Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Movie thoughts going through my head today

I'm thinking of making this a regular (weekly? bi-monthly?) feature on the blog, if only to provide self-motivation for posting more often. What say? The first one I did (way back in January) can be found here, and I had a lot of fun writing it. It's a way to get out a lot of disparate opinions , ideas and reactions without feeling the need to prattle on for the length of an entire blog entry.

1. Ryan Gosling out, Mark Wahlberg in. The internet is abuzz with news that just a day before principal photography began on Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, Gosling left the project over creative differences. Wahlberg stepped in only a day after and arrived today in Pennsylvania, where he will be joining a cast comprising of Rachel Weisz, Saoirse Ronan (presently receiving Oscar buzz for Atonement), Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. The news is all the more surprising considering the actor has spent months preparing for the part, presumably attempting to age himself (by gaining weight, growing a beard) in order to play a father of two young teenage girls. The headline particularly held my attention because I'm in the middle of the Alice Sebold novel right now. (BTW, it's quite good.) The casting change isn't altogether an unwelcome one for me, although I'll always wonder what Gosling would have done with the part. But Wahlberg looks to be on a career upswing right now, and this role presents a welcome change from the crusty police officers, bad ass vigilantes and all-around tough guys he's been channeling.

2. I've had this catchy, toe-tapping YouTube video on continuous repeat for the last day or so. It's a musical trailer for Aaja Nachle, the Madhuri Dixit vehicle opening next month. I figure that most readers of this blog are not very familiar with Bollywood trivia, so I'll try to give some background to bring you all up to speed. Simply put, this film arrives with a lot of hype precisely because of the presence of that woman in the lead role. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, this actress reigned high over the industry - no one could match her in terms of popularity and acclaim. Aspiring starlets collectively sighed in relief when Dixit went into semi-retirement in 1999, deciding to settle down and raise a family with her husband Sriram Nene in Colorado. She has starred in only two films since - Lajja and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's remake of Devdas (for which she won buckets of Best Supporting Actress awards.) I was never a huge fan of the actress until I saw her performances in these last two films; unfortunately, this revelation occurred after she decided to leave the profession. It's sort of like what Nathaniel went through during the Pfeiffer dry spell, when she disappeared for a good five years.

Anyways, I will get my fix soon enough. Even if the movie stinks (which is probably will), Dixit still looks like she's having a ball dancing and emoting to the max, and that's good enough for me. Isn't she luminous? For past Dixit love on the blog, click here and scroll to the bottom-ish.

3. I caught Ang Lee's Lust, Caution a couple of days ago, and while my initial reaction was mixed at best, the film has really been appreciating in my mind since then. I'm thinking a second trip to the theatre is in order, although perhaps not until I've caught up on other titles first. What felt "off"? For starters, it's not the length that bothered me, but Lee's overly guarded and (forgive me) "cautious" direction. I suppose this approach is intentional, so that the bursts of gruesome violence and the infamously explicit sex scenes especially stand out, but they feel at odds with the material. I feel the same way about the gory Turkish bath throw down in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises; in both cases, the results are rather spectacular as standalone pieces of filmmaking, but feel like desperate shifts for shock value and attention nonetheless. Am I making sense?

Still, I've been mulling over the Lee movie nonstop ever since I walked out of the theatre. Whether it's the inconspicuous, delicate score by the always-dependable Alexandre Desplat or the spellbinding performance by Wei Tang (a star is born; someone cast her in something now, now NOW), I can't get Lust, Caution off the brain. A full review to follow (hopefully) after a second try. B- for now.

4. A question for you guys: do you take notes during screenings? Ever since I began writing reviews (first for personal reference, then for the blog), I've had inconsistent results with it. I can be dedicated for weeks at a time, and then stop altogether for months on end (even up to a year or beyond.) Do you find them helpful? To jog your memory while typing up thoughts, or even just for personal reference?

I made it a point to take notes throughout the festival, and I am glad that I did; the notes (illegible, small and barely comprehensible) came in handy when my sleep-deprived brain refused to retrieve certain threads of information. At the same time however, it's easy to become distracted - concentrating on what is happening on-screen while attempting to commit your last thought to paper is challenging, at least for this critic.

All in all, I suppose it's useful to have some tangible, accessible collection of data to use when writing reviews (formal or not.) But I also find that I must compose the entry while the film is fresh in my mind (so that the notes make sense and I can still make connections); once too much time has passed, they are more or less worthless. e.g. - "What did I mean there?", "What the hell is that word?", and so on...

Thoughts?

4 comments:

DL said...

I'm extremely disappointed that Ryan Gosling dropped out of The Lovely Bones - he would have been just perfect for the role. But at the same time, I'm excited to see what Mark Wahlberg can do - he's a really great comedic actor, and it'll be interesting, to say the least, to see him do something dramatic-minded for once.

Javier-UY said...

I never take notes as I watch films because I feel I might become too distracted or detached (I want to absorb as much as possible). However it's a pointless exercise since my mind is always way too over-active to not become distracted, anyway, so I'm going to try it out with my next movie and see how it turns out.

Interesting commentary on "Lust, caution". Can't say I'm suprised, really. Ang Lee's probably one of the least erotic directors in existence and it seems to me he's just trying too hard to prove otherwise. As a sidenote, I love when you talk about Indian cinema. Your excitement about it is contagious.

Jose said...

I used to take notes, but they often distracted me too much and several details escaped my mind.
Now what I do is run home straight after I watch a movie and type random thoughts (like brainstorming with myself) on a Word document. They come in very handy later.

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