Tonight's Selection
After the Dark

this movie made me nostalgic for my first philosophy classes in undergrad. i miss the atmosphere of a roomful of people willing to discuss the merits of ideas, whether controversial or accepted, vast or minute; people willing to answer a question thoughtfully, without ducking, shrugging, or fighting the hypo.  it’s intoxicating for my curious and analytical mind, and it’s something that i’ve never found anywhere other than a philosophy classroom.

  • the most ludicrous conception of what a classroom looks like.  it also hurts the alternate universe sense of the thought experiment because a typically drab, sterile classroom would be a more stark contrast.
  • the opening and closing scenes are both terrible.  the opening scene also carries the badge of being totally unnecessary.

this one didn’t grab me, which is unusual for a coming of age story.  it’s well acted, and well shot, but the story let me down.  maybe its because i can’t relate to the rough and tumble kids that love being outside in the dirt. maybe it’s because i struggle to root for the scoundrel fugitive to get the girl, and don’t have much of a reaction when we find out that she’s not the loving mate we thought she was.  it just didn’t work for me.

The Truman Show

the titular show within this movie is supported by product placement.  the product placement in question is for fake products.  this strikes me as an odd choice because it’s leaving money on the table by not doing placements of real products.  what justifies that loss of revenue?  perhaps they’re trying to make a comment on the fake world truman is in, but this seems excessively fake because the product placement is supposed to pierce through the fake show to the viewers; it’s one of the few things connecting him to the outside world.  perhaps it’s to heighten the comedic effect of the placements, but this seems unnecessary because the dramatic irony is enough to carry the humor.  perhaps they thought it would be hypocritical to mock the banality of product placement while profiting from it, but i think it would make the satire more biting.  fake product placements seem like a lose-lose to me.

  • how do you know you’re not in a truman show of your own?
  • i can’t imagine the psychic damage of finding out that you’re never had an authentic relationship with anyone for longer than a few hours.
The Tom Green Subway Monkey Hour

for my money, tom green is the master of “on the street” comedy.  unfortunately, this style of comedy has a short career expectancy because once you get famous, you can’t get natural reactions from people on the street.  tom fought this trend by moving every few years, starting in ottawa, and getting on canadian tv, then coming to mtv in america, and extending his show a bit longer by going to rural towns where he wasn’t famous yet.  this tv movie was his last grab at a fresh pool of people before transitioning to chat shows.

japan proved ripe territory for tom’s antics.  their quiet, polite culture of public behavior accentuated his brash, energetic silliness and also tolerated it much longer than north american people.  the language barrier also adds to the culture clash and the awkward exchanges.  as usual, the best moments are when tom is the one caught off guard, like when he discovers a life-size animatronic santa claus that dances while singing “the yellow rose of texas” when a motion sensor (conveniently hidden in its crotch) is triggered.

A Clockwork Orange

how to style a movie set in the future is a tricky issue.  i’m always interested to see how the creative team will design it.  this movie does a really good job of blending classicism with modernism.  we see a fight scene in an abandoned ornately classical theatre and then alex goes home to his very modern block of apartments.  alex has a love of classical music, and the soundtrack is full of it, but many of the songs are performed by synthesizers rather than orchestras.  the mixture of old and new is present in alex’s iconic costume, his odd white outfit and codpiece offset by a classic derby.  it lends a very unique character to the movie.

  • i can’t take my eyes off of alex’s polyhedral blanket whenever it’s in the shot.
  • alex’s sarcastic heel click when leaving the custody of his prison guard slays me.
  • the dvd case liner of my copy of this movie doesn’t include the word “a” at the beginning of its title.  disgraceful.
Saving Private Ryan

the first scene is such a bad start to this movie.  now i know what you’re thinking; the beach assault sequence is amazingly great.  i agree, it is, but it isn’t the first scene.  the first scene is of an old man and his family visiting a military cemetery, because spielberg loves his old man bookend scenes.  it is entirely unnecessary to stack the emotional deck like this.  nobody’s having a hard time connecting to this movie.  worse still, it defies the underlying message of the mission depicted.  the dominant image of the cemetery scene is the rows and rows of identical grave markers.  it is saying that all soldiers are the same, are equal, are interchangeable.  then the movie that follows is about how one soldier becomes more important than all the others, and many die trying to find and protect him.  the scene doesn’t fit.

  • i appreciate wade’s enthusiasm, but his unwillingness to triage really frustrates me.
  • oppum’s inability to intervene in mellish’s final fight is so brutal to watch.  i can’t imagine how that would haunt someone.
Out of the Furnace

there’s a great scene in this movie, when we get to see christian bale stretch himself.  he is fresh out of prison, meeting the girlfriend who left him while he was locked up, with the intention of getting her back.  it’s clear in her face that she misses him, but she tells him that she’s pregnant by her new beau, so she can’t.  bale says all the right things, and part of him surely means it, but his body is bursting with uncontrollable heartbreak.  it’s something we don’t typically see from him, but apparently not because he can’t pull it off.

  • forest whitaker’s growly voice is really distracting.  i don’t understand that choice.
  • why is hunting and murdering a killer better than trapping and prosecuting him?  i hate how hollywood lionizes vigilante vengeance over justice.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

if this movie was made today, it would have been crowd funded and only seen on the laptops of kevin smith supporters.  it’s so loaded with self-referential in jokes and cameos by actors from the previous four kevin smith movies, there’s barely any time for an actual movie.  that’s for the best, however, as there isn’t much quality in the original elements of this movie.  it’s a doomed premise from the outset.  the pairing of manic, hyper-juvenile jay and aptly named silent bob work well as bit characters in the background, but are a far crying from compelling lead roles.  this movie comes across as a swan song project - a cobbled together summation of the creator’s career, for fans only.  i know i haven’t been drawn to any of his movies since.

Rules of Engagement

allowing that it’s conceivable that an executive branch politician might choose to defuse an international incident by using a key military officer as a scapegoat, the national security advisor in this movie is so unnecessarily sinister, it borders on pantomime.  he has such enthusiasm for throwing childers under the bus, with no explanation offered.  it doesn’t look at all like someone reluctantly making the utilitarian decision.  it’s baffling to watch.

  • does anyone do crazy eyes as well as samuel l. jackson?
  • there’s a moment when childers makes the evacuation helicopter wait while he runs through gunfire, retrieves a flag, and runs back through gunfire to put it on the chopper.  it’s just a piece of fabric, people.  keep some perspective.
  • pacing is way off through the whole movie.
A Brief History of Time

this is the least cinematic movie i’ve ever seen.  it falls into all of the traps that tend to make documentaries dull, and makes many of them even worse.

the bulk of its length is interview footage of stephen hawking’s friends and family; always one subject, shot from the ribs up, looking square into the camera.  the monotony of this is exacerbated by the fact that most of the subjects are stuffy brits whose most visible display of energy is their efforts to not display any emotions.  they have this odd form of suppressed laughter where they accelerate their talking as they reach the end of their anecdote, then betray a hint of a smile as they inhale and exhale sharply once.  then it’s over; humor successfully abated.

the interviews are intercut with archival photographs.  again, no motion.  not even a ken burns pan, let alone some archival video footage.  i could give errol the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to a comment on hawking’s disability, but it’s not like he’s in an iron lung.  he rolls around town in his wheelchair, let me roll through some moving pictures.  this is a movie, right?

  • there is one good visual illustrating a thought experiment about a wrist watch entering a black hole.  sadly, it highlights how much the rest of the movie needs visual help.
  • i’m torn on the use of hawking’s speech synthesizer.  part of me says it’s how he speaks and the movie should be honest about that, but part of me says it’s a surrogate voice so what’s wrong with overdubbing a different surrogate?
  • i like the idea of identifying the interview subjects in the end credits with a key quote from their interview.