Tuesday, August 25, 2009
"Big Fan" is the first film directed by Robert Siegel, screenwriter of Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" and former editor of The Onion. Shot on an extremely low budget (probably in the neighborhood of $500,000) and employing the RED camera, the movie stars comedian Patton Oswalt as Paul Aufiero, probably the most dedicated fan of the New York Giants. I have to say that the decision to release this movie at the beginning of the football season was quite a daring one, as it delves deeply into the mindset of a football fan, resulting in a flawed, but disturbing and sad film.
I will admit right away that I never cared much for sports, so I never understood the appeal to waste away an entire Sunday watching football or baseball games. The funny thing is that I still enjoy sports movies because they actually get to the drama of a game, while cutting out the boring moments in sports (not to mention the endless commercial breaks). Sports has been so ingrained in the male culture that any man like myself who openly admits to not liking sports is given that look that says, "You're not masculine enough." Although if I were to suggest that sports is only a way for men to substitute the triumphs of rich athletes for the failures in their own lives, then that would probably trigger a violent response from any sports fan.
Narrator: Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I've ever met... see I have this thing: everything on a plane is single-serving...
Tyler Durden: Oh I get it, it's very clever.
Narrator: Thank you.
Tyler Durden: How's that working out for you?
Tyler Durden: Being clever.
Tyler Durden: Keep it up then... Right up.
After watching "Inglourious Basterds", I was reminded of the above exchange from "Fight Club". My thoughts about "Basterds" were a bit complicated before I entered the theater. I downloaded and read the widely-leaked screenplay for "Basterds" well over a year ago and admit my reaction to it was quite underwhelming. When the mixed reviews came out of Cannes, it gave me more motivation to skip the film and wait for DVD. This feeling may have also been combined with my lessening appreciation of the work of Quentin Tarantino, save for two of his movies.
Then, "Inglourious Basterds" was finally released this past Friday to near-unanimous rave reviews with many critics calling it an exhilarating and audacious work with several naming it one of Tarantino's best or the best movie of this year by far. The first thing that came to my mind was that I could not reconcile the enthusiasm of the reviews with my reaction to the script I read. However, the more feedback I heard concerning the film made me curious and consider that I may have been wrong.
I am reminded of the time I read Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums" months before its release. Minus Anderson's visuals, the script seemed somewhat terse and cold. However, I was only getting half the film experience with the details in the filmmaking and the strength of the performances bringing out more than I saw on the page. Perhaps, like "Tenenbaums", "Basterds" played better seen than read and that, no matter what, it was worth seeing and discussing. So, sometime yesterday, I popped into the famous Ziegfeld Theater to catch an afternoon show of the movie.
And, after all that, I was still underwhelmed.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
"The Blair Witch Project" became a box office and cultural phenomenon 10 years ago this summer, mostly due to its central gimmick: that the film itself was found footage that had the appearance of being real. In retrospect, the film was quite influential on the first decade of filmmaking in the 21st century with many films embracing the faux documentary digital video aesthetic where shots felt as if they were caught rather than staged.
I would also add, more significantly, that it was the first film to hype how realistic it was. During a time when films seemed manufactured and handcuffed by cliched plot points, a movie like "The Blair Witch Project" wanted to make you feel that you were actually there, the fourth character of the film experiencing the unseen horror of what was on the screen as it was happening.
However, there is a problem that afflicts many films employing this method. Almost all of the time, these films showed their seams, as if filmmakers believed that employing Shaky-Cam during the film from beginning to end with the actors doing improv, while in the moment, was more than enough to support the believability factor of their conceits.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Note: This review contains MILD SPOILERS!
If the films of South Korean director Park Chan-Wook for the past decade haven't convinced you that he is one of the most important filmmakers of our time, I don't know what will. One would be hard-pressed to find any American director with such an ambitious and idiosyncratic filmography. Starting with the almost-conventional by comparison "Joint Security Area" in 2000, which then led to his Vengeance Trilogy of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", "OldBoy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" and his previous film before now, the somewhat discomforting "romantic comedy" "I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok", this may be the most impressive run of any director that is now confirmed with his latest film "Thirst".
I admittedly have had little to no use for vampire films, finding the usual plot devices of feeding off someone else's blood, avoidance of crosses and sunlight and stakes through hearts to be repetitious and tiresome. Usually, filmmakers employ vampirism for the most heavy-handed of metaphors, particularly regarding drug addiction, as if they were the first ones to come up with it. So, I find it interesting that during this era of Vampire Hype in films and television, I have seen two great films about vampirism within a year, both of them not produced in this country and, for the most part, will not be seen by as many people as "Twilight".