Friday, August 26, 2016

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie


Pulp Fiction

Although Reservoir Dogs put Quentin Tarantino on the map as an up and coming filmmaker, Pulp Fiction made him a landmark of cinema that was to be revisited for years to come. It interesting to examine how Tarantino's style matured with this film, and how it possibly caused him to be such a phenomenon. This is in terms of a stronger eye in terms of aesthetics, but also the way Tarantino allows his characters to breath a bit more, giving the film a far more relaxed story, even though there are three tension causing plot points behind the three main stories. All three stories that offer their own little flavor. Whether it is the forbidden romance of the first story, the complications of a man on the run, or just the hilarity following an accidental murder, yeah that's right hilarity. Tarantino allows his dialogue to shine and almost every conversation is a little gem. Tarantino manages to make them engaging, often entertaining, and most importantly helps to flesh out the characters. Well that is all except the painfully slow scene of the boxer Butch (Bruce Willis), and his girlfriend as she waxes on forever about her desire for a pot belly. That scene stops the movie right in its tracks, and I dread it whenever watching the film. Luckily Howard Hawks's apparent statement that a good film had to have three good scenes and no bad ones isn't true. A film can survive a bad scene if it has enough great ones to make up for. Pulp Fiction has those in overabundance. Whether it is the initial banter between the two hitman, taking out the mob boss's wife, the adrenaline needle, Christopher Walken's one scene wonder, the samurai sword showdown, Harvey Keitel's sorta one scene wonder, and of course the diner robbery finale. The film is pieced together brilliantly as it is bursting with unforgettable moments which add up to something truly special.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Shawshank Redemption

Although Forrest Gump proved to be the crowd pleaser of 1994, the then box office flop, The Shawshank Redemption proved to be the all pleaser of all time. It is notable that on the top of just about every online poll stands this film. It has one one would expect from a great film. The production design, and costumes are both immaculate. Technically subtle yet absolutely accentuate the sense of place within the prison throughout the film. The score and cinematography capture brilliantly both the harshness and beauty of life itself. The acting is excellent across the board. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are both exceptional in their leading roles, while every small supporting performance adds a bit more character to the titular prison. How is it that the film goes beyond though? It is fascinating that this story about two men's friendship in a prison in the 40's apparently transcends all walks of life in terms of its appeal. Well Frank Darabont's masterfully crafts his story as a director but especially as a writer. If one desire a direct plot it has it. That being in terms of Andy's innocence, and his association with the corrupt prison warden. That certainly brings the needed tension to the proceedings, and a real menace through the villain well played by Bob Gunton. The characters are never forgotten as you feel you get to genuinely know both leads, and even have a proper association with those smaller character especially the old prisoner Brooks. It feels like you've spent time with them when the film is over and they never seem like mere ideas. Now this is one of the most inspirational films of all time, yet never feels manipulative. Darabont earns his grand moments that portray the true joys of life and freedom, as the film does not shy away from depicting the grim realities of prison life either. It depicts the struggle, it shows despair, but it allows one to see all that makes that worthwhile in the end. I hate that the film gets any backlash for its "best of all time status", since you don't need to accept it as your personal best of all time. It's just a great film.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump tells the story of one man Forrest who jumps happens to stumble on an assortment of important historical events. A true crowd pleaser in its day, which brought the film Oscar glory, but later disdain all the same. This has come in part due to interpretation of its exact themes, is Forrest a conformist hero? Is Jenny's story meant to be a cautionary tale against being a hippie? Does it really matter for this film? I say that because the film treats its historical connections with such a light touch. It acts more like a nostalgia trip than a deep analysis of historical events. There is some fun to be had, though some of the visual effects are awkwardly handled. Quite frankly Woody Allen pulled of the technique far more effectively with Zelig several years before. The rest of the film deals with often harsh subject matter, child abuse, AIDS, War, all with a similar levity. It is not that it does not care but it stays strict to the perspective of Forrest who sees things in his own way. This allows the film's development to be especially simplistic, which are always underlined by its sentimental score for an extra bit of emphasis. The film strives for broad emotional feeling. This is best shown through Forrest's testimony on the Vietnam war where the sound is cut off. We just hear that he said some important words about, and that we should simply be affected by it. It avoids detail much like the film despite the variety of complex topics it covers. I understand the film's appeal, it makes one feel, but I prefer a bit more depth in my emotion.

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is the film that one almost everyone's heart when it steamrolled its competition to its Oscar victory. I would say that it has faded a great deal from the collective memory. The film frames its story of a young Indian through how he learned a series of questions on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". The first time I watched the film I was utterly detached from it despite wanting to see what everyone loved about it, and I pondered why. Now the acting for the most part isn't anything outstanding, but that was not the reason for its lack of success. Danny Boyle's kinetic style as usual I did not find it particularly appealing, which also was not helped by the often ugly choices in terms of the film's cinematography. Finally there's the story which is the rags to riches story, many describing it as Dickensesque. The problem with that comparison is largely the lack of any interesting characters here. It has the bland lead, and love interest you might find in some Dickens, but it forgot the colorful supporting characters. The brother is wasted as they severely underdeveloped that relationship, and then the villains are all one dimensional. The film wishes to be all about heart in the end, but it's hollow to its core.


Crash's reputation suffered terribly the moment Jack Nicholson not so enthusiastically announced its victory over Brokeback Mountain. As someone who doesn't love that film, that held no sway in my view. It's now held as one of the worst winners in recent memory. I suppose one can look at it that way given that it is not a very good film. Crash tackles racial tensions in Los Angeles by telling a series of contrived stories. Now I honestly don't mind coincidences being used as a plot device, but the problem is this sets the film up for some sense of importance rather than telling a good story. There are few real characters in the film, and even then that might have a great deal to do with the acting, in those cases. Most characters are reduced to speaking excessively knowing lines of dialogue regarding race or yelling something to increase racial tension. The film offers no real insight, racism is solved by falling down the stairs, the "bad" cop does the right thing, the "good" cop does the wrong thing. The film is a series of events without weight since it is almost impossible to sympathize with the series of thin caricatures we are given that are wrung through a series of improbable circumstances.

Brokeback Mountain

Well now at least one can look at Brokeback Mountain just as film past the time of controversy, which blew up during that Oscar season despite previous best picture nominees Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Hours which both dealt with homosexual relationships before that film. Anyway just looking straight at the film itself which is tragedy infused tearjerker about two men who work as shepherds who become romantically involved. The best element of the film I'd actually say are the two lead performances, and with even having said that this is far from my favorite Jake Gyllenhaal performance. The two of them are both good, but that's not all there is to the film. I wish I could say that's what makes the film so great, but I can't. After the initial titular mountain scenes the film follows both men as they go on their separate ways most of the time, only occasionally meeting back up again to see the two together. The rest of the time we see their unsatisfied lives which are simplistic and unremarkable. That perhaps is to show how special their time was together, but it does not make the scenes feel any less tedious. In the end it becomes an often muted and flat story, which I don't think was the intention.