Thursday, July 31, 2003

More MOVIE MADNESS~!, courtesy of Bayou Video.

An Evening with Kevin Smith
So it's not a movie, exactly, but it is a DVD. It's a four-hour (!) compilation of Q&A sessions writer/director/actor, sort of, Kevin Smith (of Clerks) did at several colleges in 2001. Four hours may seem excessive, but Smith is a hilarious storyteller, and it's a blast to hear him talk. Worth a rental, if only for the obscenely funny story about what happened to his script for Superman Lives (Hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters: "You know why you and me are gonna do a great job making Superman? ...Cause you and me, we're from the streets."). If you're not a fan of Smith's films, you probably won't have a good time, though.

(Rating: ****1/2, but only for View Askew fans)

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Not a easy film to get through. Easily one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. Steven Spielberg took over this project from the late Stanley Kubrick, and the result is an occasionally distracting marriage of two disctintly opposite filmmaking styles -- the warm, emotional (some might say sentimental) tendencies of Spielberg with the intellectual, detatched (some might say cold) methods of Kubrick. But despite all that, it's still a great film, and the lack of Oscar nominations for Spielberg's direction and especially Haley Joel Osment's devasting performance as the robot child David are an absolute travesty.

(Rating: ****1/2)

A Clockwork Orange
Speaking of Kubrick. A friend of mine once told me that this was his favorite movie. At the time, I hadn't seen it, so I just said, "Oh, that's cool." But now that I've seen it twice...that kinda disturbs me. Because this one fucked-up movie, my friends. I don't even really know what to say about it -- I'm not sure if I liked it. But most Kubrick films leave me with that feeling, that "What the hell was that?" feeling in my brain, where I'm not sure if I was entertained or anything. The movies just sit there, refusing to leave my head. I guess that's why he was such a great filmmaker. This is certainly an excellent film, but I don't know if I'd ever want to watch it again.

(Rating: ****)

The Shining
(I actually borrowed this from my friend Robert, as opposed to renting it.) Kubrick again. Watching this movie prompted a very long, very heated discussion with my friend about the liberties this film takes with the Stephen King novel (and it does take a lot of liberties). He's a die-hard King fanatic (as am I), and was quite unhappy with the plethora of changes -- he felt the film deflated and destroyed the book's story. I pointed out that it just changed the story slightly -- the book was about the Overlook Hotel's ghosts using Jack Torrance to get to his son, Danny, so that they could become real (or some shit, it's been years since I read the novel). But in the movie, Kubrick simplified things: the Overlook Hotel's ghosts are now just after Jack for reasons that aren't explained. In the book, the hotel loses. In the movie, the hotel wins. These changes (along with some problems with the film itself, like some bad acting and questionable choices in the score) led my friend to hate the movie. I, on the other hand, accepted the alterations as Kubrick recognizing that some elements of the novel were impossible to film -- such as the lion-shaped bushes that come to life and eat people -- while others were too complicated to work in a film version -- such as the croquet mallet that became an ax in the movie, and the hotel's long and storied history -- and did what he had to do to make a good movie. And I also admired Kubrick's fascinating camerawork: he shies away from close-ups, instead using medium and long shots, and always leaves an unusual amount of empty space above the actors' heads. When a character goes from one place in the hotel to another, we don't cut away -- Kubrick follows them through corridor after room after hallway in long, unbroken shots. All this together gives us the impression that Jack, Danny and Wendy are dwarfed by the hotel, that their eventual fight against it is futile. Oh, and I think I win my argument about the changes: after all, ABC aired a new six-hour mini-series of The Shining a few years ago, scripted by Stephen King himself to be as faithful to the book as possible, and it sucked ass. So there.

(Rating: ****)

High Fidelity
It's about a year ago, right, and a few friends and I were sitting in a car in the parking lot at College of the Mainland during acting class. We're supposed to be learning our scenes, but our scenes all suck, so we're just hanging out, talking. One guy, Wayne, is in the backseat, reading a script that I never finished. The owner of the car, this great girl named Kelly, is throwing CDs into the stereo almost at random. She starts playing this one song, and it's really really good. I've never heard it before, but it's easily one of the coolest songs ever. "Who is this?" I say. She smiles, a really wide smile, and says, "The Beta Band." "It's good," I say, and she laughs. "Yeah, I know. You can have this CD if you -- it's a burned copy. I have the original at home." I gladly take the CD. She's still laughing, so I ask what's up. "Have you seen High Fidelity?" she says. I haven't, so I say so. She says, "See it. You'll understand." Now I have seen it. And I do understand. Oh, man, what a great movie. And my all-time top five track ones, side ones: "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana; "Enter Sandman," Metallica; "Everything in Its Right Place," Radiohead; "On the Bound," Fiona Apple; and "So Much to Say," Dave Matthews Band. (Just see High Fidelity. You'll understand.)

(Rating: *****)

And then there's The Life of David Gale...but that one's inspired me to write an actual full-blown review. I know I said I'd do that for Moulin Rouge!, but I mean it this time.

Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or am I miserable because I listened to pop music?

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