Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Memento Mori

Have you ever checked out the suggested links at the bottom of the IMDB home page? If you haven't, I strongly recommend doing so, since there's usually some interesting things down there. The other day I stumbled upon this one, which discusses the use and question of memory as featured in Memento.
Not long ago, I re-watched Memento for the first time in years. I forget (no pun intended) how fantastic this movie really is, especially in how it plays with the narrative structure that we are so used to. Instead of being spoon-fed the plot, here is a film that makes you think about what's happening on screen, requiring you to put the pieces together yourself along with Leonard. As Atkinson mentions in the aforementioned article, the film also makes you question memory, and how effective of a device it is in problem-solving.
Leonard (Guy Pearce), the amnesiac with a purpose
Anyway, what do you all think? Is Memento really as deep as I think, or am I (along with several other people) over-thinking it?
PS Leonard's voice-over narrative is perfect. Voice-over has never been better utilized.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Have Combined These Posts to Make: MEGA-POST!

Cue reference to The Office.
In the time between now and my last post, I've seen two movies: Date Night and Kick-Ass. I was going to do separate posts for each movie, along with another post of the random thoughts I've had on the entertainment world this past week. Instead, I've decided to do one epic post, including all three elements.
I enjoyed Date Night more than I should have. The script was not a masterpiece, relying too heavily on cliches about the perils of city life to the average suburbanite. Shawn Levy, previously best known for kid-friendly fare like the Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen movies, is no action director, and puts forth a pedestrian effort here. What makes Date Night so much better than it deserves to be is its fantastic cast. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are nothing short of hilarious from beginning to end, and have surprisingly great chemistry with each other. They're portrayals of a bored married couple are believable, though you can see traces of Michael Scott and Liz Lemon in their respective performances. The supporting cast is equally wonderful, with bit parts coming from William Fitchner, Ray Liotta, Common, Taraji P. Henson, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and, flexing both his shirtless and comedic muscles, Mark Wahlberg. Its these excellent comedic performances that elevate Date Night from being another vapid comedy into being an entertaining evening.
For your viewing pleasure.
Kick-Ass, on the other hand, has marketed itself as a kind of comedic superhero movie, and on that front it is sure to disappoint. Its not without its humor, but it employs very dark humor to serve its purpose. What Kick-Ass really is is something that we have not yet seen in theaters yet (though it stands to be a theme of this year): a deconstruction of the superhero movie. It was inevitable, of course, since every cinematic genre will eventually have a movie that deconstructs it. What makes Kick-Ass so interesting in that sense is that it doesn't make fun of its characters, but has you cheer for them despite their onscreen actions. When Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) first puts on his Kick-Ass costume and goes out to fight crime, he ends up in the hospital; yet he continues to don the costume, even though he hardly ever wins. Meanwhile, there's a wonderfully staged scene in the beginning when we meet Damon McCready (a better-than-lately Nicolas Cage), who promptly shoots his daughter, Mindy (the incredible Chloe Grace Moritz). These two are also masked vigilantes, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, respectively, and this is part of Hit-Girl's training; the duo are planning on going after a big-time mobster who framed Damon and forced his wife to commit suicide.
"I don't have any powers, but I can kick your ass."
What makes this scene so incredible is that its the perfect encapsulation of what the film is trying to say, which is: these people are practically insane. Its an exaggeration of the sanity of superheroes, particularly Batman (whom Big Daddy's costume resembles). Think about it: what sane person would put on a costume and go out and fight crime? In our reality, we would classify people like this as needing serious mental help, and Kick-Ass asks us one simple question: why are cinematic superheroes an exception? It's a clever premise, and from the creation of a self-made super-villain (Red Mist, as played by an against-type Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to the hero-gets-the-girl model. Perhaps cleverest of all is the fact that out of all of them, the most heroic and certainly super of them all is Hit-Girl, a foul-mouthed, ultra-violent 11 year old girl that prefers folding knives to dolls and puppies. Moritz's portrayal of Hit-Girl (a breakout, I should note, and the highlight of the film) has drawn some ire from audiences about whether that is an acceptable role for a minor. For more on that, I recommend this excellent article from MCN's Kim Voynar.
Hit-Girl takes out the bad guys before snack time.
In other news:
- In 2007, I accomplished a feat that I have never copied: I saw every movie on my "10 Most Anticipated List" of that year during that year. 2008 was ruined by the moves of Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to 2009; 2009 was ruined by the fact that The Road didn't come to theaters in my area until January 2010. And only a third of the way through this year, 2010 has been ruined by the move of The Green Hornet to January 2011 in order to convert it into 3D. Curse you, 3D craze! M. Night Shymalan's The Last Airbender will also get the 3D treatment, but I'm not nearly as interested in that, since Shymalan, to me at least, is still a good director but has not lived up to the visionary status he exhibited in The Sixth Sense. I hardly expect this movie to change that.
- This week's episode of Glee should have been hokey and clich├ęd, but instead it was everything that I love about the show. It's a miracle that Glee has managed to keep up this kind of mix of great musical productions and quality storytelling, and I pray that its able to keep it up for the long run. And by the way: download the Glee Cast cover of "Like a Prayer." It not only rivals Glee's other top number, "Don't Stop Believing," but it also rivals Madonna's original.
- I'm going to do a separate post about Lost, because it deserves it.
- The Modern Family cast is submitting themselves completely in the supporting categories, which is further evidence for my call that both the Emmys and the Oscars need to have Best Cast categories like the SAGs. Let's face it, they all deserve Emmys.
- Speaking of awards, the Tony nominees are announced May 4. Not living in New York nor having a lot of money to blow on expensive Broadway shows, I usually am clueless in the quality of the nominees, mostly relying on what I've seen on Youtube or heard from soundtracks. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for American Idiot, if for nothing else the cast version of "21 Guns" is wonderful.
- I wonder if Friday the 13th: Part 2, the possibly-dead sequel to last year's remake, would be a remake of the original sequel to the original (that phrase makes me want to cry). And speaking of such things, has anyone else noticed that horror has shifted gears again, moving away from J-horror and torture porn and moving into remakes of slasher "classics?"
- If the rest of Drake's upcoming debut album is anything like "Over," then I'm sold.
- I got to re-watch Antichrist for my film class last night. It still deeply disturbs me, but oddly wasn't as horrifying as I remembered it to be. Except for the last half hour. That is most definitely still horrifying.
As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Here They Come....

The final Lost episode titles:
  • "The Recruit" (tonight's ep)
  • "The Candidate" (5/4)
  • "Across the Sea" (5/11)
  • "What They Died For" (5/18)
  • "The End" (5/25)
Its sad to know that that's it. Is anyone else excited/depressed/nostalgic about the end?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Melancholia (for Kirsten Dunst)

Kirsten Dunst has been announced as the replacement for Penelope Cruz in Lars von Trier's "psychological disaster film," Melancholia. It can't be any tougher than sitting through Spider-Man 3, right?
Enjoy your torture, Kirsten.

Random Flashback to Watchmen (2009)

I was driving home the other day, listening to my iPod, when Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" came on. I am a fan of most of Dylan's work, but his protest songs are among my favorites. Usually I just think of pictures and videos from the 1960s and 1970s when I hear this song, but this time was different. I immediately thought of the opening credits of Watchmen, which employed the song. And it made me realize that, back when I was making my list of the best scenes of 2009, I had left this one off.
I know that most people's reaction to Watchmen was that it was an overblown, too-faithful adaptation of the seminal graphic novel. However, I thought it was a brilliant film, not just visually but thematically as well; it was a big-budget rumination on vigilantism and its effects on the human psyche (because lets face it, it was becoming a "superhero" that really drove Rorschach to (or past?) the brink of insanity). And this scene was a perfect summation of the alternate history in the world in which the Watchmen reside: its gritty, political, and devastating all at once. It's put together fantastically by Zack Snyder, whom I still feel is perhaps one of the most visually-creative directors working in Hollywood today (he lived up to the promise that Kerry Conran didn't with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, another movie I loved more than most). Snyder's blend of mixing documentary footage, staged recreations of famous images, and the tales of the vigilantes that were the Minutemen (later the Watchmen) make for a compelling scene, but of course, it's Dylan's ode to changing times that really holds it together. You can see the scene for yourself here:
One of my personal favorite images from the opening credits.
On a semi-related note: I was reading a post about Toy Story 3 over at The Film Experience blog ( and, in thinking about the above, is it just me or does Pixar tend to use music more devastatingly than most movies? I'm thinking of two in particular: the "When She Loved Me" scene in Toy Story 2 when Jessie's owner grows up, and the "Married Life" scene in Up that I've raved about many a time before. I'm sure there are other examples that I'm not thinking of, but if there was ever a perfect blend of emotion, music, and film, those are prime examples.
I promise to write that Rescue Me post soon. I may write some more about Lost too, now that the best show on television (my opinion) is in its final stretch. I need to get out to the movies again, too, hopefully this weekend with Date Night and Kick-Ass, though other recommendations are welcome. As are comments, of course.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm still here!

I promise I'll put up a new, thorough post soon, probably about Rescue Me, Justified, and how I'm kinda falling for FX. Hang tight!
In the meantime, what's on your mind? Any movies worth recommending?