Monday, 23 January 2012

Rear Window

I think what I am starting to like about older movies is that they keep things very simple. Today a modern director would some how manage to contrive to shoot Rear Window in five or six different locations across the world, with a huge array of both extras and special effects, costing millions. Yet what makes Hitchcock's movie so good is that everything is filmed from the same spot, which makes the film much more believable and therefore maintains the suspense right up until the end.

Like Jimmy Stewart I love watching (or should that be spying on) my neighbours. I don't watch them in a voyeuristic way, but I do find myself pondering about them, what they are doing and who they are as people as they move about their flats across the way. Sadly however I don't have a broken leg as an excuse!

The daily routine of others is quite comforting and incredibly disconcerting when the person you expect to see out your window or on your way to work doesn't appear. I think this is what draws me into the movie - I am effectively Jimmy Stewart. As he watches the world go on around him from his bedroom window you can't help but be drawn into his simple world. The lives of those people in the windows become your life as you wait to see what happens next for the musician, the newly weds and the lonely-hearted lady.

Rear Window is such a simple movie as both an idea and as a whole movie, and as a result it is brilliant. So far this is the only movie I have rented that I am definitely going to be buying for my own collection. Top100? More like Top10...

FIght Club

I'm just not convinced by Fight Club. The premise of the movie has so much promise, but I think it is a little too surreal and dark for me to find it that enjoyable. I think where I throw up some doubts is the fact that I love the opening premise and the twist at the end is pretty unexpected (at least on first viewing), but how they get from the opening to the end is just not good. It is superficial and vain, it is brutal and largely unnecessary. 

What I find quite difficult is that I am a massive fan of both Edward Norton and Brad Pitt as actors, and they do give brilliant performances. And yet it is not a film I particularly want to watch again and again. The first time you see it, it is a bit like the Sixth Sense where you a pulled in by the twist in the tale, the second you watch and see the obvious signs and pay more attention to what is in fact quite a weak storyline. 

The drudgery of life is something that I think all of us from time to time can relate to. The futility of parts of our job, coupled with the surprising lack of a social life can be hard to deal with, and is something that I think I do struggle with right now. I suppose where the difference between myself and Norton's character is the fact that I don't feel the need to fight or to ultimately blow up a load of buildings to deal with the anxiety. And I think that is the part of the film that is most confusing - the creation of a fight club isn't too far a step to take in your imagination, yet the move from fight club to a fascist terrorist organisation very much is. 

The film is rescued by an interesting twist, but for me the violence and the sadism are just too much on second viewing. 

Dr Strangelove

This film is definitely satire at its best. The fact that it is still applicable about the World today, 60 years after it was filmed says it all. 

Perhaps the most telling point of the whole film is with regards to the way that the unintended consequences of the attack order lead to such calamities. It is incredibly believable that one of the nuclear powers has a contingency plan that would result in a nuclear bomb being released that can't then be aborted, after all politicians tend not to think about the full consequences of their actions. Yes a final contingency might be necessary, but how can you guarantee that when the order is given will indeed be at the very end?

Some parts of the film are a little strange - particularly the pilot riding the nuclear weapon into the target - and perhaps the simplicity of the impending disaster maybe needs a little more suspense or a little more depth to really take you through the whole film. All in all though a worthwhile movie and probably meritorious of its position in the Top100. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I watched this film a few years ago on a plane somewhere, and I made the mistake of not watching it at the beginning of the flight and had the age old problem of missing the last ten minutes or so of the film, which is perhaps one of the few times you are begging the pilot to take a little longer to get wherever it is you are going.

I like the film a lot. I think the premise of it is something that is very unique, and has been filmed pretty well. What I like about it is the idea of memories, and how important they are to us, even if they are things that we want to forget. All things that happen to us in life have an impact upon us and we should cherish them because if we forget them then we may end up making the same mistakes over and over.

I don't quite understand the necessity of the plot involving the workers of Lacuna Inc, other than it perhaps highlights more succinctly that in destroying memories you end up making very similar decisions - although for me this is best left as a subtlety surrounding the main story. SImilarly the role Kirsten Dunst's character plays is important in the big reveal, but for me is probably unnecessary in telling the tale - including perhaps the idea that the big reveal is redundant?

Overall, worth watching if only for seeing Kate Winslet playing a more flamboyant character than Jim Carrey (that guy really can act!).

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Saving Private Ryan

I am a huge fan of Band of Brothers, the TV series that went alongside this film. The story-line and acting within it is simply outstanding, while the ninth episode still manages to bring a tear to my eye, despite having now watched it over a dozen times.

Where Band of Brothers works, I'm just not convinced that Saving Private Ryan does the same.

I understand the limitations of the movie format; a director has 2-3 hours to get you to identify with the characters, to feel sympathy or revulsion for them, to introduce the story and conclude it satisfactorily. In a TV series you have time to develop multiple story-arcs and properly understand who each of the characters are as well as what makes them tick. With Saving Private Ryan, I never fully get who the characters are, or why they are acting the way they do.

I don't think the film is helped by the opening sequence. Yes it shows revulsion at the war, but does it really show who the characters are? Does it help us understand why Tom Hanks character then does what he does when they go looking for Ryan? I just don't really get it I'm afraid.

One of the things that I found very interesting is that in training for the film the group of rescuers all trained together, but they kept Matt Damon separate so that when they meet him in the film then there will already be a level of resentment towards him. Did it work? Not to the casual viewer. In fact the scene where they first meet Private Ryan is rather lacklustre and neither infuriates nor surprises.

The film is correctly lauded for its portrayal of war. War is never glorious and often times those who are fighting get killed, irrespective of whether they are nice people or potential stars of later biopic movies. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in the movie, war often requires normal people to do things that changes them to an extent that they may not be recognised by those at home.

In particular Jeremy Davies, playing the interpreter, is commended for his reaction to the fighting - breaking down as the final battle commences. It was beautifully acted, but to me seemed to come a little out of left field. He was certainly the most inexperienced of the soldiers, and certainly the only one who had yet been jaded by war or had lost his moral compass. Yet the idea of the complete breakdown probably required a bit more background to really make it make sense.

Having said all of that, I do like the movie. The realism of war is good, the acting is strong although the story is a little weak which holds them back a little. Overall if you haven't seen it, then you should watch it, but then go and watch it done properly in Band of Brothers!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Third Man

I put off writing this the other day because I needed time to think about the movie. Truthfully I still need time to think about it, and perhaps someone to explain to me why this is regarded as one of the top 100 movies.

People talk about the Third Man as though it is a masterpiece in suspense, something that will leave you guessing and questioning throughout the movie. I'm not saying there was no suspense, but it was hardly the edge of the seat thriller that I would expect from the greatest of its kind - heck I think Finding Nemo had more suspense in it!

The film is fairly straight forward. A guy arrives in post-WWII Vienna to find the person who invited him there to be dead. He spends the rest of the movie trying to find out what happened to him against the wishes of everyone else, and on top of that he falls in love with his friends girl (although she does not reciprocate). There are a couple of twists along the way, but I don't think I feel enough for the characters to care what happens to them.

Which means after two Orson Welles movies I have yet to find one that makes me say wow. In fact for both of them I have found them a little bit disappointing. As I said last time maybe I am just not enough of a cinema buff to appreciate his talents.