Saturday, January 28, 2006

Random Thoughts On Some Recent Movies

A couple of weeks ago me and my wife went to see Brokeback Mountain on a Sunday night and the next day we went to see Matchpoint. Yeah, we are gluttons for punishment, it was the equivalent of getting a punch to each side of your face two days in a row and then last weekend we saw The New World. There are spoilers after this so only read if you have seen the movies or don't care if you learn certain things.

Brokeback is getting all the headlines and I think with good reason, it is very well written, directed and the acting is all top notch with characters that stick with you. But as a gay friend put it there is nothing happy or gay about it. What is done with this movie is a subversion of the iconic cowboy character in Hollywood films. The two male leads get in fights, swear, drink and keep many of their feelings hidden and don't express themselves very well. Oh and they ride horses too and they do all this while being in love with each other and married to women. Which of course isn't supposed to happen in Hollywood films. Ang Lee is one of the best directors in the world who manages to get great performances out of actors and knows what structure and narrative are which is no small thing these days. He picks good material obviously, but he has made two westerns so far, a martial arts film, a character study of 70's upper middle class east coast ennui and a period piece. All have been very good films and that is no accident when you are working in so many different genres. I know he made The Hulk also but his batting average is still very high.

Many people are talking about Match Point being Wood Allen's best film in years, I can't say because I haven't seen all his recent films, however it is the best one I have seen since Crimes & Misdemeanors which I viewed again about 4 months ago. I love Crimes more than his new one which in a certain way reminds me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. In both movies you watch a character do things and you are thinking don't go there but they do and then they keep making the wrong move over and over again. It is very hard to watch but you are glued and sucked into it now matter how horrible it gets. Match Point fits perfectly with the William Goldman statement that "movies are structure". The direction by Woody of this movie is the best that I have seen in any of his films, it is extremely tight, with no fat. Luck had nothing to do with it to use a word that pops up quite a bit in the movie. You could call it the theme. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is very good in the film, as is everyone else, but I think this is going to give his career a big boost.

Terrence Malick films on the other hand are not structure or narrative but rely on images, editing and music to get the audience to an emotional, psychological place which is very hard to do. The characters in The New World in my opinion are not well defined and are part of the environment of the movie but not at the foreground and the movie lags for stretches at a time that are very hard to sit through. But when it works such as the opening sequence when the ships carrying John Smith arrive in The New World it is fantastic. I personally enjoyed The Thin Red Line more than this film even though it has some of the same problems but with multiple story lines going on in the film it's weaknesses were easier to digest. I have seen all his films so I knew what to expect but I could tell some of the audience we saw the movie with didn't have a clue that this film wasn't going to hand everything to them on a silver platter and were quite disappointed. My wife enjoyed it but didn't think it was great and unfortunately I didn't either.

I did see the teaser trailer for Mel Gibson's new film Apocalypto coming out this summer which is about the collapse of the Mayan civilization from what I have read. Apparently the cast is native and they are going to speak the Mayan language with subtitles, which makes me very happy. It doesn't look like your usual brain dead summer flick.

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