Friday, October 16, 2009

Fever Dreams and Feeling Weird

Again, my life is somewhat unbloggable as of late, so I will instead begin to post choice Netflix reviews to entertain and inform my friends and family.

5.0 Stars
This is an excellently crafted horror film. Not horror in the slasher/ghoul/monster sense, but in the intellectual, truly horrific sense, which, in my opinion, is what makes a horror film effective. My rating is bumped up to a full five stars simply because this movie succeeds for all the reasons most more modern horror films fail. It understands what makes things scary and how to exploit expectation and suspense. There are only two really visually gruesome scenes and those are used quite successfully just to show the audience that the film is capable of showing us those things and so we are afraid it will do so again. Not showing us then ratchets up the suspense each time. There is nothing more frightening that what you know is happening but are not allowed to see. What makes this film a great movie (not just an effective horror) is that it has a reason to exist...its reason is not just to scare the audience but to scare us in order to drive its point home. Many critics have given the psychology behind the slasher film, but they are for the most part an excuse to show blood and boobs with a motive kind of tacked on. A complete film has both effective skills and a potent reason. The cinematography is spot on, the horror is genuine, and the payoff is deserved. Not an easy watch by any means, but definitely worth it if you like that kind of thing.

5.0 Stars
Ang Lee and his team have such a thorough and confident grasp of all things cinematic that it almost goes without saying that this film is beautiful to watch. As far as direction, staging, framing, and filming goes the film is near perfect. But, simply being beautiful does not a 5 star review make. What really makes Lust, Caution worthwhile and important to watch is its incredible and unwavering control of characterization and story. Wei Tang is absolutely transfixing in the lead role. What is under examination here is the effect conflict has on our most basic human emotions. Trust, love, and pride clash with patriotism and duty and both Tang and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Mr Yee, are masterful in their ability to both show passion suppressed. Some might question the need for the NC-17 level sex, but the graphic nature of the sex scenes holds the key to the entire film. The violence and unabashed passion of the act simultaneously shows us the absolute, and entirely contrasting, heights of each character's emotional truth. It also made me want to know more about what was going on in China during WWII. Highly recommended.

2.0 Stars
I know this is one of those movies that you're supposed to like...but I really don't. Brian DePalma has always been disappointing to me when I get around to seeing his stuff (Untouchables, Black Dahlia) and this was no different. I can't buy Al Pacino as a latin guy because he doesn't sound like one at all. Its slow, badly paced, and very dated. If you want a great gangster flick check out the original Scarface with Paul Muni (from 1932 I believe) Its got the story, the emotion and the action with none of the self-indulgent nonsense.

4.0 Stars
This was a nice surprise. One of the "See more like it" suggestions. If you like Noir or older movies or even detective movies in general there will be nothing to not enjoy here. One of the first "on location" shoots allows the film to really embrace its New York surroundings. Its also unique of the crime genre in that it takes the time to show procedural steps, not just twists and action like many of today's entries. Barry Fitzgerald is especially fun as the lead detective in what could easily be a stereotype (the Irish cop), but that he creates something very authentic and multi-dimensional. The only drawback is the incessant narration by the producer of the film, setting the stage in the beginning (and bragging about the on location facet), but also in nearly every non-dialogue scene...this severely dates the movie and makes you long for what could have been had the producer kept his nose out of it, but still its a great artifact of the beginning of what has become a much-loved genre. Highly recommended for buffs and others not easily annoyed by antique film trappings.

...more of these later unless i find that people overwhelmingly dislike them...

"Two-Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I first heard this song as covered by the Dresden Dolls, but I have since found and come to love the original version. To say Neutral Milk Hotel was strange would be an understatement. I've heard that this album may or may not be about Anne Frank, but it's hard to get a lot of meaning out of most of it...that said, this song is perfect. The way the bizarre lyrics make complete sense in the context of the flowing melody and unpredictable rhythm makes this track somewhat hypnotic or, at the least, unforgettable. One of those songs I never get tired of hearing.

Also, everyone out there should see Drag Me to Hell on Halloween...cause its the best horror movie to come out in the last ten years.

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