Thursday, August 4, 2011

Movie Update 12

At this point I'm starting to see the finish line on the list of classic movies I compiled last year (and have repeatedly expanded on since), about in time for Netflix' two disc plan with streaming to increase in price. I might just watch regular old crap for a while after that, though there's plenty of lists I haven't gone through yet, mostly consisting of winners of various awards. Anyway, movies.

American Graffiti

This is the first non-Star Wars film directed by George Lucas that I've seen... not very surprising, since only one other such film exists. It's an entertaining and charming nostalgia-laden film about mid-century cruising culture, which consisted of teenagers in California hooking up and aimlessly driving their cars around town while listening to music. It's obvious Lucas has a history with this sort of thing, and it comes through in the movie, which is too light on plot to really be a sex comedy or anything like that, but tells a simple and interesting story about two high school graduates struggling with whether to go to college at the other side of the country while summer comes to a close. The young cast is pretty good, it's funny, and it's shot well enough to make you forget for a little while what Lucas' career has turned into. Nothing too incredible, but a good film.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I liked this more than I expected, but it's still pretty far from the best work by David Fincher. Despite the apparent grab for awards with the sentimental, broadly-reaching script and big name cast, you can still definitely tell it's a Fincher movie from the specific color scheme and interesting using of CGI (the effects to create young/old Benjamin are far from real looking, but they're definitely interesting) among other things. And I liked most of the performances, especially surprising ones like Mad Men's Jared Harris as a salty, drunken sea captain. It's just much too long of a movie for how much story it has. It's like screenwriter Eric Roth couldn't think of anything beyond combining an intriguing short story concept with an earlier-set version of Forrest Gump. Some cool ideas, but the experience is kind of a drag.

La Dolce Vita

This is the third film by Federico Fellini that I've seen, and I was again impressed by some things he did without being really drawn in or terribly entertained by the work itself. It's very much a 60s European art film, and is very identifiably good at that. I was somewhat intrigued by the episodic nature of the story, as it progresses through various mostly unrelated events, examining the mindset of the central character. Really though, the part that grabbed my interest the most was when Anita Ekberg was just sort of walking and dancing around on screen, so maybe I'm not quite the target audience. This is another film that was quite long, and I got through it fine but wouldn't want to watch it again.


Robert Altman is definitely known for those ensemble casts, and this is a premiere example of that. Nashville is about the coming together of many people, lots of them musicians, at a political rally for a candidate that is never actually seen. Much time is dedicated to the musical performances, and it's quite a long movie, giving fair shake to a lot of different stories. It's a well put together film, and while I'm not familiar with a lot of the cast, they all tend to do good jobs. I didn't like a lot of the movie though, which I found to be incredibly uncomfortable and hard to watch. It's the product of a very dark sense of humor, some real proto-cringe type stuff. I understand what they were going for, but too much of it was too far on the painful side of the spectrum without being that funny. It's just personal taste, and I respect the movie, but I had trouble with it.

Sullivan's Travels

Sullivan's Travels is about a comedy director who thinks people don't know enough about the real suffering going on in the world, and tries after a few false starts to discover real trouble so he can honestly make a movie about it. I tend to like movies that hold up mirrors to Hollywood, and Travels does it about as well as any. It's a nice snappy 40s road comedy, which happens to take a strange, dark, and surprising turn near the end. It's a little off-putting, but not enough to really damage a film that's otherwise got a pretty good point to make about what people really want to get out of cinema, and is honestly just entertaining on its own. The biggest issue is perhaps the movie trying to get me to believe a girl who looked like Veronica Lake would have trouble getting a break in Hollywood, but that's pretty much how movies work. Somehow not as famous as other movies of similar type and quality from the period, but deserving of a watch.

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