Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movie Dump, part 1: Dec 2011-Jan 2012

Marriage Material (Swanberg, 2012). The  most impressive part of this film is a roughly 15 minute sequence of the couple on the bed talking about her desire to have a child and get married. The scene is broken a little more than halfway by a brief shot of individual polaroid photos of the couple on the chain of the overhead fan twirling around and around. I imagined the photos to be symbolic of the couple themselves, or their life together, twirling around, lazily, comfortably perhaps, not really going anywhere. The final scene where they're doing yardwork, together but apart, seems to cement this notion. The long scene on the bed is lovely, the tension of the conversation the emotional equivalent to a scene in a horror film, where the protagonist is walking down a dark hallway with only a lit candle. I found myself cringing at certain things that were said, hoping they didn't lead where they could possibly, hoping the couple could turn things back around and find some common ground. Swanberg's got something here--it's not perfected, but he seems to understand how to create a palpable emotional environment around his characters that doesn't rely on usual conventions. Thanks for the link, John! Apparently it's only available for a limited time. Here's a nice New Yorker piece on the film. I was pleased to see the writer calling attention to the same segment that really impressed me.

Miracle of 34th Street (Seaton, 1947). I should really watch this again, as I dozed off several times during the film. My son really liked it, though. It was late afternoon, what do you expect? [Available on NWI]

Suspect Zero (Merhige, 2004). The business about remote viewing was really interesting, particularly the special feature where the director tries it. But the film itself apart from that was a little flat, like a TV movie. [Available on NWI, but not the special feature, unfortunately]

Pontypool (McDonald, 2008). Adrienne did a fine job writing about this film in her blog, if you haven't read it already. I don't know that I'd add too much except that it was probably the most original zombie virus origin I've seen so far. For indie movie fans and zombie movie fans alike. [Available on NWI]

The Sitter (Green, 2011). I am so underwhelmed by DGG's last couple of films. Here's my Flixster review.
Argh! So disappointing! I don't find putting kids into dangerous adult situations comedic at all, really. And I have a hard time identifying with a protagonist who does it. Add to that the fact that he's unlikeable, selfish, and incompetent and you've got a movie that doesn't have much appeal for me. DGG, please come back to us!! I know they've kidnapped you and are releasing terrible films in your name and you yourself can't be blamed. But you'll escape and make everything right again, I just know it!
I realized, between Your Highness and The Sitter, DGG seems to be trying to bring reprehensible characters back from the brink and make them somehow sympathetic again. But I need a lot more than an hour and a half to be convinced that these characters could have such dramatic changes of heart. I don't like either film, but I am interested enough in the exploration of that particular theme that I'd still see his next film if he goes there again.

The Curse of Frankenstein (Fisher, 1957) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (Gibson, 1973). I was going to write a separate post just about these two films entitled "It's Hammer Time," but I just never got around to it and it's been awhile since I've seen them. Don't be surprised if the title pops up again in the future; I think it's pretty clever.
So these were my first two Hammer Studios films and I LOVED them! Frankenstein was just fantastic old school horror--Cushing and Lee's first film together, with Cushing as the scientist and Lee as the monster. Perhaps the most interesting and surprising aspect of the film was how it tracked the dissolution of the friendship between Victor and Paul, his friend and mentor. No matter how deep into madness Victor descends, he's always willing to welcome Paul to join him in his work. The end of the film is heartbreaking, with Paul leaving his once student and close friend to rot in prison without the validation he has so desperately needed through the entire film. Satanic Rites was less impressive, but still solid horror. Cushing and Lee, of course, are the primary and perhaps only reason for that, as the combination of old school horror Dracula with the seventies obsession with Satanism is almost comical at times. The film was the last time Lee would play Dracula, a role he reprised with Hammer studios many times, and the last time Lee as Dracula would face Cushing as Van Helsing, a role Cushing became famous for before another Dark Lord usurped his services and seemingly erased all records of his previous career as an actor. Cushing and Lee over the years developed a wonderful chemistry together that really shows in Satanic Rites. I'm looking forward to seeing more from the infamous Hammer Films.

The Tempest (Taymor, 2010) and Tabloid (Morris, 2010) still to come, I just need to get ready for a meeting right now.

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