Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Lots of film reviews so we're going to move a little briskly.

THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY

I don't seem to cry at fiction movies anymore. I seem to cry during documentaries nowadays. I don't know what that means. Michael Moore can get me weeping and I can watch Dancer in the Dark with total detachment. I wept during Super Size Me because at one point it struck me just how screwed we all are. But sometimes, and unfortunately this is rare in modern documentaries that tend to be a bit heavy handed, I can actually be moved to tears by something beautiful and moving.
Dr. Leon Theremin was the guy who invented the theremin, one of the stranger musical instruments, and thereby created music as most of us know it today. He was the pioneer, arguably the starting point of all electronic music. Then the KGB kidnapped him and told the world he was dead until some old friends ran into him in Russia a good 60 years later.
The film documents his life and then brings him back to America to meet all the people he knew back in the day. Well, the survivors anyway. I found the film really touching. I think it was the mark of a good film maker that they didn't spend two hours going "Oooo. It's weird. Look how weird it is. The music and the life, they're both so weird." The film maker respected us and his subject enough to tell the story simply. He mainly let the principles tell the story.
It was neat to see interviews with people I knew from history and from records that my grandmother owned like Robert Moog and Clara Rockmore. The Beach Boys part was the only really bizarre part for me.


M

Here's an underrated classic. I understand why. It's pretty bleak even to the modern viewer. I'm amazed that a child murdering film was made in 1931.
Peter Lorre is another actor who I think is terribly underrated. He could do amazing work, as shown in this film. But he's kind of banished to genre history by the snobs who are currently writing the books.
The movie wiped me out after watching it. It wasn't until the next day that I thought, "Hey, wait a minute. What was the message of that film?"
It raises a lot more questions than it answers. There's a "ye without sin cast the first stone" type of message along with what seems like an "eye for an eye" type of condemation of the justice system and a message about our person responsibilty to protect ourselves. I'm not sure which, if any, Fritz was trying to communicate. I think he was just trying to get us to think, God bless him.


SECRET WINDOW

People often ask me, and I think I've said this before, why Johnny Depp makes the films that he makes. Like "why did Johnny Depp make Pirates?" As if I know the guy just because I'm nicknamed after one of his films. My answer is always, "All I know is that Johnny Depp made that film because he damn well felt like it."
My wild guess is that he wanted to work with John Tuturro. I'd be in a crappy film to work with him. Pure speculation though. If I meet Depp I probably won't ask him either. I'll be all swoony because he's dreamy.
Lots of people also compare Johnny Depp to Marlon Brando. That's because if you look at On The Waterfront it looks like Marlon Brando is doing something different from the other actors, like they aren't acting and he is. Johnny Depp often has that same effect. I don't know if Depp is as revolutionary that in 50 years actors are going to be just catching up to him, but I could be wrong. That will be one of those hindsight things and right now I just get to enjoy watching it.
Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp were friends too. They made a movie together called Don Juan De Marco. It was pretty good, one of the better in the tail end of Brando's career. But it's kind of an optimists response to Equus.
Sometimes Johnny Depp finds his way into bad films. I imagine it's because he wanted to work with somebody in the film and Depp still does a heck of a job even in the bad films. The Astronauts Wife was kind of a shock for me because it was the first time I saw a Johnny Depp film that I thought was utter crap. I mean it made Benny & Joon look good. Secret Window is another one.
Luckily for those of us who have to sit through the film, the two leads are awesome and working at the top of their form even though they're in a sub-par film.
What was the problem with Secret Window then?
When it was over I turned to Pat and Andi I said, "As a writer and a book seller, I'll let you in on a trade secret. Very few people know this. Stephen King isn't a very good writer. Tell no one."
What a crappy crappy story. And it sure is strange to see an actor who understands madness in a plot written by a man who doesn't understand madness at all and yet continutes to use it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and overandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandover. It doesn't help that David Koepp wrote and directed it. You might remember him from every summer blockbuster that made you want to ask for your money back over the past ten years.
Oh, and there's the plot device that King stole from Chuck Palahniuk who stole it from Philip K Dick.
Let's move on before my low blood pressure turns into high blood pressure.

MYSTIC RIVER

I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood. I think he's a great director and I grew up on his and John Wayne's westerns. He's assembled one of the best casts in years here.
What I liked about Mystic River seems to be a main criticism that others have. Many tell me that the story unfolds pretty predicatably. I think the point is that that frees you to consider the issues raised by what's going on. That seemed like the point to me. But no, people gots to have their flashy stories.
I guess I shouldn't complain. It's not like Mystic River didn't get the recognition it deserved.
Tim Robbins is another consistently brilliant actor. I like how he's finally gotten to the point where he can afford to make the films he wants to make without first making a really crummy film first. Kevin Bacon was competent. I don't think Sean Penn deserved Best Actor for this film. I usually like Sean Penn's work a lot, both onscreen and off truth be told. But I think he held a lot back in Mystic River and not in a good way. Not in a "I'm feeling all of this but I'm sucking it down" type of thing. It made Pat really angry when we watched it. Afterwards Pat said he felt really cheated. I asked him why he was so upset and Pat said that he didn't believe Sean Penn's character had really lost a child. That was a little awkward.
Bill Murray or Johnny Depp should have won.
That having been said I still got a lot out of the film. Well done.





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