Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rich People Problems

Film: Six Degrees of Separation
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I seem to have encountered a lot of films adapted from stage plays recently. That may just be my memory playing tricks on me. Anyway, Six Degrees of Separation is indeed adapted from a stage play, and Oscar nominee Stockard Channing played the role on stage before undertaking it on film. This is a difficult film for me for two primary reasons, both of which we’ll get to. It’s one where I kind of love the premise and hate the execution, which means the next few paragraphs should be interesting.

Let me say this right now. I hate everyone in this film. I hate them all. I hate the parents because they’re pretentious assholes and I hate their children for the spoiled, whiny assholes, snotty, bitchy, ungrateful piles of shit they are. I can’t imagine anyone liking these people at all. These aren’t movie rich people, these are the sorts of people who eat thousand dollar plates of food and complain that the china wasn’t shiny enough.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nick's Pick: Ink

Film: Ink
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

This is the seventh in a series of monthly reviews suggested by Nick Jobe at YourFace.

Nick has taken me to some unusual places in the past seven months as well as on our old podcast. Few are as strange as Ink, an indie film from 2009. Ink was made on the sort of budget that Michael Bay uses for a couple of days’ worth of Craft Services. There are times when that budget shows and many times where it looks as if writer/director Jamin Winans was well-funded. It leaves me with an interesting movie to discuss for the next several hundred words.

The plot…well, that’s kind of difficult because I’m not sure I fully understand it myself. I’ll do my best. Ink posits that there are creatures called Storytellers who give us our good dreams and there are evil creatures called Incubi who give us nightmares. There are also other spirits called Drifters that are neither one nor the other. One of these, named Ink, kidnaps a young girl and takes her to this other realm where these creatures live. In our world, young Emma (Quinn Hunchar) falls into a coma caused by some sort of undefined seizure.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

And There Goes Me Caring About It

Film: Here Comes the Navy
Format: TCM Watch on laptop.

The idea of a cursed production has probably been around for about as long as there have been productions of any sort of drama or comedy. Here Comes the Navy from 1934 is odd in that it was evidently cursed retroactively. There are two major vehicles from the U.S. Navy used in this film. One of them, the dirigible Macon, crashed in the Pacific the year after this film was made. The other was the USS Arizona, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor and still exists there as a monument to the men who died in that raid. It puts a very weird spin on a movie that is, essentially, a comedy, an unintended darkness that happened because reality crept in.

I knew nothing about this film going into it except that it was nominated for Best Picture. Turns out that a minute or two in I discover that it stars James Cagney. That’s generally a positive in my book; I like Cagney. It’s unfortunate that his name in this film is Chesty O’Conner, “Chesty” being short for Chester. Chesty is working construction on the docks near where the USS Arizona when he has a run-in with Biff Martin (Pat O’Brien), who is stationed on the ship. That night, at a party for the dockworkers, Chesty and Biff duke it out, and Biff wins the fight with a cheap shot. Adding insult to injury, Biff walks off with Gladys (Dorothy Tree), Chesty’s girl. The ultimate insult is that Chesty loses his job. With nothing better to do, he enlists in the Navy, hoping to be assigned to the Arizona. Because this is Hollywood, he is, and because this is Hollywood, his pal from basic, Droopy Mullins (Frank McHugh), goes to the Arizona as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Immaculate Deception

Film: Agnes of God
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

A lot of general topics show up on the Oscar lists over and over again. For whatever reason, there is an awful lot of nuns on my lists. Perhaps there are people out there who find the very idea of nuns to be compelling. Perhaps it’s that nuns live such an unusual lifestyle that they are compelling by their very nature. Or perhaps it’s something else. With Agnes of God, it’s very much this something else. While based on a stage play, Agnes of God translates nicely to film in part because of its high concept.

So what is that high concept? Simple: a true innocent, a nun named Agnes (Meg Tilly) who has been raised virtually her entire life in a convent, gives birth to an unexplained child, not the least of that lack of explanation being that the mother is a nun. Just as problematic, the child is discovered dead shortly after the birth, with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. The court appoints a psychologist named Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) to unravel what happened. Dr. Livingston (and yes, there are a few “I presume” jokes) is both aided and thwarted by the efforts of Mother Miriam Ruth (Anne Bancroft) who wants to both avoid further scandal and protect Sister Agnes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sacrifice

Film: Born on the Fourth of July
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again here—Tom Cruise can act. Admittedly, the typical go-to Tom Cruise role is more along the lines of Top Gun or the Mission: Impossible movies, but when he’s given a good role, the man knows what he’s doing. I’d love to see him play against type more often because when he does, he’s really, really good. Collateral and Rain Man are my Exhibit A and B most of the time, but I think I might start using Born on the Fourth of July from this point forward.

Born on the Fourth of July is the biography of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), an average American who signed up to fight in Vietnam and who happened to be literally born on July 4. We get a bit of Kovic’s youth in Massapequa, including the speech by a Marine recruiter (Tom Berenger). Tom and some of his friends, particularly Timmy (Frank Whaley) sign up and head off to the war, although not before we get to see Ron run through the rain, break into his prom and dance with Donna (Kyra Sedgwick), the girl he’s always been in love with.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nowhere to Run

Film: Black Hawk Down
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on laptop.

When I was a lot younger and completely into war movies, there was a part of me that wondered what it would be like if the whole film was nothing but war. That, I figured, would be the coolest of all possible films. Well, I don’t have to wonder anymore because I’ve now seen Black Hawk Down. It takes some time for the film to get rolling into the action, but once it does, it’s pretty much shooting and explosions until the final credits. The actual shooting/war part of the film runs about 90 minutes, and it never lets up for more than a minute or two at a time.

Essentially, the film tells the story of the battle for Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. At that time, the country was torn apart by war and famine. The reason for the famine was that a presumptive warlord named Aidid controlled both Mogadishu and all of the incoming food. Keeping that food hostage and rationed allowed him to control the stomachs, and thus the people, of his entire country. A UN peacekeeping force went to the country and was eventually pulled back. Once that happened, Aidid declared war on the remaining UN forces and a war-torn country became ever worse.