Aneesh Chaganty

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Movie #70 The Lady Eve

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2010 at 7:39 AM

Movie #70 The Lady Eve

(1941, US, d. Preston Sturges)

The Lady Eve is a great screwball comedy, though far from the best of them. Preston Sturges, considered the first screenwriter to also direct, creates a simplistic and yet humorous world filled with incongruities and inconsistencies. Eve, though funny, is no match to films like The Palm Beach Story (another Sturges film), The Philadelphia Story, and even It Happened One Night. It’s about deception and love, stupidity and cunning, and identity confusion. Henry Fonda is a great lead and even in an “easy” film such as this, it’s not hard to see why he’s considered a great actor. Overall, I’ve seen better, but I think that’s only because I, a 21st century boy, have the benefit of hindsight. Had I been able to see it with an audience in 1941, I know I would have been raving.

Movie #69 Reservoir Dogs

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2010 at 1:52 AM

Movie #69 Reservoir Dogs

(1992, US, d. Quentin Tarantino)

An incredible homage to old Hollywood and modern culture, Reservoir Dogs is a heist film in which no one actually ever sees the heist. Instead, the audience is only privy to the events before and after the job. Things naturally hit the fan and all of the members of the heist are separated. Tarantino weaves an awesome cultural powerhouse whodunnit out of an obviously low budget and a lot of zesty dialogue. It’s so inspring to be absolutely absorbed by non-consequential and mundane dialogue that Tarantino writes into his films time after time but it’s also equally humbling to see a filmmaker take that dialogue and make it tense. It reminds me of an anecdote Alfred Hitchcock used to tell students: Take a conversation between a few friends at a dinner table. They’re talking about baseball. Let it last for eleven or twelve minutes, and suddenly a bomb goes off. The audience reacts with a WTF. Now take that same conversation again and instead, tell the audience that there is a bomb and it will detonate in ten minutes. Suddenly that conversation becomes more than mundane and more than inconsequential. It becomes riveting. And those two minutes when the bomb doesn’t go off will hold them at the edge of their seats. The magic of Tarantino is that he is able to produce the same effect without telling the audience that there is a bomb under the table. Like all of his films, one can point to the many movies that the ex-video store employee used as inspiration. This is the second time I’ve seen the film and though it doesn’t have the same “re-watchability” factor that its successor Pulp Fiction easily possesses, if you haven’t seen this film, I recommend renting it because it’ll take you on a ride when you watch it for the first time.

Movie #68 Daredevil

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2010 at 7:34 AM

Movie #68 Daredevil

(2003, US, d. Mark Steven Johnson)

Before you all hand me crap for watching this, let me say two things: it’s not my first time (I knew what I was getting into) and since I was home for Thanksgiving, the whole family wanted to watch something easy. Now to the movie: Not that this film needs (or arguably, deserves) any considerable critical attention, Daredevil does find its moments of good in pretty much a puddle of bad. The biggest problem with it is that every line of dialogue and frame of visuals is straight out of the comic books, thereby rendering every minute of the film a potential cheesy zone. Daredevil has always been my favorite superhero and I’m a huge fan of those comics so trust me when I say that this film could have been a whole lot better. In fact, I would love to see it remade because the idea behind the guy is genius. In terms of the movie, I’d say Jennifer Garner literally saved the movie. Let me be more specific: her face was the only redeemable factor in this film (mind you this was made in the early 2000’s, so Ben Afleck hasn’t gotten good yet).

Movie #67 The Five Obstructions

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2010 at 12:08 AM

Movie #67 The Five Obstructions

(2003, Denmark, d. Lars von Trier, Jørgen Leth)

If you consider yourself an artist, watch this documentary. Lars von Trier, an acclaimed filmmaker and pioneer of the Dogme ’95 Movement, sets up a challenge for a fellow friend, mentor, and filmmaker Jørgen Leth. The challenge consists of 5 “obstructions”, wherein Leth must remake his 1967 short film The Perfect Human five times according to the obstacles within each obstruction. For example, the fourth obstruction is that he must make the film into a cartoon, etc.. While very interesting to observe what Leth does to work around or with these specifications, the film is actually more educational for filmmakers and artists, alike. The film suggests that it is these obstructions that actually promote our creativity and our grasp of meaning within a piece of work. The more von Trier imposes upon Leth, the better the film gets. On the contrary, when von Trier “punishes” Leth by telling him to make a movie without rules, Leth feels abandoned and in need of direction (although the film he turns out is still quite good). Don’t think I summarized the whole movie here though. The audience is allowed to watch the films Leth makes and finding meaning within those as well is part of the film, too.

Movie #66 12:08 East of Bucharest

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 9:33 PM

Movie #66 12:08 East of Bucharest

(2006, Romania, d. Corneliu Porumboiu)

Another film belonging to the New Wave of Romanian cinema, 12:08 is an understanding and subtle film about the nuances and acceptances of history. The film’s central question, as posed by the news anchor protagonist (played by Teodor Corban) is: Was there ever a revolution that occurred in their little Romanian town before the fall of communism on December 22, 1989? On this news show are two eclectic guests: a drunkard and a hopeless old man, both who say they were present during the revolution. Most of the film takes place during the news program in which phone callers argue with the guests and continually discredit every one, including the anchor. However, as humorous as it is, the film does raise a beautiful point. As relevant as the question is to the Romanian town, at one point near the end, a caller phones in simply to tell everyone it’s snowing outside, raising the point that regardless of the details, history happened – and it was made by heroes and cowards, alike. There’s no point arguing over it.

Movie #65 How To Train Your Dragon

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 4:57 AM

Movie #65 How to Train Your Dragon

(2010, US, d. Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois)

How to Train Your Dragon is a wonderful little film about just getting along. After watching so many dark and gritty films, it’s nice to have a little reprise. I’ve heard this was arguably the best 3D film ever made, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to watch it in theaters. However, I could only imagine. To be honest, I wasn’t quite impressed with the trailer, although now I’m starting to realize I don’t think I’ve ever been really blown away by a trailer for a digital movie (Pixar included). Although it wasn’t as funny as the previous Dreamworks venture Kung Fu Panda, this film was an adventurous ride through an imaginative world, filled with very relatable characters and beautiful, beautiful imagery. Sure, I’ve seen the same message repeated in films before… but it’s awesome to see it with dragons.

Movie #64 Irreversible

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 12:10 AM

Movie #64 Irreversible

(2002, France, d. Gaspar Noé)

One of the better films I’ve seen in my MAD Challenge, Irreversible is a highly disturbing account of vengeance, rape, and love (in that order). More affecting in its brutality and extreme content, this film is not for the weak of heart. Hell, it’s not for anyone who even wants to just sit back and watch a movie. If you can handle it, watch it. In terms of graphic content, this is about three times as bad as Man Bites Dog, and you can just read the language I used to describe that film. It contains probably the most brutal rape I’ve ever seen on film and a few scenes of the most harrowing violence, but again, if you want to watch it, I recommend it, and this is why: Irreversible is an example of filmmaking at its creative best. Tonally and thematically, every single aspect of the film corresponds, which is rare in cinema these days. The structure of the film – similar to Christopher Nolan’s Memento - actually suggests, despite the film’s content – a very moral attitude to the film, to borrow a few sentiments from Roger Ebert. According to Ebert, by presenting the vengeance before the acts that inspire it, we are forced to process the vengeance first, and therefore think more deeply about its implications. Oh, and another reason to watch it: It consists of about 13 scenes – which are presented as 13 single takes. I found out later that it’s not, but the result is still seamless. Finally, I have to mention the performances. Monica Bellucci is a shoe-in, particularly for what she had to go through in that scene, but I think it’s Vincent Cassel who steals the show. The guy proves once again he can play just about anyone.

Movie #63 Man Bites Dog

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 12:10 AM

Movie #63 Man Bites Dog

(1992, France, d. Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde)

Man Bites A Dog is a hard film to analyze if you’re even a little sensitive to extreme violence. However, don’t let the gruesome rapes and countless murders that occur in the film stop you from making a critical judgement, for the film does has a point. Man Bites Dog is a fictional documentary following a serial killer, wherein the crew becomes more and more involved in the murders themselves as time goes on. A dark, dark, pitch-black dark comedy, the film – in my opinion – is about the media and the public’s interest and twisted participation in the evil acts that go on in today’s world. While no one would admit it, the media itself is participating in fear or fueling tactics that somehow promote the continuation of these terrible acts in society. Though funny at parts, I would not recommend this film to anyone whose stomach can’t handle extreme violence. I’m serious. It’s sort of hard to watch.

Movie #62 Pulp Fiction

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2010 at 6:48 AM

Movie #62 Pulp Fiction

(1994, US, d. Quentin Tarantino)

Understanding Tarantino’s films in a way is just to understand his influences. Don’t get me wrong: He doesn’t just like a few films. Tarantino, like Scorcese, is hailed as being a true cineaste, immersing himself in any film he can get his hands on. One of the most self-reflexive and self-referential and post-modern films ever made, Pulp Fiction is a beautiful pastiche of homages and pop-culture references set against the backdrop of Americana dreams in a black comedy crime endeavor. And if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. It’s mostly ruled by its eclectic and strangely interesting dialogue that seems non-sensical or irrelevant at first but slowly finds a way to delve into characters’ perspectives on life and their place in the world. It’s violent, hilarious, creepy, exhilirating, and makes you just aspire to be a general bad-ass.

Movie #61 The Iron Giant

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Movie #61 The Iron Giant

(1999, US, d. Brad Bird)

I thought no animated film would ever pass Monsters Inc in my books. I was very wrong. The Iron Giant is far-and-away the best animated film to date. Miyazaki and Pixar are all up there, but Brad Bird’s masterpiece surpasses it. What can I say? It’s set at the peak of the Cold War in 1957 when it could have been set at any other time. The humor is genuine. Apart from the characters’ expressions, all the action and humor and moments could easily be replaced with live action. More than anything, the film is smart. It refuses to slap audiences with a moral and also refuses to lessen the severity of times to suit a younger audience. Here’s what I mean: For a PG movie, the movie doesn’t let up on its use of violence and ultra-violence and also on its depiction of a fear-based Maine town. The scene where the schoolchildren have to watch instructional videos on how to protect themselves in the event of a Soviet bomb is a great example. Brad Bird now works for Pixar and has moved on to directing more recognizable projects including The Incredibles and Ratatouille. He’s now in production on the next film in the Mission:Impossible series, Ghost Protocol. Go see this film if you haven’t already. It looks like a kid’s movie, but trust me: It’s anything but just that.

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