Saturday, November 03, 2007

Movie Roundup: More movies that I happened to see on the nine million movie channels I get.

Capote -- The buzz around this was Phillip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of the title character. He most certainly nailed it but that's not a surprise, the dude is unquestionably one of the best actors alive. His Capote is an effeminate, snooty troll who sticks out like a sore thumb anytime he steps outside his Manhattan milieu. Yet, Capote does not take offense or degrade the work-a-day types he engages in the course of his investigations for In Cold Blood, he unselfconsciously uses his alienation as a bridge to understanding the alienation of others, specifically the murderer Perry Edward Smith.

Over the course of research into the murders, we follow Capote as he gets himself more deeply intertwined with Smith. Capote is so overwhelmed by the emotional conflict of his sympathy for the regretful outsider Smith and his repulsion at the savage killing of a family of innocents and perhaps a bit of shame as the way he is going to benefit from the situation, that he suffers a breakdown. In real life, Capote did little else of value after In Cold Blood. He got involved in jet set celebrity jackassery and, of course, drugs.

If Capote has a failing, it is that it is too narrow a slice. It is a brief portrait of a particularly emotional time in the life a Truman Capote, but we lose the larger context. Hoffman portrays Capote's conflicts exceptionally, but the script allows us no insight into where they come from or what the personal consequences might take.

Brick -- Movie like this are one of the reasons I am glad I have nine million movie channels. Near as I can tell, this won a ton of festival awards but only had a limited theatrical release last year. But I guarantee you it is better than 97% of the clap trap you saw last year.

Brick is a real film noir, hard-boiled detective story -- the kind you would expect to star Humphrey Bogart -- but it is transposed to a modern day high school. The dialog is amazing and the young actors readily slip into the metre of the old school Raymond Chandler worthy script. Everything is pitch perfect form the camera angles to the pacing to the sound. Just a great movie.

It is not, however, High School Musical, there is a real darkness to it, and despite the youthful cast and the high school setting, it is more appropriate for adults. Do watch it. Its reputation can only grow in the upcoming years.

Gothic -- a Ken Russell psychotropic drugfest horror (horror as in the horror genre, not as in horrible). Ostensibly about a night of laudanum induced hallucinations with Lord Bryon, Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin (who would become Mary Shelley) that eventually led to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. It also served as the germ of another horror story called The Vampyre to be written by one of the other guests, Dr. Pollodori. Thus this one extended acid trip had far reaching literary consequences.

(Interestingly, to me anyway, part of the impetus for this was the weather. This all occurred in "the year without a summer," 1816, when Mount Tambora erupted and filled the atmosphere with enough dust that there was frost and cold all through the summer in Europe. Since it was too cold to spend much time outside, this group hung around in indoors, bored, and thus turned to drugs for recreation.)

There is some good insight about creations of any sort reflecting the flaws and evil in their creator, but it is predominately about the hallucinations, petty cruelties and emotional games played among the characters. It also gives director Ken Russell a nice backdrop for all the freaky and salacious visuals he can think of. But the characters are utterly pretentious and a bit on the superficial side, and their portrayal is grotesquely overwrought. It's a better choice for a horror flick than any ten slasher films or formulaic serial killer flicks, so it might be worth a look for something different.

Eragon -- Fantasy epic tripe. A lame riff on Lord of the Rings or some such. Without heart or soul. I gave it 45 minutes, which was more than I should have.

The Big Lebowski -- Yeah, yeah, I know. I've seen it a dozen times but it still holds up. There have been few better acting turns than the one Jeff Bridges took in this film. He should have won an Oscar. I'd like to see that happen, just once: someone get an Oscar for some absurd, farcical, comedic role, instead of some dire character that they had to gain fifty pounds to play. The Dude abides.