Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting Caught Up

Those were exemplary posts on PINES, John and Brandon.  I'm sorry I don't have much to add.  I think John summarized my opinions on it much more eloquently than I could, but I also think that Brandon brought up some pretty insightful points that illuminated much of what I missed in my own review.  PINES does try hard, and I'm sure it's in earnest; it just gets so turgid from excess that it feels clumsy, overbearing even.  There are individual moments that I respect (even beyond the first third) but too many narrative missteps and dead ends.  Brandon did a nice job of unpacking what worked and what didn't throughout it's inordinate plotting and seemingly interminable running time.  It's a respectable film in a lot of ways, but it's ultimately an immensely sloppy failure.

I don't have much to add to what John and Ben remarked about MUD either.  I had a great time spending the afternoon and evening with those two gentleman (the best parts obviously being when I had to run out of the theater to avoid the BEFORE MIDNIGHT trailer and the old couple who randomly decided to sit right next to me).  Like John, I too am taken aback by MUD's 98% tomatometer score considering the lasting impression it leaves is one of quiet appreciation and nothing near exuberance or awe.  It's a simple, solidly made story.  It doesn't do anything particularly great, but it hardly contains egregious flaws either.  I agree with Ben that coming off of the exceptional TAKE SHELTER, MUD seems like a timid lateral step (if not a step backwards) for Nichols.  He's still a wonderful and promising filmmaker in these eyes, I just found less to be impressed by with MUD.  Still, there are a lot of things to like about it, particularly the relationship between Mud and the boys and the many father/son emotional dynamics at play.  Nichols, as with SHOTGUN STORIES, does an astute job of articulating male, familial bonds while keeping a precarious eye on burgeoning and faltering male relationships with females.  In a lot of ways, it's a very male-centric film (perhaps to the point that it fails to understand its female characters).  Regardless, am I alone in thinking it could have used a little more Michael Shannon?

Funny enough that Ben and I talked briefly about my not having seen LET ME IN on the way back from Ithaca because I was able to watch it a few days later with a friend of mine.  I still vastly prefer LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and its grimier, more cryptic feel, but Reeve's film is no slouch.  It's well-made in its own way, and even distinguishes itself enough visually to not be a complete carbon-copy.  Still, it lies sheepishly in the shadow of the original.

Re-watching THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for the first time unequivocally confirms how much I like that movie.  It really is a blast from start to finish.  Its ridiculousness is entirely vindicated by its jovial sense of humor.

Also, re-watching THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS for the first time in years reminded me just how wonderful and hilarious it is.  Easily one of Wes Anderson's best achievements.

Minnelli's FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) is decent.  It's a fairly innocuous wedding story (which, I kind of hate, to be honest) but it's mostly propped up by the humorous and generally stalwart presence of Spencer Tracy.  He keeps the ship afloat even when you don't care if it sinks or not.  Also, I love Joan Bennett, so that helps additionally.

THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1938) is largely delightful even as it feels grounded by a kind of sobering moribundity.  Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart again make an invariably charming pair (lovers of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER will know what I'm talking about).  But the film is probably most noteworthy for having such a gutsy ending.  Its unflinchingly realistic depiction of loss (and its final close-up shot) recalls STELLA DALLAS, which came out the same year.  I don't think this kind of brutal honesty was prevalent throughout the 40s, but in the late 30s its on full display and remains stark and ultimately powerful.

GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939) was a bit of a revelation for me.  I knew of its elevated status among A-picture Hollywood dramas, but figured it would be dull and dry like many of the "important," humorless melodramas of the era.  I was quite wrong.  It's hardly the auteurist masterwork, but it's an incredibly generous film.  It radiates kindness for humanity and a goodness of character.  It's as gentle-spirited as one could possibly imagine, which is really remarkable.  And Donat gives a wonderful performance as Chips.  Another genuinely outstanding film to add to 1939's robust yield.

In some non-film related news, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 4 arrives this weekend, and I couldn't possibly be happier about it.  Long time coming.

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