Capsule Collection: Summer/Fall 2011 Viewing, 2011 Part 1

Moving on through my bulk capsule reviews, we’re into the films from 2011 that I have watched and not yet blogged about. This section would balloon to larger proportions if I were to wait a few more weeks, as the end-of-year/Oscar bait movie season is upon us. Some of these films deserve much more than 200 words, but hopefully some will be revisited in a year-end / Top X blog entry closer to the new year.

 



Attack the Block

Written and Directed by Joe Cornish
Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and Alex Esmail

Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block is a clever film, cannily combining the genre of alien invasion with the grit of a docu-drama about block housing in South London. The pairing proves pleasantly symbiotic, allowing Cornish’s film to comment on notions of community and the misinterpretation of a youth culture given precious little in the way of guidance or acceptance. Having attacked a young woman for her valuables – phone, etc. – Moses and his crew are forced to protect their neighbourhood, which has been quarantined from the rest of London, from an alien invasion. Subsequently pairing this woman, Jodie Whittaker’s Sam, with Moses for protection allows the film to take a more pointedly critical stance of how the youth are regarded by society and how they, despite appearances, still value a sense of community above all else. Certainly, the sequestering of lower income housing from the world at large also allows Cornish’s film to carry a certain political relevance; the aliens function as a critique on the various social ills that visit themselves on the less financially stable and the manner in which those people are segregated from society, left to their own devices, rather than being given aid.

 

 

Bellflower

Written and Directed by Evan Glodell
Starring Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, and Jessie Wiseman

Shot with stark contrasts and a narrow field of focus, the aesthetic of Bellflower is tied tightly to the purview of its two main characters, Glodell’s Woodrow and Dawson’s Aiden. The two twenty-somethings live in the beer-yellow gloaming of late nights, working on flame-throwers and cars before entangling themselves in romances with young women which have varyingly positive and negative impacts, on Woodrow in particular. Here, the relationships in the film, again, mirror the stark contrast in which it is shot: the darks are dark dark, the lights, blinding and washed out into intangibility. Violence seeps in, as it often does in these movies that look to probe the potentially volatile young male psyche, giving the film moments of absurd nihilism. Beyond the explicit content of Bellflower, the implication of Aiden’s quest to build a post-apocalyptic vehicle of escape carries relevance to the film’s creation: written, directed, edited by, and starring Glodell, the construction of a muscle car, “Medusa”, becomes analogous to the creation of a film, another sort of sleek and brawny mode of escape. Not to mention they made the camera used to shoot the film in such a distinct manner.

 

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on characters by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell and Hugo Weaving

An older sensibility of Hollywood action films pervades Joe Johnston’s Captain America that I can’t help but feel is appropriate to the main character. Broadly a story of courage and perseverance triumphing over evil, told through the CGI and impossibly unCGI’d frame of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, the film hits notes that differentiate it from Marvel’s other Avenger’s affiliated film properties – Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk – while building towards the cohesive universe that will be put forward in the Avengers film next year. Much of the film’s success lies in Evans’ appeal as the scrawny Steve Rogers who becomes the physically enhanced Captain America and his ability to make the core of the character believable, despite its external appearance. The film is most successful when focusing on these character beats before indulging and devolving into more standard action tropes and set pieces near the end, which the audience is invested in only because of the solid ground work laid by the acting. Thoroughly competent in its story-telling, in entirely safe and familiar, the film establishes the character it needs to an entertains along the way.

 

 

Drive

Written by Hossein Amini based on the book by James Sallis
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston.

Another film to add to my list of favourite films profoundly indebted to Melville’s Le Samourai alongside The American. Where The American was stripped down, classical in its compositions, its minimal soundtrack and lead performance from George Clooney, Drive contrasts the quiet, subtly emotive, acting of Ryan Gosling with stylistic directorial flourishes and an aesthetic that seems ripped from the mid 80’s. Refn punctuates his languid pace with arterial spurts of gore; unrestrained violence erupts from the quiet facade of Gosling’s Driver that speaks to the torrent of anger and passion repressed in these characters who so overtly seem to quiet themselves in their pursuit of perfecting their crafts. These films never end well for the protagonist, the price of an ascetic life – or denial thereof – always seems to be life denying the connection they crave when they want out. In this manner these films espouse a strange reverse psychology on the audience, better to feel and be sloppy and fulfilled than to deny yourself gratification. A precisely constructed film to both put forward and subvert the genre which it so lovingly embraces that manages to do what countless terrible romantic comedies could not: make Albert Brooks terrifying.

 

 

The Future

Written and Directed by Miranda July
Starring Miranda July, Hamish Linklater and David Warshofsky

Miranda July is a singular voice, whether you encounter her film work, her art work, or her prose. The Future presents itself as an interesting variation on this voice as put forward in Me and You and Everyone We Know, which I quite liked. Essentially her voice is the same, recognizable and distinct, however the tone of the film, while whimsical, is filled with a mournful sense of sadness that is not overt or melodramatic, but, rather, knowing; the sadness of The Future is the sadness that is carried soberly forward from day-to-day, nested in with every joy, mundane or romantic or otherwise. July and Linklater portray Sophie and Jason, a bohemian sort of couple who adopt a cat that puts their relationship to the test, more in a speculative sense than any real tribulation. Considering the potential long-term ramifications of the commitment that having a pet would have, the couple are jolted from their quotidian habits and out of the passive contentment of their relationship. Some twee vestiges remain, Miranda’s performance as Paw-Paw the cat’s hands, for example, but these are outweighed by the effective force of the honesty in her script.

 

 

Hobo With A Shotgun

Written by John Davies, Jason Eisner, and Rob Cotterill
Directed by John Davies
Starring Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth and Brian Downey

There is, at the centre of this neo-Grindhouse film, an endearingly honest performance by Rutger Hauer that elevates the material of the film above its tongue-in-cheek antics and intentional backward-looking sensibilities. The film, spun off from a short faux-trailer made for a competition around Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-feature, traffics in broad strokes and bold gestures, over-the-top colours dominate the frame – drastic greens and blues that transform Halifax, Nova Scotia, and would perhaps make even Argento blush – and equally hammy performances outside of Hauer’s. The film rolls in its base intentions like a delighted dog in offal outside of a butcher’s shop and is a little more lovable simply for its lack of pretension and its blunt straightforwardness; you know what the intentions of this film are and where it comes from. The plot, of a derelict man who wants to buy a lawnmower and uses these savings to purchase a shotgun which he uses with little discrimination on the organized crime of the area, is sturdy enough to hang the desired action on: a few shocking set pieces, outlandish decapitations, etc. That Hauer takes the role seriously, without winking at the camera, proves that a certain charm can thrive in the mud.

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  1. […] written before, perhaps loosely, about the allegorical readings that may be applied to Iron Man and Captain America – the connections between the fantastic comic characters and the various elements of American […]



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