Saturday, January 3, 2009

Snippets: #120 - #123


Obviously, I've got some catching up to do around here.

Which brings me to a new thought, or one of my half dozen New Year's Resolutions. With my next semester just 8 days away, the thought that this one could be even worse than the last have me wondering how I'm really going to pull off watching at least one movie a day - adding up to about 15 to 20 hours a week - and writing about everything.

I'm still not ruling out the possibility of meeting my goal of documenting 365 movies this year. I'm just trying to be more realistic. So, from this day forward, this blog is going to be more of a long-term project, not to be completed when I reach the 365th flick. Who knows, maybe by movie #2,000, I'll actually be good at this reviewing thing.

Anyway, in attempt to clear up the clutter for the new year, I'm going to post a bunch of smaller reviews of films I've recently taken in. Some of these I may have even watched weeks or months ago, but was left uninspired or just too tired to even discuss.

#120: Dark Star
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon
Released February 9, 1979 (West Germany)

I added this one to my list after watching 2001 and finding out that Dark Star was not only supposedly a spoof of the Kubrick masterpiece, but also the first major film from director John Carpenter. As it turns out, Dark Star has only a few allusions to 2001, and calling the film itself a "major motion picture" is stretching the meaning of those words. Still, with a minuscule budget, Carpenter and O'Bannon got the attention they needed to further their careers (O'Bannon would go on to write Alien, using several plot points from Dark Star). It's a stoner space comedy with a few amusing moments. As a curiosity for fans of Carpenter, Dark Star is worth checking out. Fans of the band Pinback need no longer wonder where they got the band name, as it is the surname of O'Bannon's character in the movie.

#121: Postal
Directed by Uwe Boll
Written by Uwe Boll and Ryan C. Knight
Released October 18, 2007

Uwe Boll has been responsible for some of the worst movies ever made. I don't even think the previous sentence qualifies as an opinion, since it's indisputable. House of the Dead. BloodRayne. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Boll's lovable German sense of humor is on full display in Postal, as he opens the film with two suicide bombers who have hijacked a plane and are about to crash it until they get into an argument about how many virgins they were promised in the afterlife. They decide to live, and just as they divert the plane's path to the Bahamas, the American passengers break into the cockpit and cause the plane to crash into a skyscraper. What's that? You're not laughing? Well get ready for 90 more minutes of idiotic shit.

Dave Foley, whom I thought had swam to his absolute depth in California Dreamin', shows up here as some sort of hippie guru, giving us a long and unpleasant gaze at his cock and taking a shit within moments of his character's introduction. Most of the plot revolves around the public's desire to buy some sort of doll that looks like a penis. This "joke" is so unsubtle that the name given these dolls is unsurprisingly "Crotchy Dolls." This is the kind of wit we're dealing with, people. At least the 9/11 bit was tasteless enough to warrant a response. The rest of this thing is just pathetic.

#122: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord (based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Released December 25, 2008

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a make-up or visual effects artist in the running for an Oscar this year, and then see your hopes dashed upon the rocks as you saw the mindblowing work on display in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Maybe next year, make-up geeks.

As for the movie itself, it's really good but a bit hard to love. Perhaps part of it is the emotional distance kept by director David Fincher, not exactly our most sentimental film makers. Of course, for people like me who cringe at many films' blatant attempts to get an audience to cry, this approach is actually kind of welcome. Still, there are little bits of corny sentimentality to be found (namely, the ridiculous presence of a hummingbird that annoys like that feather in Forrest Gump.

Since I'm mentioning Gump, I have to add that Button felt like the more likable but less ambitious cousin to that mushy slab of Conservative propaganda (Jenny's reward for protesting Vietnam = getting the AIDS, etc.). Frankly, Benjamin Button doesn't really do all that much. He gets laid here and there, makes more money working on a boat than anyone in history ever has, kinda fights in a war (but really, basically falls down and survives a major incident) and meets the love of his life.

Of course, with Fincher behind the wheel, the whole thing is exquisitely made and looks fantastic... it's just that the heart beating inside of it isn't doing enough to keep it, or us, alive. The blood is there, but it's the push that is lacking.

#123: Cat Dancers
Directed by Harris Fishman
Released December 18, 2008

I'm dying to reveal to you the double-twist tragedy that sends this documentary from being merely a portrayal of an eccentric entertainer named Ron Holiday, his wife Joy and their "partner" Chuck Lizza, into the stratosphere of weirdness. It's that twist that will have you talking and debating with your co-viewers, and it's that twist that would make this review infinitely more readable.

Sure, there's plenty of other bizarre material to attract you to Cat Dancers, mainly Ron's multiple wig and costume changes, paired with some of the insanely hilarious stuff that comes out of his mouth (watch, for example, his students' faces when he talks to them about soup made out of tiger penises).

As you watch Ron and his tales of near-stardom, you begin to realize that there's something dark on the way, a flickering and dying lightbulb at the end of his narcissistic tunnel-vision. When it finally does come, you'll come up with a hundred questions before the doc's end credits abruptly arrive. Fishman's failure to answer those questions may make your blood boil.