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Weekend Movie Report #5

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It has finally happened–I’ve seen a film so bad I needed a new classification.

Weekend Winner

Rudo y Cursi (2008 Cuaron, Spanish)

This film reunites Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal to explore sibling rivalry through the sport of soccer.  As with many films of this type, there is a certain inevitability about how things will end, but Carlos (not Alfonso) Cuaron manages to sidestep the most obvious things.  Bernal’s abyssmal singing on a cover of Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me is nearly worth the price of admission by itself.

Weekend Loser

The Box (2009 Kelly)

Richard Kelly has developed an exceptional talent for making failures that are interesting to watch, if not exactly satisfying as entertainment.  The Box has a great deal of potential, deftly using the iconic role of a mysterious visitor portrayed by Frank Langella, who stabilizes the film’s first half.  Unfortunately, the story shifts into listless sci-fi and fails to deliver much of an ending.  I can’t help but feel Kelly will never get the best out of actors, as both Marsden and Diaz seem to struggle with the accents and idiot plot behaviors they have been asked to deliver.

Special Weekend Loser for Exceptionally Transcendental Badness

Test Tube Babies (1948 Connell)

Likely to be found in abandoned film collections with such exploitation classics as Reefer Madness, Test Tube Babies suffers from sub-par production values, even compared to its generously inept peers.  When the film derails into a fifteen minute lecture from a doctor on artificial insemination, I was glad to have a break from the horrible acting by the two main actors.  The only way this film is entertaining is by being transcendentally bad, hence the new category for WMR.  Watch it, if you dare, at the Internet Archive.

Honorable Mentions

2012 (2009 Emmerich)

Despite numerous flaws and skilled cast clearly more interested in a paycheck than performance, 2012 succeeds because it doesn’t dare apologize for its shortcomings.  The only serious flaw is a general inability to bridge the top-grade sequences of destruction with meaningful plot.  2012 is the first camp classic of the new millennium.

Bullitt (1968 Yates)

Another of the realist post-noir crime films I associate with the era, including films like Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, and Night Moves.  The only indulgence for action-fantasy allowed is the spectacular car chase through the streets of San Francisco, which practically established a visual nomenclature for every car chase repeated since.  It’s all the more exciting knowing what sort of death traps American cars of the era could be.  It makes me wish I could have been there to see it when it first hit the screen.

District 9 (2009 Blomkamp)

District 9 presents science fiction at its best, in which a contemporary social or technological ill is studied in a recontextualized setting.  In this case, it’s a powerful indictment of racial hatred and poverty as protrayed by the alien “Prawn”.  The first half holds its ground very before losing out to the action element necessary to complete the story.  Compared to the brutailty of the weaponry used by humans is, note how abstract the violence delivered by the alien weaponry is, turning bodies into hurtling mists of fluid.

Howards End (1992 Ivory)

I’ve doubtless lost a chance at understanding the novelty of her performance at the time, but this solid literary adaptation is almost unsettled by Helena Bonham Carter’s romping insanity. As to be expected, the remainder of the cast operates at near perfection.  The quality of the Blu-ray transfer is a bit underwhelming, even though Critrion normally delivers great remastering where needed.

Ran (1985 Kurosawa)

It’s interesting to see how Kurosawa reconciled feudal Japanese society with the original source story of King Lear.  What I conceived as a multi-faceted play dealing with pride, power, and loyality almost turns into a singular obsession with an old man’s eclipse.  It’s tempting to say this film transparently depicts Kurosawa’s own age, but I know better than to question an artist of his calibur.   No matter what, it’s a powerful interpretation, but hard to truly appreciate without at least a passing knowledge of the source material.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009 Jonze)

I’m perpetually unsettled by this very adult children’s film.  There is so much space for interpretation of a child’s psychology within the monster archetypes that surround Max.  The film never quite loses the edge of menace that these monsters produce.  It’s a pity most children aren’t in a position to appreciate the subtleties.

Dishonorable Mentions

Escort Girl (1941 Kaye)

Failing to fall into unintentional comedy or raise up to a level of enduring entertainment, Escort Girl is mostly forgettable.  In true exploitation form, it presents a moral lesson on sin while shamelessly indulging the viewer’s voyeurism.  Watch for a down-to-pasties striptese inserted into a plot that can’t even directly talk about prostitution, relying on nudge and wink references.

Julie & Julia (2009 Ephron)

Somehow this film went sour on a second viewing for me.  It may be that you can’t help but realize how poor the Julie half of the story is.  We’re talking about a biopic about a woman who merely cooked and blogged.  Adams is mis-cast for a role that really needs someone who can do flawed.  I think I also reject the general appreciation we have for actors who impersonate other celebrities.  Streep’s frankly better than this film deserves.

Va Savoir (2001 Rivette, French)

Rivette is firmly part of the older school of French directors, those who refuse the pacing and technique of lesser “entertainment” films.  While billed as a farce, I only saw one set piece that really hit the right comedic note (the duel in the fly-gallery).  The film’s attention is split between too many main characters.

Written by Bill

November 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Movies

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