Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Performance (1970): Netflixin 10/29/08

  • Why I rented it: The eternal wisdom of the Netflix suggestion machine. I had never heard of this movie before.

  • Verdict: 7/10. Never underestimate the unadulterated coolness of a London in the Swinging 60s art film. Superficially a gangster-meets-artsy-rock-star piece, but the real beauty is the psilocybin-induced haze of quick edits, androgyny, spontaneuous musical numbers, a slightly annoying gamine, cockney accents, free love, and Mick Jagger dancing with a fluorescent light bulb. Sure it has pretentious written all over it. But I liked it.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dark City: Director's Cut (1998): Netflixin 10/25/08

  • Why I rented it: I remember being intrigued when I first heard about this movie when it came out. The image of the gaunt, pale bald guys in black trenchcoats levitating from building to building did it for me. I also remember seeing the movie and being ultimately disappointed. Too many bald guys in black trenchcoats. All style and no substance.

  • Verdict: 7/10. Maybe it's the years in between, but I am leaning toward what I call the Blade Runner effect. A movie is released in a watered-down form for mass appeal...needless, intrusive expository content is added while meaty character development is excised. When you do this to a movie that is its theme, all you're left with is empty glitz. Thankfully, like the Blade Runner Director's Cut, this new version of Dark City unfurls its themes gradually, subtly, allowing the viewer to partake of it on his own without being force-fed. This "new" film will no doubt stick in my mind for much longer than the old one did.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wizards (1977): Netflixin 10/20/08

  • Why I rented it: I grew up on late-70s and early-80s sci-fi/fantasy, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

  • Verdict: 5/10. Low-budget and it shows. Weak story and characters...kind of reminded me of Heavy Metal, taking away the rock soundtrack but keeping the clothes on the nubile ladies. Where the film does excel, though, is in the still-frame expository interludes that show up every so often. With their ornate artwork and sad, wistful narration, they ooze the atmosphere of musty old storybooks lost for years in dark attics.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Alexander Nevsky (1938): Netflixin 10/5/08

  • Why I rented it: Propaganda = fun.

  • Verdict: 6/10. As propaganda is specific to time and place, this would have had more of the soul-stirring effect it was meant to have if I were a Happy Soviet Proletariatian from the pre-WWII era. Being that I'm not doesn't mean that it doesn't have standalone artistic merit, though. The cinematography often looks like propaganda posters brought to life...heroes gazing gloriously into the distance, gigantic armies massing on windswept plains. But good propaganda not only romanticizes the heroes, it demonizes the enemy. Here we have the invading German soldiers, helmeted and anonymous, controlled by a group of knights with a case of permanent lockjaw and eye squint and a couple of downright creepy vulture-looking priests. A good portion of their non-warring time is spent robed, holding crosses aloft, and listening to sinister organ music. So you get double the Kopeks for your propaganda Ruble: not only are the Germans bad, but so is their scary Christianity. Then to top it all off you can play "Spot the Revisionist History" in the allegory of Stalin = Nevsky and the Germans = well, some things never change.