After months of going blog-less, I have decided to start one up again, if only for the need to archive my thoughts on films (because I forget everything I think about a movie a week after I see it). I had a journal on the Rotten Tomatoes database, but it was aesthetically hideous. As well, my film "reviews" were rather naive and pretty generous. New blog = a new leaf. The purpose of this blog is to document my progress as a cine-phile; admittedly, I have rather large holes in my screening duties (especially the classics), and I will attempt to rectify this problem in time. University right now is taking up a lot of my time, so there won't be anything of substance here for a while. But towards the end of December, and as we move into glorious awards season, I will be updating constantly.
To start off, here are some thoughts on some recent viewings (*spoiler warnings for all*):
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Newell, 05) B [Better than expected, I have to admit. Yes, it's mostly a hodgepodge of "best-of" moments (the first forty-five minutes are extremely awkward in terms of pacing and editing), but those individual scenes that do click now and then are ace. For example, I got major fanboy chills just witnessing the sheer hugeness of the Quidditch World Cup sequence (Patrick Doyle's crisp, exciting score helped considerably), or the dragon-chase around the towers of Hogwarts (which looked so delicious, I almost thought Peter Jackson was brought on to supervise). I admit that the film would frustrate a viewer not familiar with the Rowling novels, and that it pales in comparison to Cuaron's work on last year's adaptation (the development of love-pangs are handled with a lot more sublety in that film), but it's still a lot of loud, popcorn fun. The supporting cast does solid work, especially the new additions like Brendan Gleeson's uber-creepy Mad-Eye Moody, and the always-great Ralph Fiennes as the Dark Lord. I also must give credit to Daniel Radcliffe, who I have always singled out for criticism in the last installments (no one has been able to escape my long-winded rants about his wooden work); he is rather terrific (!) here (see the bathtub sequence with Moaning Mrytle, or his sob-fest over Cedric's body for proof of this). It is the first time I saw Harry Potter the character on-screen rather than the actor playing him. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint get even less to do than usual, but they are still great in every scene they have. In all, a perfectly fine adaptation; if nothing else, it's light years ahead the Columbus takes, so I'm very happy with what is here. I might even see it again.]
The Squid and the Whale (Baumbach, 05) B+ [I was only seven years old when my parents split up, so Noah Baumbach's auto-biographical dramedy hit home pretty hard. What was also rather refreshing here is that the writer-director stays far away from the conventions of other dysfunctional-family movies like Imaginary Heroes, The United States of Leland, American Beauty, etc. Note to those movies: we got it. Like, a long time ago (although I do like the Mendes film). But I digress - this film thankfully juggles multiple perspectives, from Jeff Daniel's insecure academic to the emotionally disturbed children (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Wilson). Lest the film sound dreary and angst-ridden, it's actually quite hilarious - Baumbach expertly balances the humor in the film with the more painful elements, never mining serious territory for laughs (unlike some filmmakers). My reservations come from a rather under-used Laura Linney and the needless supblot with the Lolita-like Anna Paquin character (who basically recycles her performance from The 25th Hour). But overall, this film is not be missed; it is especially memorable for the involvement of Jeff Daniels, who deserves an Oscar nomination (I'd call him Best Actor of the year if it weren't for Heath Ledger, who shattered my heart in Brokeback Mountain). And although both Eisenberg and Linney are great, it's little Owen Kline who steals the film as the sensitive pre-adolescent son. One of the best child performances I've seen, let me tell you.]
The Magician (Bergman, 58) B- [The spooky and mysterious opening sequences here promise so much (ghosts! magic! censorship! a haunted house!) that ultimately mutate into something of a sex comedy, which Bergman already explored with much greater success in Smiles of a Summer Night. These two very different genres do not mesh well together here, at least to me. It's entertaining for what it is though, and the Max von Sydow/Ingrid Thulin/Gunnar Bjornstand team do good work.]
Paheli (Palekar, 05) C+ [After hearing that the film was officially chosen as India's selection for the Oscars, I skimmed through the DVD to see if there was anything I missed the first time around theatrically in June. My feelings still stand. It's a cute little fable with great songs and a very funny lead performance by Shahrukh, but the whole thing stinks to me of "Bollywood makes Rajasthani culture accessible and colorful for the masses". The casting is problematic too - Palekar gives every single part to a well-known face; it's the equivalent of the way Miramax pushed their regular players into Cold Mountain. More bothersome, the thing is too beautiful and glossy to be taken seriously (as great as the cinematography, makeup and costumes may look), and it's rather insignificant when compared to the other films that could have been sumbitted this year. I'm hoping this doesn't get chosen, because it has no place being up there with the other nominated greats like Lagaan, Salaam Bombay and Mother India.]
And some other grades:
Good Night, And Good Luck (Clooney, 05) B
The Legend of Zorro (Campbell, 05) F [And I liked the first one mind you. This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. Ever.]
Jeepers Creepers (Salva, 01) B
Saw (Wan, 04) D+ [Why do people like these movies? I'm not even going to bother with the second.]
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 05) A [Even better the second time around, stupid and immature audience notwithstanding.]
Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 02) A- [Damn good. Now I wonder whether I should incorporate this into my top ten list for 02 or 04...]
More reviews to come after my essays are finished.
p.s. - Thomas Newman's score for Angels in America is one of the best I've ever heard. It helps me write my papers without distraction. Too bad it could not be submitted for Oscar contention.