Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daria: The Movie

Film: Ghost World
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

There are movies that we come to at the wrong point in our lives. I think Ghost World is that kind of movie for me. I thought I had seen this. It turns out I’d seen a couple of scenes from it without watching the whole thing. I liked those clips. Now, watching the entire thing at once, I find this to be a film that is less than the sum of its parts. I also think that if I had seen this 15 years ago when I was 15 years younger, I’d have related to it a lot more. I think I’m just too old for the damn thing.

Ghost World is a disaffected teen movie, a film where the characters see themselves as somehow set apart from their peers by virtue of knowing more or by not being absorbed by pop culture. In reality, it’s the story of one young woman who is merely self-obsessed in a way different than everyone around her. She’s convinced that she is special and different, and in truth, she’s really just different.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Off Script: The Sender

Film: The Sender
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

Not long ago, Paramount released a bunch of video clips of their movies on YouTube. Even better, they released a couple of hundred movies (or so—I don’t know the exact number) full movies, free to the viewing public. If you’re someone who worries about things like film piracy and illegal downloads (and you should be), the Paramount Vault is a great find. It’s entirely above-board, ince the upload to YouTube are official. Among the many movies now available for free is The Sender.

The Sender is a weird little film. With a little more gore, it feels like it could easily have been made by David Cronenberg, since it has some of his trademark ideas of messing with the head of the audience. It’s also the first film role, or at least the first notable one, for classic character actor Željko Ivanek, who is almost unrecognizable because of his youth and a full head of hair.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Schoolhouse Rock

Film: Blackboard Jungle
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s a weird little subgenre of dramas that take place in troubled schools. Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, To Sir with Love, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers…even pseudo action movies like The Substitute are based on this premise. The granddaddy of the genre is Blackboard Jungle, one of the first movies ever to have a rock soundtrack. It even beat classic Rebel Without a Cause by a good six months.

Blackboard Jungle also launched a few careers. This was the first film for Vic Morrow, who allegedly beat out Steve McQueen for the part. It was also an early film in Sidney Poitier’s career, a role he evidently got by beating Lou Gossett, Jr. The other new face in the crowd is a young actor named Jameel Farah, who eventually changed his name to Jamie Farr.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Picks from Chip: Stoker

Film: Stoker
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the second in a series of twelve movies selected by Chip Lary.

Plenty of movies explore the idea of insanity and evil. It seems like a natural place for movies to go, at least in the genres of horror and thriller. Stoker is a film that is exploring that same idea and seems to also want to look into the possibility that not just insanity but evil may be genetically linked. It’s an intriguing idea, and in the case of Stoker, it’s an idea that is played out in a way reminiscent of Shadow of a Doubt.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her father (played in flashbacks by Dermot Mulroney) in a car accident the day she turns 18. Her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is naturally upset, but her level of anguish seems greatly tamped down by the sudden appearance of her late husband’s brother Charles (Matthew Goode). Charles claims to have been traveling around the world, mainly Europe for years, but upon his brother’s death has come to stay with the family.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Twice in One Week?

Film: Hail, Caesar!
Format: Market Square Cinemas.

I like the Coen Brothers’ movies. I’m not a complete fanboy—I haven’t seen everything they’ve done and I haven’t liked everything I’ve seen, but I’m always willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. My wife wanted to see Hail, Caesar! and last night both of the kids were out, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to go. Aside from the annoying people behind us who decided to comment frequently during the movie, it was a good night out. The people behind us reminded me of why I don’t go to the theater that often, though despite having gone twice in the same week.

Hail, Caesar! takes place across slightly more than a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the head of production at Capitol Pictures during the later years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Mannix is a man under a great deal of stress, which causes him to go to confession just about every day. However, what he’s confessing seems to be the sort of moral transgressions that could wait for a Sunday—lying to his wife about sneaking a cigarette or two, for instance. On this particular day, Eddie is dealing with some truly interesting problems.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

It's Real Life, Man

Film: American Splendor
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

As I look through the various lists of films on my different lists, there are a few movies I’ve kept back for when I needed them. American Splendor is one of those movies. I’ve seen this a couple of times before; it’s a film I know I like. I’ve felt lately like I’ve been in a cinematic rut, and having been really enjoying what I’m watching as much as I think I should. American Splendor felt like a good way to get out of that rut.

American Splendor is based on the comic books written by Harvey Pekar about his own life as an average guy working a dead-end job as a VA hospital file clerk in Cleveland. And that’s really it. It’s just the life of an average man dealing with his life. What makes American Splendor interesting is not so much the stories that we’re told (they’re real life, after all, except for the fact that Harvey Pekar’s real life is also a comic series), but the style in which those stories are told. American Splendor mixes the comic world with the real world and also mixes the real world with the film world. There are layers upon layers of reality and non-reality here, and it all blends into something perfectly coherent.