Thursday, March 18, 2010

recent viewing

Night at the Museum (Shawn Levy 2006) - Somebody told me this is actually pretty good and I would like it. He was wrong. (Though with Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant as credited writers the first draft of the script was probably much better.)

Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao-Hsien 1993) - Often considered Hou's masterpiece but I suspect that's mainly because the far superior City of Sadness is so hard to see. In fact this seems like one of Hou's lesser efforts to me though maybe people who like long stretches of unedited puppet shows might be more forgiving. Some of the reminiscences of the real-life Li Tianlu go on too long, resulting in a film that feels far too fragmented.

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow 2009) - I suppose a genre film is considered something more when it's announced as such - thus the opening epigraph that fades out leaving just the point of the film readable, the wounded character who states the premise and then in the film's most ridiculous moment the main character's monologue to a baby. (Actually the entire last stateside sequence would have been vastly improved and no harder to understand if it had no dialogue at all.) Overall it's not up to the level of another bomb-defusing film The Small Back Room and the plot of a guy who doesn't play by the rules but gets results dammit was long ago played out. Still, the attempt to build a kind of moral view through detailed sequences of work at times is almost Bressonian, Pickpocket with explosives. Since it's in a way not really "about" Iraq it's no surprise that there's nothing political in a larger policy sense but considering that the entire purpose is to examine masculine identity under the pressure of combat it is a surprise that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal didn't address the politics of the American military being composed of what are essentially mercenaries and predominantly from certain social classes. But then again how many Hollywood films would ever do that?

Of Time and the City (Terence Davies 2008) - Davies' documentary about his memories of growing up in Liverpool surely must be coasting on his reputation. I can't imagine any other reason something this unwatchable would have been financed and released. Basically it's a rambling spoken piece with nearly random images accompanying, at times it's not even clear the words actually match what we're seeing. What Davies remembers isn't too interesting anyway: a youthful crisis of faith, deprivations of post-War England, how much he disliked rock 'n' roll. His pompously sensitive delivery doesn't help either.

Fight Club (David Fincher 1999) - Nope, I'd never seen it and don't feel that I missed much but then again if I was 20-something might feel differently. Not bad overall but I expected something a bit more astringent - this is one of those films that might have been better if it was smarter or dumber. The faux apocalyptic ending felt like a mistake and not an entirely successful close to the story's premise though Fincher probably wanted something rousing for the viewers.