Sunday, 15 February 2009

Random Notes #8

A Wedding (1978 - Robert Altman) - Though it never hits the heights of his best films, Altman's "A Wedding" from 1978 is a prime example of an ensemble cast weaving through numerous story lines and little episodes that slowly unravel a bigger picture. In this case it all happens within a 24 hour period at the wedding of a young couple and the reception at the bride's parents' sprawling estate afterwards. There's plenty of odd moments, some that don't work, but it has a great cast (Carol Burnett, Paul Dooley, Pat McCormick, Lilian Gish, etc.), some genuinely funny scenes and Altman's restless camera.

MGM: When The Lion Roars (1992 - Frank Martin) - A 6 hour trip through the history of MGM Studios, this documentary has some great clips, old archival footage and interesting tidbits about the stars of the 30s and 40s (not to mention studio bosses Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer). It spends the vast majority of its running length in those early years, but that was the studio's peak and fortunately there were still plenty of actors, editors and cameramen still around to reminisce freely about how things operated. One problem though is host Patrick Stewart - he goes a smidge over the top in some of the linking segments (on some strangely created sets that are supposed to be in the clouds) and brings way too much seriousness to some of the mawkish lines written for him. Here's his introduction (I love his reading of the line at the 1:07 mark - "...was the grandest motion picture studio the world has ever known!" - with each successive word getting louder and louder):

That's a helluva smoking jacket he's got on though.

With the set of clips that starts at the 2:17 mark, you can see that MGM had no shortage of great films to cover - certainly worth putting up with even the worst of Stewart's orations.

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007 - Takashi Miike) - I simply expected this film to be more fun...There's some great looking shots, spiffy angles and neat ideas (a crossbow arrow flying through the hole in someone's chest, etc.), but it didn't really make me smile much. Sure it hits a bunch of spaghetti western and samurai film tributes along the way, but there's plenty of slow spots and the set pieces just didn't quite excite as much as they should have. Other facets of the film I liked: the surreal painted sky near the beginning of the film, the lovely winter scene near the end and both female performances.

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008 - Peter Sollett) - Another example of a film just not quite reaching the heights it could have - and not because it wasn't what I wanted it to be, but because it wasn't more of what it was actually trying to be. The relationship between the two leads is kinda sweet and the performances (by both Michael Cera and Kat Dennings) are natural enough that you really like these kids. But it gets hung up on some rather dull funny business, goofy plot and way too many silent pauses while characters look shyly at one another. I can even forgive the ability of all the characters to always find parking spots right in front of busy downtown NY clubs (though during one point in the movie they come to a deserted church and yet they park way across the intersection from it), but it became a bit too much with the final secret show on top of the roof. It didn't have to be a realistic portrayal of a night out in NY, but it just didn't give me enough of the relationship so I couldn't help but notice everything else - including all the other characters that didn't add very much (Cera's ex-girlfriend is a 100% bitch, Dennings on-again-off-again boyfriend is a 100% dick, etc.). Still, there were some nice touches - Cera's gay band mates acting as cupid for the couple and some of the snippets of dialogue between the two leads.

Pineapple Express (2008 - David Gordon Green) - This actually exceeded my expectations. Granted they weren't overly high to begin with, but I enjoyed the whole take on the manly action movie from a stoner's perspective. James Franco and Danny McBride have their timing down pat and provide most of the film's funny moments. Seth Rogen is fine, but I'm hoping to see him do something a bit different next time out - I'm not as tired of his schtick as some other people are, but I'm getting there. As opposed to Nick And Norah, in this case I embraced all the completely unrealistic and impossible elements of the plot.


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow, Sukiyaki didn't meet your expectations but Pineapple Express exceeded them? Holy smokes! Really goes to show how much expectations play a part in the experience of watching film.

Bob Turnbull said...

Yep...The expectations for Pineapple were really low though...B-)