Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is a film that has left me perplexed ever since the first time I viewed it as a teenager nearly a decade ago. I remember, as I finished the film, thoroughly hating it. There was something about its subject matter and characters that I immediately found off putting. It wasn't until my third or fourth viewing of the picture that I really understood what Boyle was going for.
It's supposed to be off putting and the characters are supposed to be unlikable. The film shows just how much of an impact heroin can have on a young individual's life. It destroys it to the point where heroin because the only that the really matters. For these young drug addicts, the only thing that gets them through the day is the anticipation of the next hit. By using over-the-top visuals (the sequence with the dead infant in the crib is one that I won't be able to shake for sometime) and a rapid MTV music video style editing, Boyle makes the film visually fascinating while showing the truth behind the life of the average drug addict.
If I have a problem with the film it's that it really doesn't go far enough. Less quick cutting and hyper stylized editing and more human characters would have made the film deeper and more palatable. But, maybe that wasn't what Boyle was going for. With his use of editing, he shows just how much can be lost when one is stuck in the sad world of drug addiction. That, in and of itself, makes the film something special. The film is gritty and dark, both qualities that are rarely seen in Hollywood movies today. I still think the ending doesn't work as well as it should as it feels a bit too upbeat but that's a minor quibble of an otherwise fine film.
Going into The Age of Innocence, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Martin Scorsese has been one of my favorite directors for some time now yet this is a film that I have always put off watching. To me, looking at the cover box and watching the trailer, I expected little more than beautiful eye candy with three attractive stars. What exactly could Scorsese bring to the issue of high society in the 1800's that hasn't been already addressed? As it turns out, quite a bit.
With The Age of Innocence, Scorsese plays against type (if doing so as a director is possible) and dives straight into a genre that he is both not well known for as well as not directly familiar with. His lavish art direction and assured directing help make a familiar tale of doomed love breathe with new life. For example, one element of the film that I found fascinating was the film's use of colors to represent themes of the various characters. I love how the "forbidden" Ellen is always shown in dark, startling colors like bright blues, vibrant yellows, and blood reds whereas the pristine imagine of Mae is shown through light colors like soft, delicate pastels. As for the acting, I found it all to be uniformly superb. From Michelle Pfeiffer, as the fallen from grace Ellen, to the underrated work of Winona Ryder, as uptight May Welland, it all works.
As for the twist ending, I wasn't really all that surprised. For a movie that is very beautifully mounted and fully aware of its style over substance, it should come as no surprise that Archer doesn't end up with Ellen. In reality, he wouldn't have either. Image meant a lot in the 1800's and still does today. Why give up his vision of perfection when it may not honestly be perfection at all? Our imagination of perfection is a lot more powerful than our reality of it.
One of the most interesting elements I found in "North by Northwest" was the way that Alfred Hitchcock toyed with the audience with the role of Eve Kendall. Here is a strong, sophisticated, and independent young woman that is neither played as a bitch nor merely eye candy for the hungry male audience. I have found that the crucial weakness of many movies of the 1950's and 60's is the fact that the strong woman must be punished for her independent instincts. In fact, this could easily be argued of many films today. A strong leading female character is just as rare in Hollywood today as it was fifty years ago. If the times have changed, many of the movies surely haven't.
One of the many things that I found intriguing by the character of Eve Kendall was her ability to show empathy while, as the same time, staying true to herself. For example, take a look at the scene in which Roger Thornhill tells Eve, in a heartbreakingly real speech, just how much her deception has betrayed him. Even in this scene, where Eve is the "bad guy", she is able to show just how much she deeply cares for this man. Maybe it's a sign of great acting or exceptional directing (the close up shot of her just as he leaves is incredible) but, either way, this is a character that we rarely see in movies today.
Here is a character that is not only sexual but innocent. She is neither exploited for her actions nor is she looked down on for being a female of carnal needs. If Roger is unsure and wary about sex, Eve knows exactly what she wants and what she shall get. In this aspect alone, "North by Northwest" was a movie years ahead of its time.
One of the greatest dilemmas a director can face is making a likable, relatable film when nearly all the characters presented are thoroughly unlikable. This is one of the dilemmas Woody Allen faces with his film Crimes and Misdemeanors. Let's take a look at the main hero of the film. Here is a man, Judah, in an unhappy marriage caring on with another woman for over two years who decides it's time to kill her off before she releases his secret to his wife.
How can such a man be presented as likable? Well, Woody Allen's best decision is to make him an everyman. A man caught up in the situation in which he must face his demons head on. He has made a mistake and he must deal with the consequences of such mistake. In an ordinary Hollywood film, this would mean him being caught and forced to pay for the crime that he has committed. Such is not the case here. Sure he has some regret but, by facing and admitting to what he has done, he is able to move on with his life. One of the great strengths of this film is that it doesn't shy away from what Judah has done. It doesn't make light of it and it doesn't deny that it has happen.
He is simply a man who has made this mistake and is forced to go on with his life carrying this horrible mistake. Should he have gone to jail? You bet. Should he have told his wife about his adultery? Of course. But, that is not how life works. We live in a world where we don't always get what is coming to us. Great things happen to bad people everyday and vice versa. I don't believe this makes a bad guy, just a realistic one. By crafting a movie with a central character with real flaws, Woody Allen has created a movie of uncommon power. Four days after seeing it, I still can't get it out of my head. What a great film.
I must admit that I am a somewhat novice when it comes to the genre of film noir. As a film student, I've heard the term thrown around before but, with the exception of the film L.A. Confidential, I haven't had very much exposure to the genre. Based on my first viewing of Double Indemnity, it definitely seems like a genre that I would like to get more familiar with.
The most intriguing part of Double Indemnity was the way that it gently toyed with the audience by giving them a satisfying but original non-Hollywood style ending. Based on Hollywood films of today, it's pretty easy to see how Double Indemnity would be remade today. Walter and Phyllis would steal the money, end up together, and the final shot of the film would probably be them sipping margaritas as they talk about how they fooled the world (a'la Swordfish or Wild Things).If Hollywood were to do a remake of this film noir classic, I'd be willing to bet it would be a bastardized version as they have done so many times before. Remember the Casablanca inspired Barb Wire? Sadly, I do.
Thankfully, there is no bastardization of the novel that accrues in this adaptation. There is no happy ending for anyone. Walter Ness sealed his fate the moment he agreed to help Phyllis with her deceptive con. This is a story of without heroes and without villains, everyone has faults and everyone has flaws. I say bravo to Billy Wilder for creating a film that stands with test of time with characters that are something unlike anything in films today. They are human, not merely devises for carrying on a mechanical plot.
Once in a great while I will watch a movie that completely surprises me. One that comes out of nowhere to be a bit of rousing entertainment. One that is pure fun from beginning to end. Well folks, When A Stranger Calls is NOT that movie. It is an unbelievable stupid and far fetched remake of the much better 1979 horror camp classic. Our lead heroine Jill is forced to babysit after going over her cell phone minutes and is harassed by telephone calls from a mysterious caller. Every cliché in the world is used here from the stupid cat-jumping-out-of-a-hidden-spot to the car that won't start to the killer can be anywhere at anytime. This movie is bad...not even bad in a "so bad it's good way" more in a "so bad it's boring way." Skip this godawful film and save your movie for something else. You'll thank me later, trust me on this. Grade: D-
I gotta admit it, I love horror films...especially 80s slasher films. Hell, I even love cheese like Sleepaway Camp and Night of the Demons. But, I didn't think much of this movie. The death scenes weren't very well done, the CGI was terrible, and the acting was ho-hum. Worst of all was the story which didn't make sense at all. I'd say save your money but chances are, if you want to see this movie...you're going to anyway. I didn't hate it...it's just not very good. Overall, it's just another bland, lifeless horror film that lacks life (it's no surprise that this one was on the shelf at Dimension for over a year after it was completed).