January 25, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010)

It seems that it is post-apocalyptic season, because just on the heels of The Road, comes the Hughes brothers' would-be Denzel epic, complete with dirty, toothless hillbillies and the requisite unspecified apocalypse that turned the earth into the set of Mad Max. Denzel plays a version of the magical negro that is so magical that he almost becomes Jesus, though is more like a combination of Jesus and Blade, complete with a holy knife of decapitation and permanently carrying a flask of his holy water. In fact the whole movie is a big sermon on the continued relevancy of the Christian bible, if not its validity, seeing as it is presented both as destroyer and savior of mankind. Eventually, Denzel's magic negro, like Jesus, ends up dying, resurrecting and going to heaven. Heaven of course being Alcatraz island and God is mustachioed Malcolm McDowell, maybe because the scriptwriter felt like there weren't enough metaphors and decided to shove some more down our throats. Of course the Denzel/Jesus/Blade ends up also being blind, like lady justice and I can only assume Mila Kunis is some hot piece of Mary Magdalene ass. Other than Tom Waits, whom, by virtue of being a singer in real life, ends up with the role of the guy who recharges Denzel's iPod 3G, the other good part of the cast is the wonderful Gary Oldman, who is perfect in the role of Carnegie, the obsessed warlord with the Kim Jong-il glasses that seeks to use religion as a weapon. Overall flawed and preachy, and I didn't even get started on the aesthetics, which seem to involve over-the-top greenscreen CG skies and overexposed barren deserts. A download at best.

Grizzly Man (2005)

Absolutely amazing! This thing has everything I ever wanted from a nature documentary... AND MORE! The fact that it's all real is just too amazing to begin with, but the real star of this film (other than the Grizzlies) is Mr. Timothy Treadwell, whom, though undoubtedly suffering from a number of psychological issues, manages to bring a unique kind of humanity and, if not sympathy, then at least understanding to the film, that would otherwise be lost in a normal nature documentary. The film is primarily about the Grizzlies, but in reality it is about Treadwell, his difficulties in life, his anxieties, frustrations and introspection, that all come out on camera as he shoots footage of himself with the bears. He is not an easy man to relate to, and given all the background about his life, it wouldn't be too hard to hate him to the point of thinking that he deserved his death (as some of the witnesses and acquaintances candidly admit to agree with). The range of emotions in the film goes from whimsy, to suffering, to disdain, to ridicule, grief, horror, happiness and eventually emotional closure. The most terrifying aspect is perhaps the story of his so called girlfriend, whom barely appears in the film but whom, at numerous occasions, is said to be terribly afraid of bears, and which ends up dying alongside Treadwell, mauled by the same bear that killed him minutes earlier. Overall some great work from Herzog, like no documentary I've ever seen or chances are that I'll ever see again, considering the unique circumstances of its production. Oh yes, there is also bear poop. Lots and lots of bear poop.

Julia (2008)

I could mention that Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar for this, but the acting is besides the point. What we have here is one of those rare films that are at once art and compelling to watch as an 'edge of your seat thriller', which, even when that seat is a comfortable sofa, manages to pull you in to a story that, about the middle of the movie, takes a crazy unexpected twist, which REALLY pulls you to the edge of your seat. Everything is so unbelievable that only Swinton's extraordinary performance and the fact that all the events flow as the inevitable outcomes of the ones that precede them, and as extraordinary as they may be, we are never left with the idea that this plot is 'forced' or 'unrealistic' (despite very much being so) because of the inescapability of it all. The sheer necessity to deal with the path that she made and is making for herself, by itself leads the plot to an all-too-real unreality. Exceptional.

Knowing (2009)

I thought it was gonna suck, especially with Cage in there and the plot randomly pooping some aliens out of nowhere in the middle of it all. But it ends with the destruction of New York and the earth in slow mo to the Allegretto from Beethoven's 7th and the "new beginning" on an alien planet which in the end made it worth the while. Overall enjoyable although at times it felt like I was watching some M. Night Shyamalan drivel but thankfully Alex Proyas managed to make it not suck, the way he did for Dark City and The Crow. Just wish they would have found someone other than Cage to be the lead, though all things considered, I'm having trouble picturing anyone else in that role right about now.

A Single Man (2010)

I must admit I wanted to see A Single Man after seeing the poster alone, with Julianne Moore in her 60's makeup and hairdo and Colin Firth in his wide-rimmed glasses. Never before has the production design been so instrumental to a film as it is here. I suppose I am now a 'fan' of Dan Bishop, the PD on both Mad Men and Carnivàle, which really gave this film its look and style. I am less of a fan of Tom Ford, with his blatant color changes and long sequences that seem to only be there to admire the film's style, instead of making said style a part of the film. In this respect, Ford fetishises Bishop's work and turns his movie from a creation of Tom Ford to a creation that idolizes Bishop and Isherwood's work. Performances are solid, with Firth providing one of his strongest ones yet. It is a pleasure to look at, and can only imagine that it is an appropriate adaptation to Isherwood's novel. In this respect, Ford's film seems to disprove the auteur theory, and it becomes no longer a Tom Ford film, but rather an Isherwood/Bishop/Firth film. Don't watch if you can't handle style-over-plot unless you're completely obsessed with Bishop's work.