Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie Update 5

I mentioned before that I didn't want to dedicate entire posts to movies that didn't inspire that amount of writing in me anymore, but I don't want to let them go completely unmentioned either. So here are my brief thoughts on some movies I watched in the last week or so.


I watched this because it was streaming and I was reading all the reports about Quentin Tarantino's next film, which is supposed to be a Western called Django Unchained and including this film's star Franco Nero in the cast. And it's not bad at all, though it's not nearly a classic either. Django is an interesting character, and his gimmick of dragging around a coffin with a surprise inside is interesting if a little impractical. The movie starts out pretty strong, but it bogs down a bit later after he starts hanging out with Mexicans and ignoring the obvious fact that he's still in danger. It's a pretty brutally violent movie for the era, and has some really great moments, though like many contemporary Spaghetti Westerns it's lacking in polish. Probably worth checking out if for nothing else than homework on Tarantino's upcoming movie. I'm still annoyed I never watched the original Inglorious Bastards when it was streaming.

Life is Beautiful

This is truly one of the most confounding movies I've ever seen, and I'm still not sure that I didn't totally hate it, though I don't think I did. I did really dislike the first half, which was a silly and boring (tough combination) romantic comedy, and I really don't like director Roberto Benigni's performance in the lead role, and I'm frankly flabbergasted by the fact that he won the Oscar, considering some other performances that were considered. The movie does improve significantly in the second half. I was still pretty vexed by slapstick comedy showing up in the Holocaust, but there's something powerful about the way he uses it to protect his son and the extent to which he goes not only to keep him alive, but to keep him unafraid. I think I would have liked it a lot more if it was half an hour shorter at least, with most of that taken out of the beginning, but I'm pretty sure it was otherwise decent. Pretty sure.

Singin' in the Rain

I'm surprised it took this long for a musical to pop up on my list, though that's certainly partly attributable to the nature of the sources I used when compiling it originally. As far as very famous musicals I've seen, Singin' is a bit lacking in classic tunes (there's the title song and "Make 'Em Laugh", obviously, and I've heard "Good Morning" before), though I thought it more than made up for it with the dancing, with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor tapping and jumping all over the place in a generally enjoyable way. It's a funny movie too, more of a comedy without the music when many of the classic musicals would be closer to dramas. There's lots of great set ups and memorable lines, and it was able to take a bunch of existing songs and throw them into a fun story with likable characters without much of a hitch. I thought Jean Hagen's screechy performance was more irritating than funny, but it was the only major blemish on an otherwise nice film.


The original book has been adapted numerous times, most recently by Steven Soderbergh, but this is the 70s version by Andrei Tarkovsky. Much like his later work Stalker, it's a very slow moving, cerebral science fiction film with less of a focus on the exact nature of the bizarre phenomena its characters observe and more on the inner turmoil it brings to the surface. A strange planet is able to produce reproductions of things inside the head of people who are staying on a space station floating above it, and when a scientist's wife is brought back to life, it opens up a huge can of worms for him and the other crew members. It looks kind of cheap now, but the story gets through despite those limitations. Definitely not for everyone, but it's an interesting movie with a unique style and a great ending.

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