Saturday, January 07, 2006

Film Studies, 2005

I'm bored. Here is the product of about 20 minutes of thought with regard to some of last year's better examples of cinema.

Films deserving certain merit
  • Best film directed by Steven Spielberg in 2005: Munich
  • Best film directed by Steven Spielberg ever: Munich
  • Best film featuring a cow trying to ride a horse: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Best film representing the stupidity of school "society": Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Best film adaptated from a graphic novel: A History of Violence (close runner-up: Batman Begins)
  • Best film to be butchered by studio-mandated editing: Kingdom of Heaven
  • Best film made by a director impersonating Wes Anderson after the death of a partularly loyal and beloved golden retriever: The Squid and the Whale
  • Best unexpected surprise: Serenity, Millions
  • Best synergy of music and movie: 2046
  • The ol' college try award, for best failure: King Kong
  • The George Orwell award for precise writing: Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana
  • Special award for Hollywood films that refused to pander to their audiences by simplifying issues of global importance or providing easy answers: Munich, Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Brokeback Mountain
Meritous individuals
  • Best screen antagonists: Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang)
  • Best on-screen tears: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
  • Best small-to-big screen transition: Matthew MacFadyen (Pride and Prejudice)
  • Jude Law award for most screen appearances in the year: Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The White Countess, Wallace & Gromit, The Chumscrubber)
  • Daniel Day Lewis award for the year's most versatile actor: Ralph Fiennes (Constant Gardener, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The White Countess, Wallace & Gromit, The Chumscrubber)
  • Robert Redford award for most leathery skin in a motion picture: Tommy Lee Jones (Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada)
  • Best Bill Frisell music not written by Bill Frisell: Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain)
  • Saddam Hussein crazy facial hair award: Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale), Mel Gibson (real life), Pierce Brosnan (The Matador, real life)
  • Best performance by a Star Trek alumnus: Alexander Siddig (Syriana)
  • Liam Neeson award for best performance by Liam Neeson: Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
  • Best Friends Forever award: George Clooney and Steven Soderberg ("Section Eight" film producers), Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
  • "Welcome to the big time" award: Naomi Watts (King Kong), Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha), Keira Knightley (Domino, Pride and Prejudice), Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Munich)
  • Society for the Defamation of Morgan Freeman award, for demonstrating a refusal to be type-cast: Elijah Wood (Sin City, Everything is Illuminated, Green Street Hooligans)
Ten favourite films of 2005

2046, A History of Violence, The Constant Gardener, Good Night and Good Luck, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Munich, The Squid and the Whale, Syriana, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Ten films that are likely good, but which have yet to be seen by your faithful writer

Broken Flowers, Jarhead, Hustle and Flow, The Matador, Match Point, The New World, Shopgirl, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Walk the Line, Wallace and Gromit.


Blogger the man with no name said...

i) 'a history of violence' seemed really lame to me man, mind you i haven't read the graphic novel.

ii) i wouldn't classify 'king kong' as a failure per se. crazy good s/fx, $176 mil in the box-office so far. it no doubt beats the pants off the shameful last incarnation starring jeff bridges in '76 and i'd wager most people would rather watch it than the old '33 version.

iii) i'd pay good money to see you grow and maintain a crazy saddam hussein beard.

iv) 'jarhead' is indeed good.

1/08/2006 2:39 a.m.  
Blogger Punk is Dead said...

i) Not sure I can justify the goodness of 'a history of violence' in terms of story or dramatic merit... I think what made it enjoyable for me was the way it handled the notion of violence and how we as a society (and, on a more 'meta' level, as movie viewers) react to it. I haven't read the graphic novel either.

ii) Admittedly, I did enjoy King Kong quite a bit. The reason I would call it a 'failure' is because it had the chance to be an almost perfect movie, yet it is a merely a very good one because of poor storytelling and editing choices (or a lack thereof). For example, the 'spider pit' scene, while gross and all, was totally superfluous and assinine. As a certain person whose name begins with 'Z' has remarked, Peter Jackson seems incapable of holding back or creating an aura of mystery -- it seems he just has to show/tell the viewer everything. Regarding special effects, I agree that Kong and the Tyranosauri looked really great, but the brontosaurus stampede was almost laughable. It looked like the actors were running on the spot while dinosaur legs moved past behind them on a screen (which, I guess, is how the scene was filmed).

But yes, I did enjoy the film quite a bit. The acting especially was of high quality across the board. I guess I just wanted it to be some kind of masterpiece of entertainment.

iii) I couldn't grow one of those bad boys in a million years. As it is, I can barely grow stubble.

iv) Is Jarhead as good as 'Three Kings?'

1/08/2006 10:40 a.m.  
Blogger the man with no name said...

i would say so. it's really hard to compare them though as they're very different films.

1/08/2006 5:52 p.m.  
Blogger Robotomatic said...

A History of Violence was a fantastic story about forgiveness and the accession of family shortcomings.

It shows how family bonds justify almost any double standard, especially given that our social bonds are so feckless, meagre, and even dangerous. The film shows how we are subject to our heredity, and that family problems are intimately tied to personal problems; how rejecting your family is like rejecting yourself; shame in your family brings shame in yourself; and how helping your family is like helping yourself.

Shared characteristics between family members, and the unifying bonds they instill, have rarely been demonstrated to such dramatic effect:

There are the Godfather trilogy and other similar films, but usually these families are deeply tied to some cultural context (Italian-American mafia). Which is not a bad thing, but simply a different type of movie.

Ultimatley, I think that David Cronenberg's aggressively measured directorial style may take attention away from some of the things I have mentioned. Instead of bringing focus to the dramatic tension between the characters, it forces you to pay attention to particular details: like the measured dialogue, or the starched outfits, or the deliberate movements. Quentin Tarantino does this too, and his details are consistently good enough to propel the film. David Cronenberg's details may be a little more boring, but personally, I think that he pulls it off marvelously, at least this film.

In fact, the final diner table scene is one of the best moments I've ever seen in film, and also one of the greatest endings. (Obviously not better than the "closed door" in Godfather I, or the ending to the Usual Suspects, but it's up there).

1/08/2006 7:03 p.m.  
Blogger Punk is Dead said...

Robot: first let me say that you are becoming a remarkably astute critic of popular culture. Your analysis of a theme that was not obvious, but certainly there, is, I think, spot on.

Related to your notion of the bonds of family (regarding Viggo Mortensen's character's potential redemption, which you and the film alluded to in the final 'dinner table' scene) is the question of whether we are able to break those bonds. I found it particularly important that the film developed the potential for extreme violence in Viggo's son. How did he come to possess such a character trait? Was violence coded in his DNA, or was it a product, however latent, of 'nuture'? Is he doomed to repeat the past mistakes of his father in the future?

1/08/2006 9:02 p.m.  
Blogger Robotomatic said...

Yeah, the son was certainly important. And although violent, he seemed to be looking for guidance from the father (Viggo Mortensen). This made it even more important that the father resolves his problems, and just as important that the family forgives the father: their fates are inexorably tied together. In many ways, we inherit the failures and successes of our family.

The film "Serenity" was certainly a great surprise, considering that the "special effects" in this science fiction movie were not really that special. The film was good because it had such great characters and story.

I am always completely baffled when I read that movie studios are baffled about what makes a good film. The ingredients are absolutely PREDICTABLE: good story + good characters = good film. You don't need to pay millions of dollars in consulting fees and focus groups studies to figure that out. IDIOTS.

And holy shit, Pierce Brosnan was on the Daily Show the other day. He looks like colonel Custard!

1/09/2006 12:59 a.m.  

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