SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
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.

Dragon Quest IX and Inception [GO/FB]
Jul 20th, 2010 by Dan

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - Nintendo World Store launch pictures slime

What a weekend!

It started with a craving to see Inception on an IMAX screen and was filled with slime and questing. Some quick words on both.

Inception

I don’t think it has quite enough to supplant The Dark Knight as my favorite Nolan film, but it’s certainly up there with his best work. The less you know about Inception, the better. Seriously. I’ll have something more substantial up later, but for now I want to stay relatively spoiler free. All I’ll say is that Tom Hardy is now definitely on my radar, Ellen Page did precisely what I love in her movies without being a pretentious-seeming teen like in Juno, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was fantastic and hilarious in a role much better than in (500) Days of Summer, DiCaprio continues to impress with his post-Titanic roles, Marion Cotillard has, like Tom Hardy, become one of my new favorites, and Ken Watanabe was also fantastic, if unintelligible, in the movie. Special mention to Dileep Rao for bringing humor and eccentricity to an otherwise tiny role. His tiny quirks made Yusef a funny character to witness.

The movie plot is brilliant and the concept is so meta that it makes me love it even more. You should definitely see this in theaters, it will wow you, especially if you know next to nothing going in.

Dragon Quest IX

It doesn’t have the stronger narrative ties of V because the characters are supposed to be ciphers, but I don’t think that Horii has sacrificed much in the way of his storytelling ability. The quests and experiences seem relatively trite to the uninitiated, but the thing about DQ games is that there is skillful storytelling in even the most basic of stories. I can see the emotion and the attention to detail that remains and I love the puns introduced by the localization team. So far so good, just gotta find more time to play it.

In the meanwhile, enjoy a nice bit of Dragon Quest cosplay.

Cute Dragon Quest cosplay

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa