Monday, November 26, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
This movie season has seen some pleasant surprises (Into the Wild, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and disappointments (Eastern Promises, American Gangster), but no film had yet exactly met my expectations until now. I went into No Country For Old Men expecting to see one of the most amazing American films of the past decade, and that's exactly what I got. It's cool when things work out like that.
The Coens have been astoundingly prolific and varied in style over their twenty year careers. With No Country, they revisit the terrain of their first film, Blood Simple. Both films could be considered "Texas noir:" gritty crime films featuring regular people confronting embodiments of pure evil, against a backdrop of scrub brush and big block Detroit sedans. What sets No Country For Old Men apart from Blood Simple, indeed, from the entire Coen brothers canon, is its commitment to emotional impact. The film creates a hermetic seal around its characters and universe, drawing the viewer in to a palable reality. In the past, the Coen's have been content to create immersive film realities for the purpose of riffing on genres and film tropes: shits n' giggles, funsies...you know, for kids? With this film, the Coen's have entered uncharted territory: gone are the comic grotesques, hyper-stylized dialogue and deadpan absurdism that have largely defined their output. Instead of reminding the viewer at regular intervals that they're watching a movie, they let their craft and characters speak in the soft but textured voices of a recognizable reality. The virtuoso technique on display does not reflexively celebrate the magic of film, but is rather put to service instilling existential dread in the viewer. It's a feat of cinematic ledgermain with few equals: the movie practically places you into an hypnotic trance designed to show you a cold and merciless universe where death is inevitable and meted out randomly. You leave the theater acutely aware of your personal vulnerability, pondering the terrifying vastness and cruel capriciousness of the world. You feel like a plucked chicken set in the middle of a wind-swept prairie, waiting for the wolves to come.
This effect is achieved through a constellation of techniques, including a canny lack of any musical accompaniment. The catalyst of it all is certainly Cormac McCarthy's source material. I intentionally avoided reading the book before seeing the film in order to go in fresh. It was the right decision, but it leaves me feeling unable to fully engage with the film's achievements. As such, I expect to read the book this week, and post a fuller write-up of the film at that point. For now, sufficit to say that this flick is a pisser.Score: 10
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Shorter review: BTDKYD = A Simple Plan + In the Bedroom
Friday, November 16, 2007
Anyway, this little encomium to Paul Greengrass is all an introduction to a bold idea I had today. In my review of Darjeeling Limited, I aired my suspicion that Wes Anderson might be reaching the limits of potential for his particular brand of upper class quirkfest. While Paul Greengrass' films are uniformily excellent, and the prospect of him doing a film about Iraq (adapting the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City) and Vietnam (adapting the book They Marched into Sunlight), according to imdb.com his next two projects, are both very exciting, there is a danger that he might get caught in a similar rut. Here's my bold idea: what if Wes Anderson were to direct Greengrass's script for, say They Marched into Sunlight while Greengrass directs Anderson's next script? Think about it: Wes Anderson trying to shoot an ambush of U.S. troops in Vietnam with pristine framing and meticulous set design while Paul Greengrass jittery-cameras his way through a quirky domestic dramedy. Such an experiement would take both directors out of their respective comfort zones and could result in utterly fresh approaches to the material.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I recently watched the cult classic Roger Corman production Deathrace 2000, which, as advertised, is a sly, witty satire with giddy perverse bursts of violence. Unfortunately, it was made for approximately seventeen dollars, and it shows. Not only does the low budget reduce the impact of the action set pieces, it artificially limits the scope of the satire. At the start of the film, we get our only view of the futuristic dystopia of the year 2000: an insanely cheesy matte painting of Jetsons buildings. If somebody could get together fifteen or twenty million bucks for a remake that kept the central plot elements and expanded the film's universe, you'd be dealing with a real pisser. Plus, you could do real justice to the concept of tricked-out dune buggies intentionally running over the elderly.
Basically, the only time you should remake a movie is when the original version fucked up a great premise or screenplay through inept direction or a cripplingly low budget. Other candidates for potentially ass-kicking remakes:
George Romero's The Crazies
John Carpenter's They Live (of course, this will probably end up being the ONLY John Carpenter movie that DOESN'T get remade)
The shitty Jet Li movie The One and the shitty Jean Claude Van Damme movie Timecop for the same reason: both of these movies take a sci-fi premise with nearly unlimited possibilities, (parrallel universes and time travel, respectively) and completly wastes them. I mean, Timecop is about a cop who travels through time...and the vast majority of the film is spent in the amazingly foreign and exotic year of 1995!
Any other candidates for a jizz-blasting remake?
Sunday, November 04, 2007