September 18, 2003

Life in general & Two Quick Movie Reviews

I blew off night class the past two nights in a row.

I had my reasons, of course. Last night was to reclaim the time I spent working for Community Development the night before, unpaid, collecting IP addresses for 2 and a half hours...I had a paper to write that was due on Wednesday morning, of course. I took the time I would have spent in night class and spent it doing the paper. And got it done at around 11PM, which for me is fantastic. Its a great paper, all about social utility theory applied to teacher-rating sites online.

Tonight, I skipped playwriting (which to me isn't really a full class - its a pure elective on my part, doing absolutely nothing for my studies, not even counting for so much as a free elective on my tally) to go downtown to see "Anything Else", the new Woody Allen/Jason Biggs/Christina Ricci film.

The movie is fantastic. I haven't seen much of Allen's work (although I'm learning more and more about him in Film Seminar) but to me, this seems to be one of the most farcical of his works - the exaggeration employed for humorous effect is fantastic. Biggs assumes the role of the new neurotic, pseudo-Allen, stuck in relationships that he fears breaking apart from. Ricci plays Biggs' current girlfriend, and portrays the character beautifully. Allen chooses to stay off to the side and become Biggs' guide, projecting his own neuroses and foibles as Biggs stumbles along the road to what he truly wants. It's a fantastic plot, with some decent scenes. It feels like another "Annie Hall" - but in this version Allen plays the outer friend Rob, Biggs plays Allen, and Ricci becomes Diane Keaton. I feel that its marketed completely wrong though - being made up as a teen comedy (down to the multicolored movie poster) however, it is truly a Woody Allen film, and teen audiences may not get the subtlety of some of the humor.

The other film was from seminar today, "Taxi Driver". It's disturbing, and I don't have much more than that. It's an incredibly rich film, and there are connections to so much within it. DeNiro is so young, yet so incredibly intense...the famous "You talkin' to me?" scenes being the pinnacle of that intensity. The film really bothered me, and still has to a degree. I need class tomorrow to figure out exactly whats going on.

So yeah, go see "Anything Else." Fantastic.

Posted by Matthew at 01:45 AM | Comments (5)

February 23, 2003

4 Hours in Search of an Editor

Went to see "Gods and Generals" today.

4 hours later it felt as though I had just sat through the entire Civil War.

The acting feels flat: major characters are given minimal screen time despite their abilities. There is no real plot per se; the film lays the Civil War out as though it were a high school history class, but still, the audience asks why they're being subjected to this.

I may take that back - the film attempts tender moments, such as a scene in which most of the Confederate high commands takes time out to sing "Silent Night" on Christmas Day. I'm not saying that it didn't happen historically, but it seems silly, trite, and overly melodramatic to include such a scene when you're trying to cram the entire war up through Chancelorsville into 3.5 hours.

Other nitpicks include the music - why does everything after "Lord of the Rings" have to sound like Enya? Instead of the Blue and Gray, the music had me picturing Orcs and Elves hurling themselves across the battlfields of Old Virginia. And for Ted Turner's money, why couldn't they find some decent looking fake beards? It looked like beavers attacking these poor men's chins.

It's not a bad movie, its just...long. The cinematography is incredible: some beautiful shots of the Shennendoah Valley, and of all the local-to-Maryland places they shot it in. And, as it trumpets itself all the way through, it is pretty historically accurate - hundreds of reenactors, what seems like thousands of guns and horses see to that.

Without a likeable and engaging plot its all just boring as hell.

Posted by Matthew at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2002

"Catch Me If You Can"

It was a night of good movies.

Went to see "Catch Me If You Can" with my sister and her boyfriend tonight. It was a good movie: as one of my friends criticized, simple, but simple is a good change of pace from time to time. You need something to cleanse the palate between complex battle scenes with thousands of Orcs versus Elves, Humans and other assorted species and movies that throw that twist at you in the last five minutes that makes the previous 2 hours completely worthless.

The acting was so-so in my opinion: nobody seemed to excel in their roles. Tom Hanks passed off a decent Boston accent. Leo DiCaprio was able to pass off his crimes as cries for a decent family structure. I don't know - I think I might be demanding too much, however, these are two Oscar nominated actors but neither was incredibly stand-outish in their role.

The story is what I praise most: inventive, insane at times, yet seemingly based in fact. What exactly that means, I'm not sure: the film proclaims itself "inspired by true events," but where the truth ends and Spielberg's inspiration begins is up to the viewer. It follows a pretty logical structure throughout - albeit simple - giving background for Hanks chasing DiCaprio.

The only leap that I thought I was making with the story was that so much seemed to depend that DiCaprio's character was committing these acts of fraud solely to bring his family back together. This felt forced at times, and in some aspects, was not given enough background story to seem plausible to my mind.

My other major praises go to the score and the main titles. John Williams (a frequent collaborator with Spielberg) did the score, and without the opening credit to that effect, I wouldn't have known. The score is quirky and seemed to be set well in the sixties and seventies. Williams is frequently known for monumental scores (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, The Patriot, Jaws) and epic orchestrations: This music was toned down and fit well. The main titles were beautifully done, in a style suited for the rest of the film. Too many movies recently have relied on Helvitica Sans on a film overlay: these titles felt refreshing and well done.

And that is what this film felt like to me: it was refreshing and well done, telling a fantastic story in a straightforward way that allowed the events to feel as incredible as they were.

When I got home, Rain Man was playing, unedited, on cable. Without getting too much into it, it was a really good movie. Dustin Hoffman creates his character in such detail that the results are startling and completely authentic.

Thats it for the movies. I'm off for Jersey in the morning.

Posted by Matthew at 02:53 AM | Comments (0)