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Movies I’m Excited to See [FB/ER]
Sep 27th, 2012 by Dan

Ran into an article today running down the big Oscar contenders for the second half of the year. Made me think about what movies I was pumped for this year. Here’s what I’m digging:

Anna Karenina

Here’s the thing: I don’t care for period pieces, I don’t care for literary adaptations, and my lack of familiarity with Anna Karenina means I have no attachment to the narrative. Then I look at how beautifully shot this movie seems to be and I worry a little (in the Moulin Rouge sense (a movie I did not like)), but think, “No, this is going to be epic and breathtaking.”

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence? I could leave it there, but I’ll go on. Director David O. Russel also directed one of the more enjoyably quirky movies I’ve ever seen in I Heart Huckabees. Add in Bradley Cooper and the romantic comedy aspects and I think this is one I’ll easily get Tiffany to agree to seeing.

Wreck-It Ralph

If you don’t know why I’d want to see this then I don’t think you really know me. I’ll probably go with Min because I highly doubt this is one that Tiffany wants to see too.

Rust and Bone

Ok, so your protagonist has her legs bitten off by a killer whale. Seems a little melodramatic, no? Still, a sexy movie featuring the sexy French language and the sexy Marion Cotillard? Yes, please!

Skyfall

Goddammit I love the Daniel Craig interpretation of Bond. Add in Javier Bardem, whose chilling work in No Country For Old Men still haunts me, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Gotta see this on IMAX too. Looks stunning.

Killing Them Softly

Thanks to Snatch I’ll pay to see Brad Pitt in a gangster movie any day of the week. Too bad playing The Fugees in the trailer would be confusing and thematically inconsistent.

Django Unchained

I still get chills every time I hear Jamie Foxx say, “I like the way you die, boy.” Inglourious Basterds proved to me that Cristoph Waltz was a force to be reckoned with and I’m looking forward to seeing what Tarantino does with this very charged material. I wonder if I’ll be able to find a showing in North Carolina?

Les Misérables

I don’t want to hear a single word about how much you can’t stand Anne Hathaway, David. The fact is that she’s a much better actor than you give her credit for. As for this movie, well…I’m not familiar with the original musical, so I won’t have those preconceived notions holding me back from enjoying this, but I worry that the overwhelming popularity will lead to a very safe (and boring) production. I guess we’ll have to see how it comes out…

Django Unchained Trailer [FB/ER]
Jun 7th, 2012 by Dan

Quentin Tarantino sure is making a name for himself in revenge fantasies (Kill Bill and Basterds come to mind). Django looks interesting…

December: Reel People In Movies [Fukubukuro 2010]
Jan 13th, 2011 by Dan

After watching Inception for the sixth time this year I mentioned to my friend Jenn that I was still loving and enjoying finding all the subtleties and nuances within the film. She countered that she didn’t really like the movie and questioned why I did. It got me thinking and, naturally, inspired this piece.

Inception might be this huge, bombastic summer blockbuster filled with guns, explosions, chases, and blaring music, but it’s also the story of a man’s tragedy. Dom and his wife, Mal, are the centerpieces to this story and the entire reason I love it. Sure, you’ve got this crazy dream sequence stuff going on, but the best part of it all is the way those two interact.

Every scene that the two are in is absolute dynamite. Marion Cotillard brings such an unhinged, romantically explosive devotion to her character that plays so well that I can’t help but love every psychotic minute of it. You see, what matters to me most in movies is genuine emotional expression and realistic human interaction.

Which brings me to my next big love of December, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. I know it didn’t come out in 2010, but that’s when I saw it and that’s when I’m gonna talk about it because Jackie Brown might very well be Tarantino’s best work of cinema precisely because it’s probably one of his least Tarantino-ed out pieces.

Anyone who’s seen a Tarantino movie knows that he’s just a touch overindulgent. Conversations about absolutely nothing are peppered throughout his movies to express Tarantino’s worldview and scenes and sequences are often put into movies for the explicit purpose of seeming cool. That’s just fine by me, it’s just that you end up with characters who are not fleshed out in any real sense. They’re just cool.

Jackie Brown goes about its business in a very different way. Tarantino does still have his way with some of the characters, most notably Samuel L. Jackson’s, but nearly everyone else in the feature seems more grounded in reality. Jackie’s calm resolve to do what it takes to survive is such a far cry from the ostentatiously ridiculous main characters of, say, Inglourious Basterds that it’s hard to believe they were created by the same director.

Also of note is the Max Cherry character and his relationship with Jackie. As a man nearing the end stages of his life, he seems so invigorated by meeting Jackie that the crush he develops becomes so adorably interesting, considering his age. His decision to help Jackie get even and free is understated and interesting while simultaneously being uncharacteristically restrained for Tarantino. Imagine this pairing in a movie like Pulp Fiction and you’d end up with a duo that was like Honey Bunny and Pumpkin or you might even get vengeance on a Kill Bill level of blood-gushing ridiculousness.

I will give Tarantino one thing: he has a gift for the anticlimactic death. Pulp Fiction had the preposterous Zed and The Gimp scene, but that same sequence also featured Bruce Willis almost accidentally gunning down Vincent Vega in what is the most pathetic and ill-fitting deaths for a character of Travolta’s stature (in that movie) in cinema. The way that Jackie Brown disposes of Ordell is similarly muted, calm, and much more practical a route than you’d expect Tarantino to take.

Ok, so my point has gotten a little bit muddled in all of this wandering around Jackie Brown, but it still stands that the relatively realistic portrayal of its characters is far more of a draw for me than other Tarantino’s work. It’s also what enables me to absolutely love my some of my favorite movies that actually came out in 2010, Black Swan and True Grit.

Both movies are completely dependent on character to the exclusion, in True Grit’s case, of other aspects of the genre. It is Natalie Portman’s growing insanity that drives Black Swan as her isolationist nature and star status begins to take its toll on her socially undeveloped and immature mind attempts to deal with the pressure of the lead role in Swan Lake. True Grit is also carried by young Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon, participants in a manhunt that unravels at a pace befitting of the Old West. After all, when you have so much ground to cover to find a man with so slow a method of transportation as a horse, it becomes a question of the company you keep and the way you get along, doesn’t it?

I could go on for hours on both of those movies, but instead I’ll just say that my days of enjoying the mindless popcorn movie are all but over. I appreciate what directors are trying to do by creating mindless entertainment, but the real power of cinema doesn’t come from special effects or idealized, unrealistically hip, super-cool characters; it comes from watching people being people.

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