27 December 2011

Viewing Journal: Holiday hiatus

Same deal as Thanksgiving: out of town most of the week, regular updates impossible. Here's a quick rundown.

• The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011, David Fincher): 40. Can't even honestly say I liked the opening-credits sequence, which is trying way too hard to be badass. And I'm not sure which is more dispiriting: that Fincher opted to make this pop-culture junkheap as a cynical career move, or (as I fear) that he actually felt the source material was compelling and would make a terrific movie. Everyone involved huffs and puffs, but as I said to my dad upon exiting a Broadway theater many years ago: "Sure, it was 'amazing', but it was still The Lion King."

• /Rapt/ (2009, Lucas Belvaux): 73. Belvaux is the most resolutely matter-of-fact and detail-obsessed filmmaker out there who's committed to genre work, which makes him a weirdly unsung treasure. How can the family deliver the money if only the kidnapping victim has access to his bank accounts? Now that we've cut off his finger, what should we do about his stump? If you spend weeks covering your eyes every time you awaken or somebody walks into the room, does that become a reflex action? Even the ostensible climax is awesomely anti-sensationalistic, over almost before you know it's begun. Only a schematic overall conception (blameless victim destroyed by his heretofore ignored sins coming to light) disappoints.

• /Cronos/ (1993, Guillermo Del Toro): 39. So sloppy and incoherent that I don't even really know why Ron Perlman is trying to kill Federico Luppi at the end, apart from the generic need for a finale. As usual (i.e. ever since), Del Toro seems to have constructed the whole movie around a handful of "cool" ideas, though he hadn't yet realized that grafting on a superficial political subtext would create an illusion of heft. Negative bonus points for the silent moppet, whose sole line of dialogue really needed this here.

• /Mission: Impossible/ (1996, Brian De Palma): 61. Poor Emmanuelle Béart. The entire plot hinges on her character and yet she's barely even there. And now she's stuck with those lips. Setpieces all still work, thankfully—the Langley break-in is De Palma at his finest, a multi-spacial engineering problem writ large—and the cognitive dissonance of Cruise working out what really happened in the opening sequence (visually) as Voight feeds him elaborate lies (aurally) remains one of the most perverse reveals since Judy's letter in Vertigo.

• War Horse (2011, Steven Spielberg): 53. I can readily imagine this working beautifully onstage, with Joey abstracted by puppetry. Spielberg, using actual horses, attempts to achieve the same effect via mythic imagery, and too frequently crosses the line into kitsch. (Replacing John Williams' grotesque score could conceivably make a huge difference, especially regarding Act I: The Farm.) At least here I felt skillfully manipulated by the shameless hokiness, which was almost never the case with Warrior. The climactic unmasking in particular pushes that lump-in-throat button I've always resented Spielberg so expertly jabbing.

1 comment:

Theo said...

The dramatic chipmunk!!! It's gonna be a good year.

And yeah, fair enough on M:I 4, though it's not so much that I "can't be bothered", more that I'm having midlife-crisis issues and feel I should use my energy on projects with at least a 0.00001% chance of making me rich and/or famous. Silly, I know.

Good call on APES, though. I couldn't get over the blatant absurdity of human expressions on ape faces, and it just gets more hilarious as it goes along. The fact that Rupert Wyatt isn't Michael Bay is nice and all, but people are confusing linear editing and a few eye-catching angles with great action filmmaking imho.