Monday, April 30, 2012

1722 - The Mechanical Bride

Saw this at Hot Docs (no one urinated in this theatre - yeah!)  There was a short that played before called Meaning of Robots that was absolutely hilarious and wonderful.  It was more or less a mechanical hoarder who made little robot sex dolls that he liked to make have sex with each other.  It sounds stupid and immature, but you have to see the guy - Michael Sullivan I believe, to understand the awesomeness of it. 
Now, the film at hand.  I'm glad I stuck around for the Q&A to hear the director because it answered a big question for me in terms of the quality of the film.  It was clearly made by someone who was an academic first and then, well maybe, a filmmaker second.  The film is about man's fascination with inanimate sexual objects ranging from Real Dolls to Artificial Intelligence.  She mentioned that the people that were into one or the other were vastly different people.  Shame she had to tell us that and couldn't find a way to make us know that through the film.  It's got an interesting subject, but the filming itself takes away in how boring it is.  It feels like it's meant to be a piece on an 80's newscast, rather than a documentary.  I mean… it's shot in 4:3 and not to be a nerd about it - but NOTHING shoots in 4:3 anymore.  I don't want to say that the visuals pulled me out of the film, but what they didn't help me do was really get immersed.
The film itself doesn't really feel like it's about anymore in particular - it's more about talking about a subject.  I'm not suggesting that there isn't a moral to it, but I never understand what the point of the documentary is.  Or what they were really trying to say about any of this, and that's what stops this from being a really solid documentary. 
I actually found myself half-way through wishing that the director of Meaning of Robots had directed this film instead.  I think it's a fine piece, but I don't think it really, ultimately, means anything to me.  It's sadly a bit forgettable.  It's got an exciting premise, and some interesting characters, but it also feels a bit easy to show people that are obsessed with sex dolls and robots.  Of course they're going to be a bit quirky or zany - I'm not saying it's like kicking a retarded puppy, but I never really got a sense of who those people were or why THEY were having relations with these dolls.  Other people speculated about it, but documentaries shouldn't be able speculation.
As I said, it's not a bad film, but ask me about it in a year and I'll probably forgot that I even saw it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

1721 - Magnolia


I was in my senior years of High School when this came out and I remember seeing it with some friends who thought it was a pretty dumb film, and I kept quiet, not wanting to stand out as the dissenter in the ranks.  This was a film that really stuck with me.  Sure, you could say that it's slightly heavy handed and has it's fair share of pretentious bits, but I think they're intentional and the film works better for it.
It's a tour-de-force in terms of performances, and easily one of the best ensembles ever assembled.  As arty as PTA is as a filmmaker, he goes simple on this more often than not and it really helps us get centered and grounded into the characters and their lives.  This film has a wonderful flow to it - there's an excitement and you really don't feel it's three hour length as much as you might expect.
This really is one of the great films and I think anyone who doesn't mind some entertaining drama should give it a shot if you've never got a chance to see it. 

1720 - Annie


This was Ephraim's movie night selection and, due to it's length, had to be split into two.  It's been a long time since I've seen this, probably not since I was in high school and we performed the musical.  This is a musical full of great songs, but the film version has some absolutely phenomenal choreography.  Anyone wanting to study a musical that makes ridiculously difficult dancing seem effortless, here's a great one.  And on top of that you've got a really stellar cast with Albert Finney, Carole Burnette, Bernadette Peters (bit of a crush on her, I have), and the always awesome Tim Curry (for extra fun make this a double feature with Rocky Horror!).
When we finished watching Ephraim turned to me and said, "Let's watch that one again some time.  It was a good one."  I have to agree.

Friday, April 27, 2012

1719 - The Job

A review I read of this film said that it was like The Apprentice on steroids.  I assumed that meant in a stylistic and energy way.  That it was not.  In terms of how cruel they are to the participants, that might be the case.
The documentary follows a group of candidates for a job over the course of two days as they are tested and ripped apart by a recruitment group.  Apparently this is not an uncommon thing these days.  Thank the sweet lord that I work in the arts.
I liked some bits in this film as there was some wonderful harsh comments, and I'm always a fan of that.  But the biggest problem is that the film never gives you a reason to root or care for any of these people.  You're not even sure what the job is or if it's worth it for these people to go through hell to get.  Visually it's about as boring as a film can be and it takes place, almost entirely, inside a conference room. 
The fact that this film is a feature is pretty bold.  I think it could have made a pretty effective 20 minute short.  It has a few more screenings at the festival, but I have a hard time recommending it.  Like I said, I find some of it quite interesting, but on the whole it was a bit of a chore to sit through.

Monday, April 23, 2012

1718 - Friends With Money

Another rematch for visual style inside of a talky film.  This one is shot pretty conventionally and simply, but works nicely because of it.  Nicole Holofcener isn't aiming to wow us with the visuals as much as she is with the story.  It's a cast filled of actresses that I love and they're all playing vastly unlikeable people, but their chemistry and commitment to the characters make it work somehow.  If you haven't seen it, the film is about a woman, Aniston, who is surrounded by friends far more well off than she is.  In a way the film is an argument against being wealthy as a way to solve all of your problems.  Most of the characters here are wealthy and still messed up regardless.  Their view on the world is skewed and somewhat terrible.  They believe they're instilled to whatever they want because they want it, and so why shouldn't they have it.  Sadly I think only Catherine Keener's character comes around in the end, whereas our "hero" Aniston appears to have found a way to get into the rich person's club, and we question if she's at all sincere about the way she's gotten in…
This is by no means a film for everyone.  The characters are not the kind of people you want to hang out with, and you might spend a great deal of the film wanting to bitch-slap them.  I believe that's the intent, and so I think for that this film is a success - even if it means that a lot of people would rather spend time watching a movie with characters they don't want to slap around.

Friday, April 20, 2012

1717 - (500) Days of Summer

Another film I wanted to check out for a visual reference for my upcoming film.  Decided to watch it with the commentary on (which wasn't anything really special, sadly). 
Zooey and Joseph are two of the most adorable actors of their generation and they continue to be so here.  What's interesting about this film visually is that, well clearly they had a decent enough budget, however you can see where they really put the money up on the screen, and then other areas wherein they kept it simple.  What I do like about this is the blend of lighting as reality, and that things are allowed to be a little dark and reflective of the characters mind sets. 
Now I want to watch the film again with the commentary off (and I might just do so in the near future...).  If you like rom-coms with a dash of coming-of-age that aren't scared to go with an honest emotion, there's a lot to like in this film.  Give it a go.  I believe it's still on Netflix...

1716 - Crazy, Stupid, Love

I really liked this when I first saw it, and I liked it even more this time.  The writing is absolutely exceptional - especially for this genre.  Each single character really pops in a fun way.  It's emotional and charming, clever yet honest.  It's no surprise that this cast came aboard this film.  I like how this film handles it's multiple shorelines, and I'm engaged in each one, never wanting to be back in the other, always happy exactly where I am at each moment of the film. 
I'm re-watching a lot of more "talky" films that I love recently just to really take a look at how they up the visuals despite the dialogue heavy script.  This film in particular is fairly stylized for this kind of film.  A film like this has a ridiculously higher budget than what we'll be working with, but it's a good reference none the less.
If you haven't seen this film you really owe it to yourself, especially if you're a fan of any of the cast (Emma Stone is amazing) or just romantic comedies in general.  It's absolutely delightful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

1715 - Captain America: The First Avenger

I had to finally see this before Avengers launches into theatres in a few weeks.  I'm not sure why I missed this when it first came out.  It's a fun adventure flick and it hits all the right notes.  As much as it's a superhero film, it never felt like it was gimmicky or shlock - which it easily could have been.  I like how it lampooned the iconic image a bit.  I love how this one, more than any of the other Marvel Studios films, felt really integrated into the rest of that world. 
I guess my only thought on this is I'm not sure what a sequel to this film would be… It's hard to think of a better foe for him than Red Skull - the next logical step is The Avengers, but how do you continue the franchise after that… will be interesting to see what they've got up their sleeves. 
So far I've been pretty impressed by the lead up to the Avengers with this, Thor, and the Iron Man films (does the latest Hulk film count?  Is that just a re-casting - or are they rethinking the backstory as well?).  I'll do my best to be there opening weekend.  The comic nerd in me is kind of excited.

Friday, April 13, 2012