Tonight's Selection
The Double

this movie felt like a frankenstein’s monster, cobbled together from parts of other movies.  it’s almost impossible to be truly original, given how many movies have been made in the past hundred years or so, but i expect a greater effort to individuate than this.  most glaring was the production design, which had a retro-futurist urban dystopia vibe that couldn’t have possibly looked more like a copy of brazil’s aesthetic without featuring a messerschmitt kr200.  the movie is good enough, but it almost feels like cheating to borrow so heavily from modern classics.


sometimes i struggle with the early bond movies.  usually because of the general sloppiness in their production quality - either most of the characters in this one were also secretly ventriloquists or the looping was atrocious - but what really distanced me from this movie was bond’s awful misogyny.  he spend the majority of the first 20 minutes sexually harassing and/or assaulting anything in a skirt.  it’s weird to think that fifty years ago that was considered somewhere between “tomcatting” and being a debonair ladies’ man.  james bond; license to kill, registered sex offender.

  • i liked the “chart” he checked that was just a straight line drawn on a sheet of graph paper.
  • pacing is terrible in this movie, especially during the scuba sequences, which occupy a truly shocking portion of the runtime.
Edward Scissorhands

of all the fantastic visuals in this movie, the flashback sequences featuring vincent price don’t seem to get much critical attention, which is a shame.  they’re hauntingly beautiful, with an odd mixture of gothic industrial and cartoonish whimsy.  i especially like the huge, industrial, almost rube-goldberg-esque cookie making machine.  that’s just useful.

The Vanishing

throughout a large portion of this movie, whenever there was a momentary lull in the story, i kept coming back to my disbelief that a woman would get romantically involved with the protagonist.  he seems like a good guy, but if he’s still focusing his entire life around a campaign to raise awareness for his three years missing ex-girlfriend, how emotionally available can he be?  i would like to see a little more characterization of his new girlfriend, to explain a choice that seems destined to be fruitless.

  • anyone who stands up for spiders is obviously a villain.
  • i don’t understand a claustrophobe being fine with the small enclosed space of an 80s european car, but unable to deal with the constraint of a seatbelt.
The Young Savages

this movie follows a district attorney as he prepares and prosecutes a murder case in west-side-story-esque racially-charged harlem.  when he talks to the deceased’s mother, she rails about how in her native puerto rico, people talk about love, but here in america, everyone is consumed with hatred.  the district attorney tries to win her over by assuring her that his job is to bring justice to the tragedy.  this causes her mood to shift from sadness to anger, and she replies that a just result would be if he killed the defendants in the street, like the animals that they are.  setting aside her unorthodox and unsanitary practice of slaughtering animals in the street, this illustrates the powerful message of this movie; that when society breaks down, the line between guilty and innocent blurs and eventually disappears completely.  as chaos subsumes all, the pressure, desperation, and warped incentives eventually force everyone to stray from the straight and narrow.  in the end, a bereaved mother can decry hatred and express it in the same breath without any sense of irony.

  • the book that this movie was adapted from is called “a matter of conviction.”  it seems like the source material always has a better title than the movie.
  • a cape over a leather jacket is a bold look.

i miss the classical biopic.  you know the type; movies that tell the full length of someone’s life, in chronological order, focusing on important moments and relationships, while trying to fairly represent the totality of the subject.  this movie is certainly one of the best examples of the form, portraying its subject with peace, courage, intelligence, and wit as he spends his life proving that freedom can be achieved without violence.

sadly, this style of biopic has fallen out of vogue over the years.  now we often get movies that narrow the scope to a small time span, or jumble the chronology to draw different connections, or use some other creative device to reframe the portrait.  these gimmicks can be artistically interesting, but the loss of historical perspective makes them ultimately unsatisfying for me.

My Blue Heaven
  • there are movies with third act problems and then there’s this.  the whole third act is terrible.  a huge let down after being pretty decent to that point.
  • the social security number bit is a mildly funny idea completely ruined in execution.
  • standing for the national anthem that’s being played on tv is some good and funny characterization.
  • steve martin and william hickey calling each other dirty rats is the highlight of the movie for me.

it takes guts to make a movie this small.  literally the full run of the movie is tom hardy driving on a highway.  adding to the audacity of the conceit, it’s all in real time; no jump cuts.  this all sounds incredibly boring, but in reality it’s quite the opposite because right before the movie started, his life took a dramatically bad turn and he spends his drive constantly making phone calls in an effort to keep this sudden intervention from destroying his personal and professional lives.  it’s a fascinating character study and a really interesting choice for tom hardy.

  • who keeps cough medicine in their car?
  • it seemed glaring to me that two brits discuss a british construction project in terms of dollars instead of pounds.  euros would at least seem plausible.
  • i hope all the producers got free bimmers for this 90 minute ad for bmw.
  • when he threatened to break the back of one of the people he had called, i immediately thought “he’ll do it too, just ask batman.”

some movies have different writing credits for story and screenplay.  although this movie doesn’t, it’s a good illustration of the difference between the two.  the story work is good; it has a good premise and the basic arc is interesting, with good characters and satisfying plot twists.  unfortunately the screenplay falls well short of holding up its end.  the pacing is all over the map, the characters don’t get fleshed out enough, and the dialogue is just flat out bad.

at one point, a father whose son recently died is attending a support group for the first time.  he’s unsure of the idea, and resists talking, but the group leader insists, asking “what do you miss about your son?”  one would expect a memory about playing in the yard or eating breakfast before work/school.  the father responds, “i miss not feeling guilty about being a bad father.”  he goes from not trusting support groups to having a therapeutic breakthrough in one innocuous question.

  • the extended slow motion sequence is silly but fun.
  • the score is too overt, like that of a soap opera.
  • an open sand table in the middle of an elementary school classroom is unrealistic, especially if said classroom has clean floors.

this movie has the most crassly vulgar scene i’ve ever seen, and it says a lot that even those who’ve seen the movie won’t know which scene i mean until i start describing it.  the protagonist has an oddly friendly yet combative relationship with a male friend, with a good helping of sexual tension thrown in as well.  in this scene, they’re arriving at his home after an off-camera lunch date, and he says that he’s choreographing a dance about her and wants to show it to her.

this “dance” is the most thinly veiled attempt to get a stripper to give a free lap dance ever, but it works.  after the requisite dry humping, there is some disturbingly slopping kissing and some heavy petting.  when he puts his hand in her pants, however, she stops him citing her period as the reason to not go further, which is just so romantic.  he then accuses her of making up that excuse - as if catching her lying about why she doesn’t want to have sex with him will change her mind.  she encourages him to verify her claim for himself, which he does, and he is disappointed to find that there is indeed menstrual blood on his finger.  she gets up to leave at this point, but he thinks there’s still a chance of something more happening and shouts after her, “hey, i’ve got towels,” implying that the potential mess isn’t a problem.  alas, she is unconvinced by this last ditch gambit.