Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wasted Postage - Reports from the Netflix theater

Crumb (1994) - Robert Crumb's art revealed his subconscious to the world, without sanitizing the heinous, primal, insecure and brilliant regions of his brain. His cartoons and drawings could objectify and empower women at the same time and critique his own lust while indulging it simultaneously. Terry Zwygoff's intimate documentary paints a similarly complicated portrait of a man still obsessed with childhood and early sexual urges, his own twisted yet admirable morality and staunch rejection of American consumerism. The cameras also document the heartbreaking existence of his two similarly talented brothers, both racked by mental and physical conditions, who never escaped their demons. Crumb is, by comparison, the well-adjusted one of the three products of childhood abusive. What's revealed about their past leaves the impression that we didn't learn everything nasty about their developmental years. Crumb is an unlikely likable figure - a nonconforming misanthrope and possible sociopath who will always be focused on his own desires. He may never relate to other people, but people will always respond to his art and what it revealed about the American character. A

BenX (2007) - This film from the Netherlands centers around Ben, an autistic teen bullied in some pretty extreme ways by classmates, finding his direction and revenge (with the help of a MPDG, of course). Ben views the world like his favorite massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, and the film distractingly switches back and forth between what's really going on and his imagined visualization of his world as a video game. Ben struggles to find a way to get even with his classmates, as the direction cuts back and forth between faux-documentary interviews with his family and acquaintances. BenX manages to be repetitive and boring, despite it's inventive format. C-

M (1931) - M is Metropolis director Fritz Lang's first "talkie," and features cinema's first serial killer. Dark and quietly disturbing, Lang uses images of candy wrappers and discarded balloons to say more about loss and violence that all the fake blood ever could. M was also Germany's first sound film. it's interesting to watch a director try to figure out how to best use a young medium — the structure uses literary-like monologues and voice overs to transition and comment on what what's happening on screen. The technical skill evidenced during scenes with parallel editing structure and seamless cuts is artistic in a way unique to a medium in its earliest years, when creativity is often a result of thrift.

There are few "main" characters, M is largely an ensemble. Lang loves to show the underground worlds and subcultures. As in Metropolis, he contrasts and compares what's happening both above and below ground. The film ends in grand fashion, with a spirited and at times absurd philosophical debate about crime, punishment and responsibility. Oh, and the killer is sick twisted pedophile. A

Waltz With Bashir (2008)
Using a combination of flash and traditional animation, Waltz With Bashir follows director/writer Ari Folmen's journey to unlock his memories of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Fulman uses a series of fictionalized documentary-style interviews with fellow soldiers, fleshed out by flashbacks to the conflicts, to help clarify his blurred images that slowly come into focus, and eliminate the false memories created when the brain fills in the blanks.
As Fulman puts the pieces together, he slowly builds chronologically to the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, and it's moral implications - Israeli troops surrounded the camps and allowed Lebanese Christian Philangy militants to enter and murder thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians - A hard truth to swallow by generations of Israelis still partially defined by the holocaust. A


The Juice Box said...

I'm late on getting my similar blog entry posted, but just you wait. It is super laaaame. I watched four movies last month. And I've had two Netflix envelopes sitting unopened on my entertainment center for three weeks. Yikes!

Warped Coasters said...

yeah that's what happened here, too

Professor Film said...

Completely agree with your thoughts on "M," ranks as one of my all-time favorite films, and a movie I've seriously thought about showing in class, although I think most students would find it boring. What do you think? I'm in the process of compiling the upcoming semester's syllabus and slowly deciding what films to show. I would be interested to hear your thoughts, if you have some ideas or suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated, I could use the input.
"Ben X" is currently in my queue. I will be deleting it. Thanks for saving me 90 minutes.
I really, really liked "Waltz with Bashir," but I didn't love it. I am not going to pretend that I sit around watching CNN all day and can seriously pontificate on such matters as the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I honestly don't know a great deal about it other than the basics, and I felt the film didn't fill me in on a lot of necessary information to make it really hit home. It's a beautiful film, and the ending hits you like a suckerpunch, and I appreciate that it didn't feel the need to dumb itself down, but I almost feel like, as an Ugly American, it needed some dumbing down in the history dept.
One movie I just watched that I gotta recommend is "Just Another Love Story." It's nothing more than a mindless mystery-thriller, but it's very stylistically directed, never boring, and one of the better films I've seen this year. I also just saw "The Hurt Locker," and while it's not perfect, it's incredibly well-made and without a doubt the best Iraq war film yet.

Warped Coasters said...

I think the same percentage of students who thought Citizen Kane, Manchurian Candidate, etc was "dumb" "boring" and "too slow" would feel the same way about "M," although they might enjoy parts of it just 'cause it's so twisted.

I think the one thing I wish the Film App class had more of was the history of different styles, filmmakers, genres, etc. I think the class was a little too focused on all the more technical aspects of film. Those things are definitely important, especially for students who have never thought of film as neither art nor a technical process that can be rationally evaluated, but maybe those chapters could be more homework crammed at the beginning.

I guess there isn't time in a semester to show a bunch of film noir, and then contrast it with neo-noir, or show old westerns and then contrast them with spaghetti westerns, but that's the kind of stuff I would have fun with.

Showing "Double Indemnity" or "Maltese Falcon" or "The Killing" would be one suggestion, I guess.

As far as individual films, I don't know for sure but I don't remember watching any Hitchcock in class. Most the students have probably seen Psycho or the Birds so maybe Vertigo, which is coincidentally probably the one Hitchcock film the students wouldn't like, so maybe show them the first awesome action movie as we know the today: South by Southwest.

I think it'd be neat to show a Hitchcock film, followed by a Brian DePalma film and have the students compare contrast, or show an older Scorsese film and then a Paul Thomas Anderson. I just remembered we did watch both Taxi Driver and Magnolia in the class, which was great.

When you have to start from scratch, it's hard to get to the really fun stuff in only one semester, I guess.

Showing a Kubrick film would probably be pretty affective, they are both entertaining and technically impressive, so you could get a lot of discussion out of his misanthropic themes and his camera prowess. I thought everyone had seen his more notorious and/or famous movies, but when I got his box set off amazon a couple weeks ago i was surprised to learn that most of my good friends had only seen Full Metal Jacket.

Warped Coasters said...

ah crap, it appears I had the music festival on my brain, I meant to say "North by Northwest," duh.

Warped Coasters said...

Another idea, I know we talked about this before, but a Woody Allen film would be great, too. I remember when we watched "Before Sunrise" you talked about how the movie shows all the real dialogue that should happen during those crappy "falling-in-love" montages in most romantic comedies.

"Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" are sort of the same way, sort of the stylistic godfather to the "Before Sunrises" of the world.