Hello! How’s everyone been doing? Has it been a week already? Damn. Last week was quite eventful for me in terms of movies, but not in the sense that I watched a lot, but because I found out about two great Sight & Sight lists: The Critics’ Top 250 Films and the Directors’ Top 100 (yes, there’s a lot of overlap). I was quite shamed to realize that I hadn’t seen as many of these classics as I hoped or thought I would have. So that’s a project I’ll start: Watching all of the movies on that list I can get my hands on! Meanwhile I’ve been also preparing for the October Challenge. “What’s that?” You may ask. Well, I sure am glad you did, because I was going to tell you anyway.
The October Challenge is a monthly challenge on the IMDb Horror Board and it involves watching (at least) 31 horror films during the month of October. Why 31? Because that’s an average of one film per day, you’re welcome to watch more if you want to. Why does it take place in October? Because it’s Halloween month. It’s all explained on IMDb. The point is, I’ve been starting to gather ideas on what movies to watch and so I’ve been preparing and getting pumped for that. Expect a lot of horror talk during October!
As for the films I watched this week, unfortunately it’s only four, fortunately they’re all good. I’ve been playing a lot of that silly video game Injustice: The Gods Among Us so I wasted a lot of time I could have been watching movies on that. How sad indeed. I didn’t even write a full-lenght review last week, but I promise I’ll do that this week. What else..? Oh! The Bling Ring is now available on iTunes so that was great news for me, I totally plan on re-watching it in the next couple days, so I’m very excited about that. Now on to the “mini-reviews”.
The Passenger (1975) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.6) – Drama, Mystery (Italy)
Another great drama, mystery written & directed by Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni. This film follows a reporter, Jack Nicholson, who has taken on the identity of a dead colleague and is now in some kind of danger or something. I’m not sure I completely understood this film on a purely narrative level, maybe I’m just not that smart, but I did connect to it emotionally. As always Antonioni is great with his cinematography, going for a more documentarian approach with this one, which makes sense obviously. What he excels at is creating and conveying a sense of space and I just love the way he frames the picture. Nicholson does as solid job, as you would expect and the rest of the cast is good as well. Typical deliberate pacing and familiar atmosphere make this a must see for Antonioni and film lovers in general.
La Migliore Offerta (2013) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Mystery, Drama, Romance (Italy)
Maybe the “twist” is easy to recognize, I know I didn’t, but then again, I’m not really someone who picks up on these sort of things. The Best Offer is Giuseppe Tornatore’s newest film and it’s a great romantic mystery/drama. Great performances by Geoffrey Rush and Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, who’s also very easy on the eye. The plot centers around a wealthy auctioneer who is invited to evaluate a young woman’s villa and art collection. The thing is she can’t leave her room or see people, because she’s afraid of open spaces (something-phobia, I’m sure). If you’ve seen other films by Tornatore you know he’s a romantic at heart and his films are always commenting on the art of filmmaking as well, so that’s probably why cinephiles all over the world love him, and rightfully so I think. This film is no exception, but again knowing his other films I was surprised by the ending and the uneasy tone he manages to create.
Jack Reacher (2012) – 7.5 (IMDb 7) – Action, Crime, Thriller (USA)
I must admit I only watched this because I was curious to see Werner Herzog as the villain, but this movie has so much more to offer than just that. Great action, suspense and drama. I actually thought Rosemund Pike was the best part of the film, but Tom Cruise certainly does a fine job as well. It’s about a lawyer trying to keep their client out of death row and then of course stuff gets really complicated and you find out it’s an international intrigue and stuff. My only criticism is that it feels kind of like one of those TV procedurals, I wish it had a more cinematic aesthetic. Some of the plot gets really complicated, but I was able to follow most of it, which I’m glad, because most of these movies turn me off because of their weird and convoluted stories and multiple non-sensical story-lines. Not the case with this one.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Do The Right Thing (1989) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Drama (USA)
This is considered to be the best of Spike Lee’s joints and I certainly thought it was great. It’s more of a “day in the life of”/”slice of life” type of film. The plot loosely follows the people of a black neighborhood in New York. It’s about racial tensions and deep-rooted hatred for those that have a different ethnical background. The good thing is that it shows how every person, regardless of their cultural background, can hate another race or ethnicity. Unfortunately we all have preconceived notions about other people. The film uses a very hot and humid summer day to work as a catalyst, that brings those negative feelings to the surface culminating in a rather shocking and violent ending, that reminded me a lot of Lars von Trier’s Dogville. Before its dramatic finale, the film is also very funny. The many characters (the city being one of them) are portrayed in a very realistic and thoughtful fashion. This film gave me a lot to think about.
Cinema is a very subjective experience. Every film is perceived differently by every person that watches it. We all bring our own personal baggage into the movie going experience, whether we realize it, want it or don’t want it is irrelevant. Films speak to us differently in different stages of our lives, based on the experiences we’ve had, people we’ve met, stories we’ve heard and other, new movies we’ve seen. I can watch a film today and completely hate it, then revisit it in a couple of years and fall in love with it or the opposite. All this is to say that there isn’t and there can’t be a universal meter to measure what a good film is, but then there’s film critics.
Am I a film critic? I’d prefer to see myself as a commentator, because I don’t have a formal training, but for the sake of this post let’s say I’m a critic. I’m the bad guy. I’m the guy that tells you the movie you’ve been pumped for years is total shallow shit. I’m the guy that you love to hate, because I over-analyze stuff, while you just want to be entertained. Good, now that you know who I am, let’s move on. Should my opinion influence the way you think and view movies? Yes, otherwise why am I doing this. Am I allowed to voice my negative feelings? Yes, but if I’m smart I’ll try to be constructive in my criticisms. Are my favorite movies the best movies? No, because I am not an absolute. The only time my favorite movies coincide with the best movies is for myself, nobody else in the world will have exactly the same tastes as I do, because we’re all different, remember?
What about aggregates of critics’ opinions like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or IMDb? Here’s where it gets tricky. People tend to believe that the majority is right. I mean they have to be, don’t they? We live in a complex world, where we try to simplify things as often as we can. The sites I just mentioned are great, I check them multiple times every week, even daily sometimes, but they’re not infallible. Humans are imperfect, so a human’s creation can only be flawed. The masses are not always right, but elites aren’t either. These sites (and I might add lists like AFI and the prestigious Sight & Sound Top 50 ) are just what most critics believe, don’t get me wrong most of the times these people know what they’re talking about, but even they can be wrong.
Tastes vary over time. A film might be so ahead of its time that critics aren’t prepared yet to understand it and appreciate it. That’s how cult followings are born. A film might also be just viewed as bad on a technical level or for its non-conformist opinions or social commentary. That’s an example of the mainstream labeling a film as “bad”. Once a film is considered “rotten”, the minority that really enjoys it, usually doesn’t feel it is socially acceptable to admit they liked or even loved the movie. Those people are usually very insecure. They use films to brand themselves. It makes sense. The “image” a film has is going to rub off on the people championing it, in marketing we call it the “halo effect”. So it makes sense to have only critically acclaimed films in your Top-whatever list.
Since we’ve established that there isn’t an absolute authority that has the right or knowledge to conclusively decide for everyone which movies are good, bad or in-between, there shouldn’t be “guilty pleasures”. Everyone should be free to like everything, but most feel that they aren’t, now why is that? Easy, we don’t really believe that. We do think a critic’s opinion, an expert’s opinion, the opinion from our own social circle or other opinion leaders is more or as important as our own. I’m not saying other people’s opinions are worthless, but at the very least they’re all as valid as our own. Once we accept that, we won’t have to over-justify our own tastes, when they differ from the mainstream. Then again I have a certain tendency to dislike or at least be suspicious of everything “too” mainstream, and this contrarian attitude is ‘dangerous’ and stupid as well. I’m working on trying to change that about myself.
Maybe this whole discourse is too theoretical, dry and boring so I’ll give you a concrete example of what I mean. I am a fan of the auteur theory and so I try to watch movies in the context of the director’s catalogue. Being someone who enjoys watching the films of Gregg Araki and other auteurs that are considered mediocre or bad, I feel that I have to defend my opinions a lot and I like doing that. Now even with what’s considered his worst work, I still find something to like, because I see his stylistic trademarks, the actors he loves working with and his specific tone and atmosphere. That’s why I champion the auteur theory and watch movies that way. If you’re really into a director I think your favorite films of his will be his most personal, maybe even self-indulgent ones, but definitely the ones that speak to you, that you feel were “made for you”. So I can say in good conscience, with no guilt or shame that I like all of his films, even his poorly rated works like The Doom Generation or Kaboom.
So my point is: Defend your favorite films. If you enjoy re-watching a film quite often or regularly and you don’t have the guts to admit it’s one of your favorites, but prefer to put a film you’ve seen once in your list just because it’s considered “better” by someone else that isn’t you, what kind of film goer are you? To me a favorite film is one I enjoy revisiting, one that makes me feel great every time I watch it, one that is good to me and maybe no one else. Maybe you don’t recognize yourself in anything I just said and you use the term “guilty pleasure” as a shortcut, because people immediately know what you mean or you don’t know a better catch phrase to explain your feelings towards a film. To me the term clearly doesn’t make much sense. A better use would be if it were used in the context of say enjoying films that are morally appalling.
All this to say that we should all try to be more honest (myself included) about what we like and don’t like, even if it’s not socially acceptable. Our favorites lists would be more interesting, less conventional maybe, but more eclectic. We’d all feel better about ourselves and realize that other people have weird and not necessarily “safe” tastes as well. Those tastes are there regardless of whether you admit them or not and for as risky as they might be, they make you unique and special.
Directed, produced and starring Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the story of “A timid magazine photo manager who lives life vicariously through daydreams embarks on a true-life adventure when a negative goes missing” (IMDb plot summary). This looks like a whimsical comedy/drama with adventure and fantasy elements. The tone of this teaser reminds me of the films of Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) or even something like Stranger Than Fiction.
With a screenplay by Steve Conrad and co-starring Sean Penn this could even be an Oscar contender. Also in this: Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt and Adam Scott. Good for Ben Stiller trying to do something smarter than most of his buddies: I’m looking at you Adam Sandler! The film comes out in theaters Christmas Day 2013. In the meantime check out the this excellent (and different!) teaser and let me know if you look forward to it as well.
Ever since watching Heroes, when I still watched television, I fell in love with Kristen Bell. Since then she hasn’t done a lot of good movies, in fact with every new project I felt like believing a little less, that she might ever come back. The Lifeguard seems like the turnaround. Gaining positive buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and with a currently solid rating on IMDb, this could be the Kristen Bell film we’ve been waiting for (whatever that phrase means).
The Lifeguard looks like your typical “arrested development” type of movie, with a young adult (yes, that’s a reference) never wanting to grow up. While this topic might be presented to us so much because most moviegoers are teenagers I still find it very topical of our times and subject that allows for great drama and cinema (like Jason Reitman’s film starring Charlize Theron).
This trailer looks like your charming little Sundance indie, with blending comedy and drama, and even throwing some romance in there: It’s all about finding yourself.
The film comes out on VOD July 30 of this year and will be out in limited release August 30th, 2013. I’m excited for it not only because of Kristen Bell, but also because it’s a debut feature from a female director (Liz W. Garcia), and I’ll always say we need more women at the helm. If it’s half as good as Young Adult I’ll be happy. I won’t tell you about the story, because: Watch the trailer. It tells you all you need to know.
It’s always fun to read what people say on IMDb message boards. Someone on The Bling Ring board claimed that lovely actress Taissa Farmiga wasn’t “hot” or “sexy enough” to play her part. I beg to differ. Especially after this picture uploaded on Facebook today. I think she looks gorgeous and those tattoos are absolutely darling. Wouldn’t you agree?