At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week Four
Last year, I took part in an experiment in recommendations. When a friend recommends something to me, I typically remember it, but I also get to it when I get to it. So I spent one month last year sampling every TV show people recommended to me. I found that to be a blast, so I’m stupid enough to do it again this summer, but this time with movies.
Since so many movies were recommended, I’m not going to be able to get this done in a month. Every Tuesday, I’ll write about which ones I’ve watched and what I thought about them. The only rule to the recommendation was that they had to pick a film I haven’t seen. Some used that to pick great movies they know I haven’t watched yet and some used that to pick movies that look so awful they know I wouldn’t watch it. Either way, I’m watching them now.
Week Four – What Just Happened?
Hot Rod (Akiva Schaffer, 2007)
My brother adores this film. He quotes it all the time and he’s seen it more than I wish to believe. I only wish it was good enough to justify his adoration. It stars plenty of comedians I like and has a funny-enough premise, but the whole film is just a mess. Scenes either succeed or bomb, no middle ground. All of the editing is choppy. Also, the film jumps around from the town thinking Rod is an idiot or a hero without anything to justify a transition. It’s a weird thing to say, but “MacGruber” is a much better film than this.
Counter-Recommendation: A Shot in the Dark
The Moon is Blue (Otto Preminger, 1953)
Recommended by Krystal Cole
How did this one slip past me? You have William Holden and David Niven at odds at trying to woo a young girl in a classic screwball-comedy setup. Perhaps this one isn’t as well known is because it’s so odd. Nothing on the surface feels odd; it’s only when you try to play along with the metaphors. The story is a not-so-thin attempt for one of these two men to sleep with this girl. They talk about sex frankly, but then it appears that marriage equals sex, or maybe it’s kissing equals sex. They try so hard to avoid saying the wrong thing that it’s so hard to figure out what they are actually talking about or what their intentions are. Is it all about exhaustion and desperation to sleep with her, or did actual feeling evolve from this manipulation game? Also, there’s this whole subplot about trying to basically buy her virginity, and I know I got those metaphors right. This is an odd Hollywood film.
Counter-Recommendation: Paris When It Sizzles
The Believer (Henry Bean, 2001)
Recommended by Alex Leachman
I went in knowing pretty much nothing about this movie. All I knew was the title and that Ryan Gosling was in it. During the opening credits, Gosling’s character beats up a boy simply because he’s Jewish. It gets more awkward from there. This film was fascinating. It’s the apparently true(ish) story about a man who grew up Jewish and became an neo-Nazi. I can’t remember another film with so much hate boiled up in every second. It was so hateful that it was uncomfortable to watch. Gosling is incredible in this — not just because of how terrible he allows himself to be but by never shying away when the character is really conflicted with his heritage. That vulnerable confusion was incredible.
Counter-Recommendation: Half Nelson
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Shinichirô Watanabe, 2001)
Last year when I did the TV recommendations, I finally started the show “Cowboy Bebop” and thought it was pretty damn cool. I had seen the movie a long time ago and pretty much forgotten every frame of it. When I started this up, I recognized none of it. Once again, this is a damn cool series. It still has this bizarre feeling about it where I feel it doesn’t focus enough on its own plot. I can’t describe it, but it’s like it’s always just an observer. Despite that odd point I still can’t put my finger on, this is a blast of a movie. It’s an animated film that chooses the most interesting things on which to focus. The opening credits feel like a B-roll documentary look of a city but capture something very truthful. It’s a world I’m always happy to return to … which reminds me I need to finish the TV series.
Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)
OK, what the hell was that? I didn’t get most of the movie. I tried. I looked up stuff afterward trying to see why characters were doing what they were doing, but I think sometimes you just have to scream. A lot. Despite not following any of the madness and details of the plot, this is still somehow really engaging — mostly because of a jaw-droppingly impressive performance from Isabele Adjani. When she is freaking out in a corridor in a long shot, it’s unhinged wonder. During the first quarter of the movie when Sam Neill cannot sit or stand still for the love of anything, “Possession” did a great job of making me really anxious. For a purely emotional experience, this got me, but I still have no idea what I saw. I may have to watch this again. In a few years.
Counter-Recommendations: The Passion of Joan of Arc and The Piano Teacher
Yep, it’s a shorter batch this week. I was caught up in watching films for my other job. Next week, I’m on vacation so no article for me. During that time, you can ponder why I chose a literary reference for my title instead of a cinematic one. The latter would have been a good idea.
In two weeks, I’ll (probably) talk about talking about Richard III, find out if Greg Kinnear will ever come out OK in a romantic triangle and maybe finally watch “Lenny”.