[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]
Well, my moviewatching seems to be getting steadily worse as the 2012 progresses (I better pick up the pace the last week of March, that’s all I’m saying). Only seven movies total in February, but on the good side, I did knock off one of my Blind Spots. So that was good, even if it did delay this post a bunch while I got around to writing a long-ass review of The Virgin Spring. Hoping to get to a couple more of those Blind Spots before the end of March. I mostly blame Skyrim for the low movie count in February (as I will blame Mass Effect 3 in March) – not only was I playing it a ton in February, so was Jonathan, and I’m still working on balancing gaming time and movie time when two people are involved. :)
What I Loved
The Virgin Spring
I’m a reluctant Bergman fan at best, often finding his austerity a bit hard to relate to, but there was no problem here. The tale of a sunny, somewhat spoiled girl being raped and killed by three woodland wanderers is certainly ugly, and Bergman doesn’t sugarcoat anything – if anything, I was aghast at how explicit the film is for 1960. Yet depravity is balanced by the foibled humanity that Bergman infuses into nearly every frame – and the framing and cinematography is never ugly, even when what it’s capturing is. In fact, I haven’t seen a film as downright beautiful as this for a long time. It’s a juxtaposition that only adds to the film’s great power, ensuring it will stick with me for a very long time. Read my Blind Spots review.
1960 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Pettersson, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom.
Seen February 23 on iPad via Hulu Plus.
Flickchart ranking: 187 out of 2879
What I Liked
What initially intrigued me about this film, in an era oversaturated with both superhero movies and found footage movies, was the intimation in the trailer that these guys were actually going to act like teens suddenly endowed with superpowers would really act – in other words, they wouldn’t go out and try to save the world (ala Kick-Ass, if Kick-Ass had superpowers), they’d likely spend their time playing practical jokes on people, trying to become popular at school, and maybe flying around in the stratosphere, but essentially, they’d still be self-centered teenage boys. And that’s pretty much exactly what happens, and that’s what Chronicle gets so right. When one of the boys starts to misuse his power, it’s largely believable, and turns the tables neatly on the stereotypes you’ve already formed of the boys. I even enjoyed the use of found footage, which tied in with the power of telekinesis, allows for some more unusual camera angles than the genre usually gets; plus I appreciated that when the story called for it, the filmmakers just brought in whatever cameras would’ve caught the events. Some have suggested that’s a cop-out, but I’d say it’s playing to the strengths of the genre without giving in to its weaknesses. Overall, a refreshing film to find in February, a promising debut for Josh Trank, and a reminder that with a good story and solid writing, you don’t need gazillions of dollars even to do a superhero movie. They make the budget they have count when it needs to.
2012 USA. Director: Josh Trank. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan.
Seen February 6 at Fargo Century Cinema.
Flickchart ranking: 1054 out of 2879
I gotta admit, I was not totally convinced at first when Jonathan said he wanted to put this on his list for me to watch. Let’s just say ’80s comedies and I don’t always mix that well. But then he told me it was about a trio of silent film stars who accidentally get caught up in a real conflict because a Mexican villager mistakes them for real cowboys. Does this guy know what I like or what? This is basically A Bug’s Life (I know, I know, this came first, whatever), with our trio of funnymen caught out of their league when a Mexican girl asks them for help against a bandit gang terrorizing her village. They think it’s a publicity thing that pays money, and get in over their heads in a heartbeat, but it somehow all turns out all right. There are a lot of great little bits (like the invisible swordsman, or Martin’s secret bird calls), but I expected a lot more gags throughout. I sort of appreciated that the film was willing to actually BE a western for a while and not feel the need to try to make you laugh every single second.
1986 USA. Director: John Landis. Starring: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short.
Seen February 7 on iPad.
Flickchart ranking: 1368 out of 2879
A fun romp through the wildernesses of the Australian Outback and of New York City. Fairly inconsequential, but cute and enjoyable. I did like some of the ways the film inverted my expectations – setting Dundee up first as a teller of tall tales who actually turns out to be supremely competent, and then leading me to expect him to be a buffoon in NYC, but having him turn out pretty well there, too. Made for less real conflict, but in a film like this, that’s okay.
1986 USA. Director: Peter Faiman. Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon.
Seen February 23 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 1811 out of 2879
What I Thought Was Okay
What Happened to Jones?
It’s probably not a great sign that I already don’t really remember what happened to Jones. Time to turn to the IMDb: “On the night before his wedding, a young man plays poker with friends. When the game is raided by the police, he escapes into a Turkish bath on ladies night, ending up disguised in drag and with difficult explanations to make.” OH YES, I remember now. This film definitely falls into the “curiosity” category of Silent Treatment offerings rather than the “really amazing film” category. Which is fine; their mission is to screen rare films that won’t be found anywhere else, and it’s not unusual for them to be mostly of academic interest. This one was fun to watch – the antics as Jones and his poker companion try to make their way out of the ladies’ spa without being caught definitely prefigure stuff like Some Like It Hot, but beyond that scene, it’s fairly unmemorable.
1926 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Reginald Denny, Marian Nixon, Melbourne MacDowell.
Seen February 1 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 2311 out of 2879
Rewatches – Loved
Is it weird that I wanted to watch this for Valentine’s Day? I mean, (SPOILERS) it’s not exactly a happy-ending romantic movie. Still, the bittersweetness of this film’s romance touches me far more than traditional romances where everything works out. This is realistic, not only in the DIY aesthetic, but in the character interactions and dialogue. It takes a while to get going, and if you don’t like the music, you’ll be out of it from the start, but even for non-musical fans, the songs here are so integrated into the story and into these characters’ very existence that it’s unthinkable without them. I love this film to bits.
2007 Ireland. Director: John Carney. Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova.
Seen February 17 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 67 out of 2879
Rewatches – Liked
This is a favorite film of Jonathan’s, and one I remembered liking more than most people did, as well. But I couldn’t remember most of it very well, and Jon kept making references and jokes from it, so I finally had him haul out his DVD and watch it with me. This is definitely a cult gem – I don’t like it quite as much as Jon does, but its send-up of the superhero genre is well before its time, with self-made heroes like The Shoveler (“God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well.”) and Mr. Furious and Invisible Boy (who’s only metaphorically invisible, but gets to join the crew anyway) taking on Casanova Frankenstein. The actors in here are awesome, and they’re all having a great time. With everybody doing the fake superhero thing now (Kick-Ass, Super, etc.), Mystery Men oughta be ready for a comeback.
1999 USA. Director: Kinka Usher. Starring: Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Kel Mitchell, Paul Reubens, Wes Studi, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush.
Seen February 24 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 965 out of 2879