of a family moonshine business and their run-ins with the law.

John Hillcoat directs Nick Caves screenplay with wonderful performances by Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, and Jessica Chastain. The only downside is one that is common through most films and that is the parity. Based on my knowledge the female leads acted correct to time and it was probably close to the original book but this designed to be, without argument, a stereotypical boy’s movie. Booze and guns. Crime. Cars. Nudity. Don’t mistake, everyone did their job admirably and I suspect that I will be happy to watch it again years down the road. It looks great and sounds better with a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score.

The Road to el Dorado

dir. Eric Bergeron – 2000 – 7.4 – There was a time in my adult life that I loved nothing more than watching a well-produced animated musical, notably the Disney, or in this case Dreamworks, films; it was the high point of Pixar. El Dorado was a favorite of the time.

I must have been in a bad mood early in the month because I decided to load up a copy on VUDU and was transported back in time to those magical moments. The songs by Tim Rice and Elton John are delightfully familiar with acceptable animation and terrific voice performances by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh. All these years later and the film holds up as well as I hoped.

Charade

dir. Stanley Donen – 1963 – 6.93 – This Stanley Donen picture might be one of the better Alfred Hitchcock pictures I have ever watched. From beginning straight on to the ending you can see rudimentary flashes of Hitchcockian imagery. This is a good thing because, and only because, it is a very fine film with excellent acting. It could have easily been a bust. I am excited to watch this again some time.

For All Mankind

dir. Al Reinert – 1989 – 7.30 – What a fascinating little documentary. For All Mankind is a film combining NASA footage with Brian Eno music telling the story of the Apollo missions, specifically Apollo 11. There is a good deal of space images that I had never seen before and I am grateful that I now have. A few weeks ago Vivian Kubrick made a statement, hopefully, putting a final nail in the coffin of her father filming a fake movie landing. Being able to watch all of this footage from that mission really makes me question how people have felt this way for so long. But that is another bop. If you like NASA or the moon, or floating ham spread, you definitely need to watch this film.

Braveheart

dir. Mel Gibson – 1995 – 6.73 – A handful of the films that I have watched recently are re-visits. I cannot remember the last time I had watched Braveheart but it still works just as well has it did twenty-one years ago. While not particularly accurate the film is an interesting parallel against several other historical instances of rebellion against, well, against Britain since most people have a similar, shared, history with colonization. Some of the questionable effects still stand out like they did the first time; specifically, there is a scene when someone chops a leg off with a sword and it is the cleanest and most straight, cut I have ever watched. But that does not stop me from enjoying the film.

The Night Porter

dir. Liliana Cavani – 1974 – 4.67 – I am not sure why I was so hopeful for this film but my expectations were high going into the picture. While most of the photography and design was decent everything else, though, was a wreck. Roger Ebert says it better than I would be able to, “as nasty as it is lubricious, a despicable attempt to titillate us by exploiting memories of persecution and suffering.” You may consider saving yourself a little time by skipping this film.

Independence Day

dir. Roland Emmerich – 1996 – 6.67 – I wasn’t feeling to well and Independence Day was on television, that is basic math. It amazes me how well the film holds up and the comedic performances from Will Smith and Jeff Goldbloom should be considered highlights in their careers. It’s not a great movie but as a tent-pole picture I would not expect it to be. These are often films designed for the lowest common denominator, some hit, others don’t, but there will always be an audience.

The Social Network

dir. David Fincher – 2010 – 6.53 – Of the Fincher films I have scored The Social Network is the lowest and I can easily see why. First, the editing is so specific that it is off-putting. I have no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what Fincher and Sorkin had in mind going in and in that case they nailed it, for me though it makes the film a touch confusing.

The second is how the, nearly, perfect acting destroys the parity. All of the principals portrays the writing so perfectly that they are all assholes to the point of being completely unlikable.Watching the film twice now it was almost a new movie the second time which negatively affects the lasting impressing. I can watch Seven, or Benjamin Button from memory. I remembered scenes and themes but it was all a blur which is likely the effect of the editing.

The General

dir. Buster Keaton – 1926 – 7.79 – This screening of The General was very serendipitous for me. This year is the films 90th birthday and I was vacationing in Portland, Oregon. The Hollywood Theater was also celebrating its 90th birthday so someone commissioned a new soundtrack for the film by composer Mark Orton who was there with a small orchestra performing the track live alongside the film. Being able to enjoy an old silent comedy in a packed house makes my laughter a little less lonely. It was a wonderful experience. I wrote a long review of the film a while ago so I am not going into the beats here.

Batman Begins

dir. Christopher Nolan – 2005 – 5.27 –  My flight home from Portland was a red eye which destroyed my ability to stay awake, upon returning home. So I watched Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Begins knocked me right out, like it did the first time. Much of this is reviewed from flashes in between snoozes, which should be fairly telling.

The Dark Knight

dir. Christopher Nolan – 2008 – 7.87 – The Dark Knight is the shining high point of the trilogy. More directly Heath Ledger was that beacon. I stayed awake for the whole film and enjoyed it as much as I have on my previous screenings. It might be my favorite Batman film.

The Dark Knight Rises

dir. Christopher Nolan – 2012 – 5.87 –  Boy howdy, this is a long flick. I have enjoyed many of Tom Hardy’s performances but this is not one of them. Everything is so derived and easy to anticipate.

8 Diagram Pole Fighter

dir. Kar-Leung Lau – 1983 – 6.13 – There is little I can say about 8 Diagram Pole Fighter. I am told that it is one of the best example of high action kung-fu films but if this is the best I defiantly want more. For each weakness the strengths obliterate them. This is an action movie and it does not pretend to be anything else.

Night and Fog

dir. Alain Resnais – 1955 – 7.30 – Night and Fog is a short but unbelievably important documentary about the holocaust. I was having a conversation with Michael Hutchinson a while back about including documentary films one the same statistical rating list with fiction films. He makes a very valid point, especially when you consider that I watched it directly after a kung-fu movie. I think it is important to try and force myself to remember the difficult docus when I try and remember the joyful comedies. Because Night and Fog, like Shoah, represent the ultimate tragedy if the 20th century and they cannot be ignored.

The Lady Vanishes

dir. Alfred Hitchcock – 1938 – 6.33 – The further back you go in the filmography of Hitchcock you go through a curious time warp as Hitch moves in between suspense to a tinted noir films. This movie is interesting with many of Hitchcock’s tropes and lead you through the movie without being overly obvious. Of the films in the Hitchcock Boxed set this would tie for second with 39 Steps.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

dir. Alfred Hitchcock – 1934 – 5.27 – This film is a miss for me. It was a fine picture but nothing heavy or overly interesting.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

dir. Werner Herzog – 2016 – 6.42 – Lo and Behold is the newest film by one of my favorite humans, Werner Herzog. The film is a documentary about the Internet, it’s highs, lows, dangers, and future. The idea of cramming the Internet into an hour and a half documentary is a clear indication that it will be severely truncated, or at the very least, laser focused view of Herzog’s personal desires. The latter is exactly what you get. Herzog wants to answer the questions that we rarely ask about security and its futility. What the Internet dreams about and how self-driving cars can make society a better place. This is a very interesting piece of Herzog’s art.

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