Tuesday, November 30, 2010

October and November Movies

Shutter Island *Spoilers* 

Shutter island is about US marshal Teddy Daniels who is sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient who's gone missing on Shutter Island, the location of an asylum for the criminally insane but he finds more than he bargained for.  
Teddy Daniels: Which would be worse, to live as a monster, or to die as a good man? 
The central question at the heart of Shutter Island although it's not quite apparent until the very end is the quote from Teddy Daniels above.  It's a very sympathetic look at why people choose to indulge in their delusions and fantasies.  It's also certainly a fascinating question, and to an extent, I wish Shutter Island somehow focused on this question, this conflict rather than the mystery of what was going on in the asylum.  It's a bit sudden really when everything is revealed- we get hints certainly that something is really off w/ the whole situation but not really enough information so that we could have conceivably realized that Teddy was really just deluding himself about everything.  I could see how he could have deluded himself into thinking conjuring up an escaped patient who killed her children (as his wife did in his real life), but it's a stretch to add Andrew (his real self) as the arsonist who killed his wife (when it was his wife who set the apartment on fire).  Memento utilized a similar technique but somehow, the pieces fit together better in the end.

  Shutter Island is a fine, solid movie, although it doesn't quite have any distinguishing features that make it memorable like other movies in its genre: Memento had its reverse chronological story telling, Inception draws you into a new world and makes its ambiguity work wonders, and Fight Club has that whole other theme of rebellion.  Perhaps if Scorsese had employed more of his trademark touch to the film...it would have been more memorable.  Shutter Island has some eerie scenes like Daniels's flashbacks to his war days, his nightmares, and his visit to Ward C and some really truly beautiful scenes like his dream of his wife evaporating into ash.  I'm not sure what to make of the music.  While I loved "On the Nature of Daylight," I disliked the main theme and how it blared through the beginning- the introduction to the island wasn't too creepy and the obviously menacing music didn't really help it.

Where the Wild Things Are 

Based on the beloved children's book, Max, an angry, rebellious boy, travels to an island with monsters- the wild things, where he's made their king.  
Max: There were some buildings... There were these really tall buildings, and they could walk. Then there were some vampires. And one of the vampires bit the tallest building, and his fangs broke off. Then all his other teeth fell out. Then he started crying. And then, all the other vampires said, "Why are you crying? Weren't those just your baby teeth?" And he said, "No. Those were my grown-up teeth." And the vampires knew he couldn't be a vampire anymore, so they left him. The end. 
Where the Wild Things Are has a very unique feel to it.  Its trailer really depicts the feel of the movie well-not super plot driven but a series of scenes paired with music; I personally really liked the trailer, one of the best ones I've seen in a while.

As for the movie, I like how from the beginning we see just how *wild* Max truly is.  He wears his wolf costume at the beginning and engages in a savage biting fight with his dog.  I was really surprised by how emo everyone was in this movie.  Each of the Wild Things has a personality and they fall just short of being likable or sympathetic because each of them are just too down on themselves and life; they're like stuffed animals that have been neglected and beaten up too many times.  Carol, KW, and Judith, in particular stand out.  Carol for his temper and his special friendship with Max, KW for her gentleness, hopelessness, and resignation, and Judith for her direct bitterness.  I did like how the wild things on the island talk about issues that people avoid  like favoritism.  Overall, Where the Wild Things Are is fascinating visually but character-wise and mood-wise feels very constrained because everyone is so damn emo.  

Chungking Express

He Zhiwu, Cop 223: We split up on April Fool's Day. So I decided to let the joke run for a month. Every day I buy a can of pineapple with a sell-by date of May 1. May loves pineapple, and May 1 is my birthday. If May hasn't changed her mind by the time I've bought thirty cans, then our love will also expire. 

I really liked this movie, especially it's light hearted tone and how in spite of its somewhat dark themes of two policemen getting over breakups and officer two being especially sad about his breakup to the point that he hilariously goes around his apartment comforting his objects, the movie maintains a humorous tone.  It's not for everyone, it's a bit on the quirky side, but it has memorable, likable characters, that you end up really caring and rooting for.

Date Night

Phil Foster: He turned the gun sideways! That's a kill shot! 

When I was taking a short story writing class in undergrad, I remember my professor told me that the narrator of one of my stories was the most reasonable, level headed character he'd read in a while.  I wasn't quite sure what he meant at the time because aren't there a lot of reasonable narrators out there?  But after watching Date Night, I think I know what he meant.

On the surface, Date Night isn't really that unique of a movie.  A couple, the Fosters (Claire and Phil), masterfully played by Tina Fey and Steve Carell, go out on a date night in the city, take another couple's restaurant reservation when they can't get one, and then are chased by the mafia or some crime organization who think they're the other couple.  What makes this movie special are Fey and Carell's performances because they do such a good job of making the Fosters seem really reasonable- the most reasonable, down to earth characters I've seen in a movie in a long while, and it's refreshing.  When they're out eating, they make up conversations for other couples and they get star struck like we would if we saw a celebrity dining in the same restaurant.  I especially like Fey in the movie.  There's one scene when the Fosters are talking in the car and she says what she fantasizes about is sometimes drive somewhere to be alone and quiet and Fey injects a sort of shyness into Claire that makes that believable for her character.  Go watch Date Night for the performances- it's funny and down to earth.  

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