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High Rise isn't just a movie about insane people; it also seems to be a movie created by insane people. This is the kind of feeling you get when you watch the first montage in the film, which comes at about the 30 minute mark and sits in place of the actual drama of the story, leaving you with a movie that's less about the destruction of the High Rise and more about the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the High Rise. It's an incredibly strange narrative choice, though I imagine it was made by Ballard and not Wheatley/Jump, the husband/wife director/writer collaborators, and I imagine it's the exact reason, along with the rest of the strange narrative and visual directions this film takes, why so many people have been giving it bad reviews. The movie is incredibly loose by design. Someone else on here used the term, "a series of vignettes," and that's quite accurate. It feels like you're watching a series of vignettes, as the whole film slowly achieves perfect nightmare status, ending with a Brian De Palma- esque kaleidoscope shot. What I'm trying to say is, this isn't your typical dystopian film, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film. I actually quite enjoyed it. I spent most of the time smiling with brief intermissions for the really horrifying stuff. It's just an original, fun, movie that you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. If I went back in time and wanted to shock someone from the past by showing them how crazy movies have gotten, I would probably choose High Rise.
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Exactly what I needed
Everybody Wants Some!! was a perfect film for this moment: it consists of little more than a bunch of overly-competitive jocks joking with each other, partying, and trying to get laid over the course of three days before school even starts. It's intelligently written, fun, well-acted, and well-shot. What more could you ask for? Linklater, of course, does it all in a slice of life fashion: the opening of the film doesn't even attempt to describe what's going to happen and the end of the film barely describes what happened beforehand. The movie is almost meditative, and yet continually looking for stimulus in the largest and tiniest things... really whatever kind of stimulus they can get their hands on. Story-wise, it unfolds over almost every part of the era, which is, as far as I could tell, undefined yet seemingly somewhere during the 80s. Each night takes us to a different flavor of the time: disco, punk, you name it... but the genius of the script is that you don't really realize you've been given a tasting menu until you've already eaten everything. It just seems natural when it happens. Everything in this film seems natural, and that's a credit to the director, but also the actors. I imagine casting was the most important part of putting this film together and it seems to have been a success: every actor kills their part. Were they even acting? I have a feeling they were just being themselves. If you want to watch some kids mess around and laugh with them or at them, Everybody Wants Some!! not only is your movie, but probably will be your movie for a long time coming.
A Top Ten Horror Movie
The best part about The Witch, besides the acting, is the dichotomy between drama and what is actually a surprisingly fast paced and accessible horror movie (with few genre clichés.) The film could be looked at as two separate stories heavily intertwined: the supernatural horror of the woods vs the very real terror of violence erupting within the family, and amazingly this is all done seamlessly, missing no beats and never seeming to give up one for the other. In that way, The Witch has the elegance of a clever children's story (A New England Folk Tale to be precise) with the intensity of a melodrama. This would never have worked if the cast didn't kill every role, but luckily for us they did; they murdered those roles.
I don't think I've ever actually seen a movie during which people, in the middle of a crowd, screamed. The Witch did that. The Witch made people scream and gasp so loud the whole room heard and it did other things too: it told an engrossing, intelligent story. There are minor "complaints" I may have that keep it from being 10/10 (the shots don't carry the film as much as the writing,) but really this is a horror film that could easily make a top ten list. It's just good fun (and the ending is great... don't bash the ending... people are bashing the ending but I don't know why... it's really a perfect ending...)
Die Marquise von O... (1976)
I hadn't ever seen a rape comedy before, but after my first viewing of The Marquise of O I have to admit that that is, indeed, what I have seen... and it made me laugh sometimes and sit, in horror, others. I hope you understand, before you question my moral or intellectual composure, that I try as often as possible to take films and characters seriously within their own context. I am that guy that gets angry when people laugh in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and There Will Be Blood, and yet The Marquise of O seemed somehow different. I wasn't the only one laughing in the theater.
The premise is simple, provided you live within the mindset of an early 19th century aristocrat (there lies the comedy): a Russian Lieutenant, in the midst of battle against the Germans, saves the German Commander's daughter from being raped by his own troops, only to rape her in her room later in the night after she has taken a sleeping potion. This is only implied, but the rest of the film will consist of the Russian Lieutenant making strange and semi-obvious attempts to somehow right his own wrong, as The Marquise struggles to understand and deal with her seemingly random pregnancy.
I can only imagine that, to Eric Rohmer, this story must have represented the absurdity of the times, and he makes no attempt to sugar coat it or even explain it to the audience. From the incredibly polite beginning battle sequence to the awkward incestuous displays of affection, you are forced to accept what seems to you to be ridiculous circumstances... Then comes the reaction to her pregnancy: a long scene in which you simultaneously connect with, feel, and understand her pain, while giggling at the wild opinions and questions that ensue. To us, her pain is real, but her life seems fake, even though it has been real at one point.
It helps that the film is played straight and acted beautifully. As always, Rohmer has a perfect eye, and many others have pointed out Nestor Almendros's cinematography, which enlightens the already hypnotic imagery. I suggest you check it out if this all sounds good to you. I hope I didn't offend anyone, but this film is so strange I feel it has to be talked about.
Irrational Man (2015)
A Pure Woody Comedy At Top Form
I saw this movie today and it was just a breath of fresh air. In this era of political correctness and the consequent surge of tragicomedies that seem to be made to drive home the point that everything in life must be serious, Woody, in his infinite wisdom, has prescribed us a style of comedy often hated, misunderstood, and forgotten: the murder comedy a la Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux. I haven't laughed this hard at someone trying to kill another person since Preston Sturges's 1948 film Unfaithfully Yours, even though it's ultimately a much more understated English style of humor (very Comedy of Manners-ish.) As such, it doesn't surprise me that Irrational Man has been hated by most critics, since they are likely to fall into the trap of expecting that this movie will be one of the aforementioned tragicomedies, and thus simply think it fails to deliver. Instead, here Woody seems to find comedy in everything from Kant to sexism to suicide to faculty gossip, and as a consequence, the movie ends up as loose as his "early funny movies," unfortunately adding just another layer that might further confuse audiences. Essentially, if you don't find the satire quick you just won't understand what you're watching. On the actor side of things, Stone and Joaquin really kill it. It almost feels like they can turn the intensity up as easily as turning a knob, and there are three moments when you really get a sense of how far they can go.
This will certainly be on a list of Woody's most underrated movies in ten years time if the bad reception it gets doesn't slow down, and I hope that people will take the time to realize just what this movie is because I think they'd really have a good time watching it.
Inherent Vice (2014)
A movie that doesn't care, though it tries, and that's just beauty.
Inherent Vice just doesn't give a f@#k. I don't mean that as anything more than an observation, and understand this as you watch the film because otherwise you'll be a little lost. The film just doesn't care whether you think this or that is good acting or a funny joke. It doesn't care what you think is happening. It will go on. Despite any perceived awkwardness, it will continue to be itself... and there is awkwardness.
Fortunately, "itself" is absolutely beautiful. P.T. Anderson has mastered that Jacques Tati style wide angle and mixes it in with his earlier Boogie Nights fluidity for a confusing and awesome new style. He's done this before, of course, (The Master) but this time is pretty different. You'll notice it the moment that beautiful first shot appears. While I'm at it, I should mention the cinematography. There are colors in this film that I never thought I'd see again.
From a story telling perspective, Inherent Vice almost seems like a Terrence Malick movie at some points. The narrator comes in and out like hypnosis and there's this air of evil always lurking behind all that beauty. There's love too, and the ultimate message, if you can call it that, falls within the great rule of pop: it's best when it's bittersweet.
Man of Steel (2013)
A Modern Day Starship Troopers
Many people look at this film and say it's juvenile and doesn't have any character development. They say it's a joke. They say it's not Superman. Does this sound familiar? In the coming years people will look back at this movie like we look back at Starship Troopers (1997): they will watch it, enjoy the awesome fights, recognize its self-reflection, and ultimately find it endearing. "Endearing" is the perfect word for this movie. Superman is a lost, almost hipster, soul. His home world has been melodramatically, but awesomely, destroyed and now it's come back to haunt the human race. Characters often state platitudes both emotional and philosophical, but that only makes us like them more. As the amazing fights climax with Hans Zimmer's best score yet, audiences have two options: laugh and pretend like your smarter than Snyder, or smile and join the fun. I suggest you join the fun. There's no reason not to. This is a great movie.
In many ways this film is as cheesy as the old Superman films. It's just cheesy in a modern way. It uses all the modern conventions to their logical conclusion: non-linear story, grittiness, "realism," the damsel in distress has been replaced with a supposedly strong female lead despite the fact that she still actively plays the old role... What's there to hate? I'm serious. I don't understand why people don't like this movie. Then again, I never understood why people didn't like Starship Troopers. These films know what they are, but don't care, and that's something I'll always love. The fact that they do what their meant to do (action) so well is just lovely icing on the top.
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
More Than a Woman
As a Chayefsky fan, I sorta held off on this movie because it was presented to me as a mere anti-war film. I'm a little bit tired of anti-war films. I think we all are... But here I am, finishing my second viewing of this movie on back-to-back nights, and with great pleasure I can say that The Americanization of Emily is not a simple anti-war film. True to the Chayefsky name, this is one of the most original, well-crafted movies you will ever see. This is screen writing at its best: where conventional romances and gags are turned into a statement on the human condition, and you can laugh and, at the same time, hear your own thoughts put more eloquently than you could ever manage.
The Americanization of Emily is not content to stop at anti-war. It moves on and on, sometimes so quick it may be a little jarring at first or seem a little preachy, and maybe it is, but, for all it's flaws (the love song is eerily similar to Spartacus's love theme), this film could easily enter a top ten list. I don't want to hype it up too much, though. I may only like it because I agree. I also don't want to neglect director Arthur Hiller's great contribution (keep an eye out for the 3 minute take in the hotel room.) If you're a Chayefsky fan (which should be just about everyone), however, or if you enjoy the absolute mastery of craft exhibited by Hollywod during its Golden Age, you'll love this film. I highly suggest it. I really do.
The Interview (2014)
Clearly cut, but funny regardless
It needs at least an extra 30 minutes of movie, but regardless, it is still very funny at points. The ~10 minute tiger sequence is better than anything Rogan has done yet, including the entirety of his last movie This Is The End. You can clearly tell this film has been cut up, though: characters have act unnaturally and some scenes play like a series of highlights in an otherwise longer conversation. As a result, the film seems to take on a rather rebellious attitude towards traditional storytelling technique, which you can either interpret as style or lack thereof. I would, however, love to see a longer version, if there is one, because The Interview really could be a great movie. I've seen people refer to The Interview as a screwball comedy, and, surprisingly, that is an adequate description. Maybe that's why people don't like it? I wonder what the public would think of a movie like Twentieth Century these days... As to those antagonists wondering what the point is: what's the point of killing Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds? ... Because it's fun.
Adam's Rib (1949)
Each character is absurdly stupid
I admit, I am only 59 minutes in, but I can't watch another second of this. Both Hepburn and Tracy's characters are too annoyingly stupid.
(Possible spoilers??, this explains only the set up and the beginning of the film)
The film centers around a case that is way too clear: A woman buys a gun, follows her husband until she finds him cheating on her, and then shoots all 6 bullets in their direction, hitting the husband in the chest and wounding him. The film decides to choose this case as a backdrop for a discussion on sexism, and while that was clearly a problem in the 50s, it is of no importance to this case. The lawyers spend their time bickering over whether or not the man was having an affair, but neither seem to realize that adultery is no grounds for murder, nor is it even a crime in America. Any good writer would have realized that the details of this case weren't ambiguous enough for a discussion on sexism, and would have changed certain details, but alas, they did not and we spend our time watching Hepburn make a mountain out of a molehill and Tracy make Mount Everest out of Hepburn's mountain.
I give this film a 4 because there is some good dialogue in between the badly-done plot and it is a decently tight script. I read the rest of the story on wikipedia and it doesn't seem to get much better. I don't suggest watching this unless getting back at men is such a fantasy of yours that you are willing to forgive the unbelievable aspects of this story.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
More romance than comedy, but still tops
In the wide range of the Lubitsch touch, The Shop Around The Corner most certainly falls more deeply in the romance category than the comedic side, represented by his other masterpieces like To Be Or Not To Be. As another reviewer said, this is one of the saddest romantic comedies around, but we'll all be happy to know that the screenwriter couldn't help but put in a few clever quips that Lubitsch is so wonderfully known for. The script could easily be one of the tightest scripts of all time, and it is admirable how much mileage they get out of a single room and few relationships. I highly suggest this film to anyone who finds joy in simple stories made fun through the sheer mastery of the craft of film.
Sergeant York (1941)
Boring and Kitsch
Howard Hawks sure knows how to make a film, but it doesn't stop this sad piece of kitsch from being downright boring. You know the whole story right from the beginning, and the only thing that surprises is just how crazily far they'll take it. The movie is more than 2 hours long and it uses every second to cram fake values down your throat like you're a dumb kid in a crappy Sunday school.
I registered just to warn people what they were gonna get. I figured I was in for a tight war flick with some imparted knowledge by a master. Instead, I found myself in the midst of a lecture that seemed to get more and more sure of itself as it got crazier and crazier... that's what crazy people do you know.
I find that the only way to enjoy this film is to view it as a dark satirical piece akin to Taxi Driver or Apocalypse Now, but even that is hard to believe.