Archive for July, 2012

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Allegorised Sexual Discovery in Tentpole Blockbusters?

July 15, 2012

The teenage me might have been too naive to notice this cheeky moment in Sam Raimi’s terrific Spider-Man (2002), despite being, well, the right age. It actually struck me in the scene on the rooftop as Pete tests his web-spray gesture, a sliver of web shoots out from somewhere just below the camera lens to his surprise. Naturally he has too much fun with his new bodily discovery in a subsequent scene, leaving his room a mess of sticky web streams. Aunt May knows. She knows.

Cheekier still, Alfonso Cuarón would extend the teen sexuality of Y Tu Mamá También (2001) to mature Christopher Columbus’ unwatchable Harry Potter franchise, the very opening scene features Harry playing with his wand under his bedsheet at night, intermittently interrupted by his uncle causing Harry to pretend he’s asleep.

Before we actually see the wand and school book, we hear Harry desperately attempting a spell “Lumos Maxima“. Eventually he succeeds, and as with Peter Parker, his white stuff fills the room. In fact, it flies right at the viewer’s face! What an insufferably intellectual post this is.

Another sly if more reverent moment in a massive blockbuster of the time, again by an auteur (if a much less interesting/talented one), Bryan Singer’s X-Men 2 (2003) contains a coming-out-as-mutant sequence clearly momentous for the gay director. The above Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) similarly allegorises closeted suffering with its werewolf teacher; indeed a cabinet figures as the home of suppressed fear.

Are there others?

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My June ’12 in Film

July 1, 2012

Trends continued as predicted this month. No Hitchcock, oddly, but a genial family movie homage to him by his Oz protégé (Cloak & Dagger) was viewed. Comedy and especially B-movies reigned more than ever in June, many of which are not listed here, but I enjoyed most. Discoveries include: Rob Zombie with his Halloweens, both closer to grim, pensive character study than trash horror (the sequel to far greater, poetic success); John Hyams’ direct-to-video-but-more-sophisticated-than-most-big-budget-movies actioners, likewise sombre in mood rather than dumb and frenetic–his very RED digital photography coalesces perfectly in this; those enfants terrible named Nevaldine and Taylor with their fucking gonzo camera operation and mired-in satire proving especially unique; and lastly the criminally unknown purveyor of outback noir Craig Lahiff. My sole rewatch was of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). 58 movies total.

  1. Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
  2. The Prodigal Son (Hung, 1981)
  3. Thieves (Téchiné, 1996)
  4. Summer With Monika (Bergman, 1953)
  5. Awaara (Kapoor, 1951)
  6. Bus Stop (Logan, 1956)
  7. Guelwaar (Sembene, 1993)
  8. 99 River Street (Karlson, 1953)
  9. Texasville/What’s Up, Doc? (Bogdavovich, 1990/1972)
  10. Autumn Marathon (Daneliya, 1979)
  11. Pola X (Carax, 1999)
  12. Runaway Train (Konchalovskiy, 1985)
  13. Crank/Crank: High Voltage (Nevaldine & Taylor, 2006/2009)
  14. Twilight Portrait (Nikonova, 2011)
  15. Duel in the Sun/The Stranger’s Return (Vidor, 1946/1933)
  16. Halloween II (Zombie, 2009)
  17. Heaven’s Burning/Swerve (Lahiff, 1997/2011)
  18. The Hunter (Pitts, 2010)
  19. Anatomy of a Relationship (Moullet & Pizzorno, 1976)
  20. Lockout (Mather & St. Leger, 2012)
    *

Margaret was whoa. Every scene is an intense or horribly awkward communication struggle. It’s just teeming, this movie; attempting impossibly to shape a narrative out of so much life. The power of cinema, or a power of cinema, allows us to look critically while we experience these people’s emotions simultaneously. We catch those pains left in Paquin’s wake. I was surprised, mind you, at how rational her character was at times. The end scene, ahhh.

Didn’t even know Texasville was a sequel to The Last Picture Show until I started watching it. I think it’s a better film, actually. Bittersweet middle age life in micro bits and pieces, a warm if wistful portrait of a small town in the macro sense. Basically no plot. I like how Bridges can simply travel from one place to another and in the meantime a thousand events have taken place involving his family and the townspeople without his knowledge. For a small town it’s not slow, but word still gets around fast. And Bogdanovich continues to impress me with his shot-editing.

Crank was brilliant. Obviously a key film in the area of digital intermediate’s manipulation of the image; and it’s highly appropriate. Brash location cinematography and Tashlinesque (they earn it!) self-consciousness, even Amy Smart’s hiccups, make this such an unlikely and unorthodox beast.

Swerve was cool as hell, great control over the crossing character trajectories. A bit like No Country.

Loved Lockout. There isn’t a more consistently entertaining movie from this year. It has a direct Vertigo homage followed by a lampoon of that cliche Bourne trailer window-jump money shot which leads to a bad-CGI motorbike chase a la Ultraviolet into a brief Subway slide. It’s never quite as cartoon breathless as the opening but it has plenty of contrived jaded cop sarcasm and “sexy” antagonism between leads that circles back around to charming somehow. Mighty fine looking throughout. The RED camera is the easiest to spot. One day we’ll look back on it as fondly as we now do Technicolor.
*

Compelled to mention:

  • Keyhole (Maddin, 2011)
  • Universal Soldier: Regeneration (Hyams, 2009)
  • You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (Dugan, 2008)
  • Which Way to the Front? (Lewis, 1970)
  • Crush (Maclean, 1992)
  • Cyborg (Pyun, 1989)

Keyhole was better than I thought it would be, but at the same time it’s about as tenebrous as Inland Empire. In fact it’s Maddin’s most Lynchian film, as well as his most transfixing (where many of his movies are downright tedious chores). But its totally perplexing nature stands in its way from being great for me; maybe I just needed more clues, more of an entry into it, because I was still willing and excited a whole hour in to have this possible purgatory or psychoanalytic web of deadpan absurdity unravelled and, uh, justified? As it stands it’s a swell of something really interesting that never comes about. Or maybe it does and multiple viewings are necessary. Visually it’s rooted in his usual techniques, but now it feels less like he’s mired in or bound to silent cinema and that he has truly come into his own.

Arabesque was diverting. Mise-en-abyme: The film often forgoes shot-reverse-shot for singular frames containing reflections of the looker/s and the object of his/their looking, appropriate enough for the lightly self-aware mode with which Dolan had engaged throughout his career. Also, the title is amusing since the Arabs in the movie are clearly all westerners. Sophia Loren was good; Gregory Peck is no comedian.

Ate A Perfect Getaway up. Campy fun. Genuinely solid performances from everyone. The longest colour-tinted flashback ever.

The Entity. I liked all the demented camera angles and split-diopter effects. I don’t really know what to say about the film otherwise. The other people seeing the events negates the psychology, yet it never cements the supernatural as fact and hardly explodes into horror excitement. I don’t know, I enjoyed it.

Hui’s A Simple Life was really tender and Jia’s DP does beautiful things with focus and colour grading in digital but I was fairly underwhelmed.

Worst:

  • Haute Tension (Aja, 2003)
  • Ultraviolet (Wimmer, 2006)
  • Dracula (Fisher, 1958)

Ultraviolet was a horrible pastiche of Resident Evil, X-Men 3 (same Cure Kid even) and Cassavetes’ Gloria.
*

It’s funny, Gamer left a horrible taste in my mouth in regards to Nevaldine/Taylor but it’s in the same line as their Cranks, just amplified. I can’t explain it. One doesn’t watch Gamer, and it never allows you to think for a moment: it’s literally inaccessible, a constant barrage of superficial noise. I think this is just how the directors like it. Given this and its cynical, dystopian premise of a perverted and immoral society, the generic triumph over evil rings utterly false and it remains a horrifying vision where even humanist rebellion is a movie cliche, a fucking joke. Some fantastic, crazy lighting and a swell musical number, but this is a film of little-to-no pleasures, an obliteration of imagery pleasures that rubs your face in depraved digitalia while unhypocritically bathing in it itself (unhypocritical in that N/T are barefaced with their delight in the things they “satirise”. Whether the satire is at all articulated, here or in the Cranks, is another thing). It’s not a movie, not in the traditional sense. It could be art. But it’s so thoroughly unpleasant that I want nothing more to do with it.