I’ve decided to make “What to watch” a monthly feature of notable and not so notable movies, both English language and foreign, and not excluding series or documentaries as these may arise.
This month’s was mixed lot but in all it made for interesting viewing.
United States of Amnesia:
This movie deals with the life of Gore Vidal, a vocal American Author, playwright and thinker with roots in the civil rights movement but who went on to condemn everything that was wrong with modern day (American) society from his youth to his death. There’s not many of them left and this one in particular was worth his weight in ink, really expensive ink!
This modern day philosopher had a long and sterling career in the spotlight and was never afraid to voice his concerns with the establishment or talk back to those who disagreed with his choices or opinions. There isn’t much I can say plot wise as this is a biography, albeit of a fascinating man with a burning intellect as well as a human and frail side.
The narrative is inevitably in the form of a documentary, but because so much of Vidal’s life was spent on camera it doesn’t feel heavy or preachy, it just unfolds gradually through his own words or those that knew him. Food for thought even if you’re full.
Adrien Brody, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Christina Hendriks and Bryan Cranston are a few of the actors in the all-star cast of Detachment. It was very refreshing to watch them all play real, vulnerable people in a believable setting and their on screen chemistry really worked. Adrien Brody, whom I’ve never been particularly fond of as an actor (but credit where credit is due) plays a substitute teacher in a New York school (if I remember correctly) while dealing with his senile and problematic granddad on his free time. The only word I have for the tone of the film is bleak.
The film presents a very dark side of life as teacher in a NY state school where budgets are crippled and the system is in turmoil, causing suffering both to the students and the staff who it seems are the real losers in this equation. I don’t know if it’s the nature of the job but all the people in this film appear to be living really shitty existences. I pity all American teachers if reality is even a little close to how this film portrayed it. As it progresses we see that out of all the washed out, morale depleted teachers in the film, Brody manages to reach out to the students and get some results via a nanny McPhee no-shit-taking attitude. He also manages to take an underage prostitute off the streets and change the course of her life without doing the dirty. It’s all in a day’s work for this super teach!
Worth watching if you’re in the mood for something serious and thought provoking. James Caan is brilliant even in his small role.
For more credits:
A documentary on the life of Edward Snowden while his exposé of NSA confidential documents was taking place. It’s interesting to see his personal take on events as well as how his life was affected as a result of the whistleblowing. Great, sobering watch but a little disjointed in places, leaving you slightly unsatisfied at the end. They could’ve wrapped it up a little better, but allowances are made due to the nature of the reporting.
On this note, this Ted Talk by Snowden is pretty groovy too.
Wild Card Viewing:
Ochos Apelidos Vascos
Apparently this was the biggest grossing Spanish film in 2014, and not surprisingly because it deals with Basque and Spanish stereotypes which have gripped, terrified and amused the country for decades from what I understand.
It was cute and funny but as a story it’s been done before: Girl meets boy, sleeps over at his house, boy falls in love. When the enamoured boy makes the trip to Basque country to return her forgotten bag she doesn’t want to know his Andalusian ass so she chases him off. When her estranged dad makes an appearance in town however, she decides to pass him off as the (former) fiancé who has broken off their engagement. Some predictable hilarity ensues.
Sorry I couldn’t find a trailer with English subs:
What Not to Watch:
Focusing on the three last days of John Lennon’s life through the eyes of his murderer Mark David Chapman, this film was an attempt at a soul searching film via the medium of a mad man. Personally I prefer interpretive dance.
Though I suspect it was an attempt at Art House, down to the 80’s style shots and filter applications, it was-how shall I put this gently? –A total fail! It is my long held belief that Americans are unable to do art house cinema, despite how hard they try, and this was another nod to that.
Though sombre, morose and broody, Chapman was simply not an interesting enough character on which to base an entire hour and twenty minutes to. The movie did not look into his past or his reasoning, merely his obsession with Lennon and his dysfunctional relationships with people including those close to him as well as new acquaintances. At times it tried to paint him as a lonely, misunderstood soul trying to reach out to people who pulled away on account of his awkwardness, making you wonder whether perhaps he felt alienated enough to be driven to murder. As it is, we were shown nothing of Chapman’s motives, his past, or what led him to single out Lennon as his victim. We are not told his history or whether he was always disturbed (my guess is affirmative) but are merely shown bits about his life which seem totally irrelevant. His attachment to “Catcher in the Rye” which is probably what the title alludes to is another one of those blanks. Whatever the case, the film’s semi-exploration of a lunatic’s world was not interesting enough to make him the main character in a movie that bobbed along slower than a paper boat in a bath tub. It lost my interest repeatedly and dragged out so much it made me wonder when the shooting would take place so that the plot would move on, or better yet, end.
Having said all that however, Leto’s performance was impressive, though I wouldn’t go as far as to call it moving simply because of the character’s one dimensionality. I don’t know if the man himself truly was that way, or whether he was written thus, but I’m guessing Leto did the best that he could with how the character was written.
In one word: Meh….
In more words: Murderer kills people, police are clueless, main detective fucks up his family out of obsession to catch this guy, killer is still on the run. Overall feeling: ‘meh.’
In hindsight I should’ve watched the one with Jake Gyllenhaal, I think I’ll go do that now.