Last weekend I made a point to knock out some of the movies on my epic movie challenge.
I decided to begin with some directors I like, or knew I would like. Last weekend I watched:
So the directors I focused on for this portion were John Carpenter, Terry Gilliam, and I took a look into Kathryn Bigelow’s past with Point Break because I enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty so much. Now, the super observant of you may notice that They Live and The Thing were not on the list given to me by Mel, but they came strongly recommended from some movie forum sites I spend most of my worthless time on.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed all of these movies. First I want to talk about the John Carpenter films. I watched They Live first because it was made the year I was born. Literally that was pretty much the only reason I started with it, and I loved it. They Live was easily one of the more entertaining films I have seen from the 80′s. It’s got everything. Conspiracies, aliens, gun fights, alley brawls, sunglasses, witty catch phrases, and Keith David. I really loved the obvious theme of mass control and I thought the transitions between the world they see when they are asleep and the world they see with the sunglasses was not only well done and eye opening but also kind of comedic. It almost makes me want to decorate a room in my house with posters that say OBEY and REPRODUCE. I also really loved the ending, one recurring theme in the two Carpenter films I watched was that the protagonist died in the end in order to save humanity and I have to say, I really don’t think enough movies are willing to kill their protagonists anymore. It’s almost like everyone feels cheated once the person they’ve been rooting for dies, regardless of why they died. It is definitely something I would like to see more of. I have even heard harsh criticisms of films like Layer Cake (2004, I think?) because the movie ends with the death of a main character, even though a simple analysis of the film would show that the end was necessary to the story. Studios (and by correlation, people) in general seem to care less about themes and narrative arcs as they do about the possibility for a sequel now and I think that’s really sad.
I also watched The Thing and I thought it was probably the greatest horror film I have ever seen. That said, I loved it so much that I watched the remake from 2011 and I have a lot to say about comparing them, so I’m just going to put up a separate blog post about that one.
Moving on, Terry Gilliam is an interesting fellow, isn’t he? Filmmakers like him interest me, filmmakers that have such a unique style that it becomes instantly recognizable, kind of damning the point of being unique. 12 Monkeys and Brazil were interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I couldn’t help but notice that Gilliam’s bureaucratic and steampunky ideas of the future were so similar while they were also so different. 12 Monkeys takes place in a future where people are prisoners underground being held in a system while the “doctors” and “scientists” in the higher echelon try and find out who released the virus that killed five billion people by sending people back in time to collect information. 12 Monkeys had a really great take on time travel. I loved how the themes of undeserving authority ran rampant in this film. The people in charge in the future were hardly qualified to do so (as the last line implies, “I’m in insurance.”) and because of it they sent prisoners back thousands of years instead of to the 90′s and didn’t even have a thorough understanding of how their time travel worked. It was a great commentary on authority and it was also told in an interesting kind of way that allowed the viewer to understand time travel better than the characters in the movie did by the end.
Brazil, on the other hand, takes place in a future where everything seems to have been swallowed up by corporate bureaucracy. There is a central company that controls the well-being of the citizens and to get anything done you have to fill out several forms in triplicate and get them stamped by the correct people. It’s almost like the character of Hermes from Futurama was inspired by this film. My point is, though, that while both movies show a different depiction of the future, both thematically and physically, I couldn’t help but notice it was the same director. I can’t quite put my finger on it but you can definitely tell when Gilliam is behidn the camera. Something about the relentlessly foggy sets that seem to take away from all the colors he purposely includes is not my personal favorite idea of cinematography, but at the same time I love the ideas his films convey and the fact that he has such a unique perspective on what the future might be like. That said, I’ve read some interviews of his and despite him being the one who translated one of my favorite books by my definitely favorite author (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson) to the screen almost perfectly I have to say, the guy sounds like a majorly pretentious dickhole. Sorry.
Point Break. I don’t think I can convey how much I enjoyed and also was very critical of Point Break. On one hand, it was awesome. Bodie was the most interesting and endearing character I’d seen on screen in a while and the plot, while sounding hilariously bad, was actually very well presented. Along with a good setting and some good characters, I was able to see Bigelow behind the camera. I mean, you could definitely tell it was an early work of hers, but her flair for creating tension was there. The scene in which Bodie was explaining to Johnny Utah that they had his girlfriend and what their plan was had the Bigelow seal of tension that is getting her such critical acclaim these days, along with pretty much every scene following the foot chase (which was brilliantly shot) had that layer of tension of who knows what.
Technically it was a very sound movie. Unfortunately, and I really hate ragging on actors and I have a lot of respect for this actor in particular but, Keanu Reeves was just awful in the movie. I have heard people argue that he was great because “he was playing an FBI agent playing a surfer, he wasn’t supposed to seem natural” but I don’t buy it. Keanu Reeves was unnatural almost the entire film. It sounded like he was reading his lines off the page for the first time every single scene. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it was certainly noticeable in almost every scene Keanu was in. Other than that, thoroughly enjoyable. I would call it necessary viewing for the foot chase and skydiving scenes alone.