Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Rundown - Catching up to the Present

Sorry I haven't been doing this a little more faithfully. The problem is, I've been having trouble with my Xbox 360 which doubles as my DVD player. So until it gets back from its repair, I'm stuck with my brother's incredibly small portable DVD player, my computer which seems picky about what DVDs it wants to play, and whatever's on netflix instant.

That said, there's stuff to rate. So here we go.

Brokeback Mountain [*****] - I've been an Ang Lee fan for a while. I didn't go nuts over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but I happened to really like Hulk (I know I'm alone in this) and Lust/Caution was a fantastic film. That said, I was reticent to watch this. I'm often put off by 'issue' films, and everyone freaking out about the gay cowboy movie just turned me right off of it.

That said, when I finally sat down and watched it, I found it an absolute gem of a movie. It's really more of a starcrossed love movie than it is any issue movie. In fact, it goes out of its way to steer clear of its agenda, knowing that the human drama is where the entertainment is, not in any sort of bigger societal movement. It was a heartbreaking film, and I adored it for being what it was over what people wanted it to be. That it still had that impact after all the hype had burned itself out was the reason it's getting this well deserved rating.

Justice League: New Frontier [****] - This is one of the latest entries in the DC Animated Universe, and is an absolute joy of a film. Taking place during the height of McCarthyism, the heroes of Earth are at a new low-Batman is a fugitive, Superman and Wonder Woman are being exploited by the US government, and the public has turned against costumed heroes. This film has the origin stories for several heroes, and for the Justice League itself. It's also an amazing look at a dark time of our nation, and what it took to regain a sense of optimism and hope. I really can't recommend this movie enough. It's a stupendous take on heroes during a period of history.

The Dark Knight [****] - I'm sure everyone who reads this has seen The Dark Knight. If not, I'll just make it short: go do so. Now. All the great things people say are true. Anyway, I watched this movie again and was perhaps blown away by it a little more this time. The density of the plot threads play much more effectively when you aren't busy trying to follow along with the narrative, and the character bits that were lost during the big screen flash surface nicely. This is a great exploration of heroism in the real world, and the fine line between doing what has to be done and going too far.

Coyote Ugly [***] - This film was lobbed at me by a friend, much like one would lob a grenade. Not to say this film is a bomb (hur hur) but it does pose a problem. I don't think it's a very good film. It's formulaic and hovers dangerous close to exploitation in subject matter and what it choses to show. That said, it's very fun and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. I think that most people will like the movie, but I'm conscious enough of its flaws that I can't give it more than a passing rating. It's good, it's probably worth your time, but there's much more out there that's much better.

Persepolis [****] - I wasn't sure what I was expecting going into this movie, but it wasn't what I got. The story of a young Iranian girl's struggle between her heritage and her dreams, this movie took what could have been heavy-handed drama and turned it into the personal story it needed to be to really have an impact. And it does that in spades. It really does make the story approachable and relatable by not losing focus on it's central figure, and despite a kind of meandering middle approaches a satisfying finish. Also, extra consideration is given to the art style, which is both charming and striking in its minimalism.

Anyway, that's mostly it for today. However, I also have a bonus feature. I was watching the Academy Awards last night (I won't offer opinions or anything on here) and I was again dismayed that I hadn't seen most of the nominees for short animated feature. I love animation, and I like quirky stuff, but the shorts nominated for Oscar are almost always things you'll never see unless you seek them out.

Well, thanks to the magic of youtube, four out of the five of them have been officially sought, and I'm going to give you links and quick thoughts free of charge.

Oktapodi [**] Easily the worst of the four, a short, cute tale of two octopi and their ordeal to remain together. It's okay, but it lacks the length and comedic timing necessary to be anything more than a little distraction.

Presto [****] This one definately has the timing down, playing out with all the comedic escalation of the best of old-school Warner Brothers cartoons. My only complaint is that it's a little soulless, especially compared to the others.

Lavatory Lovestory [****] I really do love this one, a sparsely drawn story about a woman who works at a bathroom. I think the narrative arc is strongest on this one, and I was honestly torn between this one and ...

Le Maison en Petits Cubes (part 1) (part 2) [*****] This is the film that won the Oscar, and I think it was a sound decision. It's a heartfelt metaphor about forgetting and remembering, and I was spellbound throughout. It plays much more abstractly than the others, but I think that's its big strength.

And that's it! Hopefully my 360 will be back to me by next weekend, so I can have some actual films to talk about. I want to kick my netflix movies loose!