Screening Log #11: Cleaning Out the Projection Room (part 1)

Well… four months have passed and, again, this poor blog has fallen into neglect. The guilt and pressure have continued to mount and I’ve been keeping record of the films that I’ve been watching since November when I last posted. I started the blog with the intention of it functioning as a repository of thoughts on films that I was watching but perhaps how I’d conceived of it “recording” films was something too in-depth for the time I had free once classes resumed. Or the rate I was watching films. Or my own inability to push through and finish things.

In any case, another post to clean out the closet. Contained herein is a laundry list of the films I’ve watched since the last post (for the most part). The films are arranged alphabetically and I’ve limited myself to 100 words, at most, for each capsule. Certainly in most cases I have much more to write but, in the interest of my own sanity and actually being productive with my looming school works, I cannot at the present moment.

The list will be… eclectic to say the least. A balance between trying to watch thoughtful films, the quest to see the year’s Oscar candidates, and watching films that I can more passively watch as a lighter sort of entertainment. Sometimes I just want something I can put on and not have to concentrate to hard on after school work. I don’t think that’s a terrible thing.

In the interest of not taking up too much of your time this summary will be split into two parts. On with part the first.

 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 

127 Hours (2010)

127 Hours PosterWritten by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy based on the book “Between A Rock and A Hard Place” by Aron Ralston

Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring James Franco

Boyle faces a difficulty in translating a literary work about a man trapped under a rock into an engaging, dynamic film: how do you invest and engage an audience when action is impossible? The proposition, ostensibly, is antithetical to one of Boyle’s main strengths as a direction: his visual dynamism. Franco’s well-tuned performance anchors Boyle’s – and presumably Ralston’s – rather sentimental flights of introspection and Boyle juxtaposes the kinetic opening against the sedentary main action of the narrative. The amputation scene is memorably visceral, providing a jarring contrast to the warmer (weaker) tone of the remainder of the film.

 

The American (2010)

The American PosterWritten by Rowan Joffe based on the novel by Martin Booth

Directed by Anton Corbjin

Starring George Clooney, Violante Placido and Thekla Reuten

The son, or perhaps grandson, of Melville’s “Le Samourai”. A film about asceticism in favour of craft, assembled with precision and cleanliness like one of Clooney’s high powered rifles; there is a commensurateness between the content and construction of the film that is effective. Clooney coolly delivers a subtly modulated performance that, again, calls to mind Alain Delon in “Le Samourai” but maybe a shade more expressive; where Delon was all cool demeanor, Clooney hints at the passions submerged in his character by necessity. A surprisingly poetic final image gestures towards the release the film cannot narratively provide.

 

Barney’s Version (2010)

Barney's Version PosterWritten by Michael Konyves based on the novel by Mordecai Richler

Directed by Richard J. Lewis

Starring Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Scott Speedman and Minnie Driver

Richard Lewis’s film means well, trying to accommodate Richler’s vast, and fractured narrative into a feature film. The narrative stretches itself thin in many places and would benefit from focusing on one facet of the novel. Giamatti’s performance provides a guiding presence for the viewer, however, as he fleshes out what could easily be a loathsome cad into a warm, vivacious, and flawed man. The film’s best moments orbit Giamatti and Hoffman’s chemistry and the understated warmth Pike brings to the screen. Ultimately not as emotionally effecting as it aims to be, but, like Barney himself, not without charm.

 

Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan PosterWritten by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey

I can’t help but see this film as a sort of cousin to Aronofsky’s previous “The Wrestler”; both are films about people striving for glory in a physically intense world of performativity, their realities inflected heavily and dangerously by their on stage personas to the point of potential physical harm. Portman’s well-deserved Academy Award winning performance functions as the catalyst for this surreal and at times bracingly intense and creepy film. Over the top with melodrama and excess the film does little to moderate its fevered vision of equally engrossed compulsion and obsession.

 

Blue Valentine (2010)

Blue Valentine PosterWritten by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams

Cianfrance’s film makes several technical decisions that elevate its typical – though very well crafted and executed – story above traditional anti-romance films. Cianfrance tells the story of a of a relationship disintegrating – breaking up seems too small a term here – via a flashback structure bolstered by his canny decision to contrast the cold digital filming of the present against the hazy nostalgia of 16mm film stock for the genesis of the relationship. Gosling and Williams give brutally honest performances that heighten the emotional weight of the film. What could be wrote ends up feeling true and effecting.

 

Bronson (2008)

Bronson PosterWritten by Brock Norman Brock and Nicolas Winding Refn

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring Tom Hardy

Hardy stars as Charles Bronson, nee Michael Peterson, England’s most (in)famous criminal. A 7 year prison sentence stretches into decades in solitary confinement as one man’s inability to function in society pushes him to create his own world and code of conduct. Refn’s film smartly marries the assumption of Charles Bronson’s identity to a theatrical framing of the narrative, linking the activity of Bronson to larger issues of identity. Hardy plays the role hard and straight, as he must, resisting the urge to psychologize or explore Bronson’s motivations, giving instead the persona he creates for himself.

 

Buffalo ’66 (1998)

Buffalo 66 PosterWritten and Directed by Vincent Gallo

Starring Vincent Gallo and Christina Ricci

Yup. Again, this film comes up. Another of my favourites like Happiness that I keep sharing with new friends. I’ve written enough about this here and here to spend too much time outside a thorough review now. And I don’t have time for that. So, yup, I watched it again.

 

 

 

Days of Heaven (1978)

Days of Heaven PosterWritten and Directed by Terrence Malick

Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard

Few things in the cinema and life as as gorgeous as Malick’s wheat fields rolling in the golden hours of dawn and dusk, the black silhouettes of workers moving against them. The richness of the colour can represent the desire for money possessed by Gere’s Bill as he convinces his partner Abby to marry the sick farmer to inherit the land upon his demise. Betrayal and love intertwine as Malick inflects his period picture with a timeless and Biblical streak – indeed, at once point having a swarm of locusts light on the wheat.

 

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard PosterWritten by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza based on the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp

Directed by John McTiernan

Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and Bonnie Bedelia

Perhaps the ultimate Christmas film. What better way to bemoan the breakup of the nuclear family than to wreak vengeance on foreign terrorists in corporate America? Another piece in McTiernan’s oeuvre of 80’s action films, Die Hard finds Bruce Willis’, now iconic, John McLane disposing of hilariously sweatered and coiffed Eurotrash while dispensing quips of the highest order. Rickman is appropriately slimey and the film’s bromantic sub-plot with Reginald VelJohnson is equally cheesey. Despite the violent trappings at its heart is a man machine-gunning his way back into the heart of his wife and upholding the American dream.

 

L’Eclisse (1962)

L'Eclisse PosterWritten by Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Elio Bartolini and Ottiero Ottieri

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring Alain Delon and Monica Vitti

The final film in Antonioni’s trilogy of modern alienation and anomie (my review of L’Avventura is here) finds him again exploring the passionless and transitory nature of interpersonal relationships. Delon and Vitti look gorgeous as they flirt and play through the ruins and half-finished buildings of Rome, the scenery informing the viewer’s understanding of the relationship as fundamentally and necessarily unfinished and inconsequential. Antonioni’s direction is at once striking and disconnected, the framing of shots brilliantly elucidating his argument. The film’s closing minutes are understated but powerful and stark and abstractly apocalyptic. As heart-breaking as it is gorgeous.

 

Faster (2010)

Faster PosterWritten by Tony and Joe Gayton

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino

A deeper-than-your-usual-run-of-the-mill revenge film, Dwayne Johnson is released from prison to get revenge on the people who killed his brother. The usual action beats come into play. The film clips along at a quick pace but takes several odd (for this sort of film) beats as well; Johnson’s Driver visits his ex to find out their child was aborted when he went to prison, he speaks to the child of a man he kills, accepting the kid’s vow for vengeance, etc. Thornton is adequately slimy and one wonders if he does much more than this sort of role anymore.

 

The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter PosterWritten by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson

Directed by David O. Russell

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo

Many Academy Award nominations heaped on this small film that tells a semi-typical boxing narrative grounded in real life. Bale and Leo both acquit themselves well and Wahlberg is far from his form in “The Happening”, I am happy to report. Russell employs some clever strategies to mimic the HBO footage from the fights and the family drama surrounding Ward’s rise is familiar but well conveyed. An a-typically low-key outing from Russell who infused “Three Kings” and “I <3 Huckebees” with a manic sort of visual energy. A fine and good, if unexceptional, film.

 

Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th PosterWritten by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift based on characters by Victor Miller

Directed by Marcus Nispel

Starring Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti and Derek Mears

A strange and somewhat unnecessary reboot to the classic 80’s slasher film series sees Nispel re-interpret Jason Vorhees as a part-time electrician, if his array of spotlights if to be believed, in addition to his full time career as conservative avenging angel. Vorhees is back to killing promiscuous and drug-using teens with equal insouciance, positing as always that there’s nothing wrong with violence as long as sex and drugs stay uninvolved. I can’t help but wonder whether the creative dearth in Hollywood or something in the political climate of lingering Bushism in American moved this to be made more.

 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 

Alright, that is it for now. Hopefully I’ll finish the second part tomorrow. Stay tuned!

[EDIT: The second part of this can now be read here.]

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  1. […] on March 13, 2011 · Leave a Comment  After yesterday’s first installment (here), I present the second, and final, part of my catching up on my screening log. Moving on without […]

  2. […] ability of the individuals to connect in meaningful ways – films such as L’avventura and L’eclisse – deployed the lines and shadows of architecture, or its absence, to emphasize the spaces, […]

  3. […] the element of Michelangelo Antonioni’s early 60s work – also L’Avventura and L’Eclisse – that strikes me most is the elegant manner that his films depict this relationship between […]



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