Thursday, January 24, 2008

"That Was Kinda Good, Actually!" List - A Best of Addendum of Sorts...

Hi Blog,

Almost a month into 2008 and finally the Midnighteye Best of 2007 list got posted. I'd planned on writing a big addendum to it to be posted on this site but have kinda slacked on it. Nothing special really, but just something to talking a bit about some other films that I saw in 2007 that I either a) forgot to mention or b) didn't have the space/time/energy/whatever to do so. But things have gotten really busy around the old Maboroshii Farm and so I haven't had much time to do this kind of writing.

Suffice to say, I've finally cobbled together a list of some other films that I saw -- non-Japanese this time around -- that I thought worthy of a mention here 'ye olde blog.' We'll call this list, "That Was Kinda Good, Actually!" Best of 07 List.



BOURNE ULTIMATUM- Dir. Paul Greengrass - You know, this one I just plum forgot to put on my Midnighteye list, which is weird because I really like this series and totally loved this entry (though I still haven't bought the DVD of it; waiting to buy it used, I guess.). Around the time that I saw the Bourne Ultimatum I'd just bought a used LaserDisc box-set of Buster Keaton films. It turns out that there's a lot of similarity between what Keaton does and how this film was made. Wait-- WHAT?!

Hear me out:

The action in Keaton's films were often times derived from the location and situation. The physical stunts were predicated on what the surroundings had and so if Keaton was trying to, for example, build a house, his stunts would all come out of the action derived from this set piece. Keaton was known to work with a prop or set experimenting until he found an interesting and humorous way of using it-- often something that we wouldn't typically expect.

According to press materials I read about the Bourne Ultimatum they didn't have a completed script -- more of an outline, I guess? -- and were constantly getting new pages as the shoot went on. The production had a (virtually) unlimited budget and lots of exotic locations and the director Paul Greengrass and his stunt coordinator and crew would work out how they could shoot in their particular location in an unexpected and exciting manner.

Hey! That sure sounds like Buster Keaton's method. In one of my favorite scenes in the film, the Tangiers set-piece is a testament to this style of filmmaking and made for such exhilarating viewing that I went and saw the film twice in as many days just to marvel at it. (Also, watching it at Hollywood's bad-ass Cinerama Dome at the Arclight, didn't hurt I'm sure.)


A L'INTERIEUR (aka. INSIDE) - Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury - Oof! Where do I begin with this film? The buzz and rumors surrounding A L'Interieur had reached me by the time I caught this at a horror fest here in LA. "Grizzly, brutal, intense! One of the goriest films in a long time!!" So, being a sicko, I was excited to see it and steeled myself for the brutality. And you know what? It delivered. I can't deny that. This film is one sick sick SICK puppy. But as to why I couldn't give this film a 'Best of' designation is for two reasons (you can decide yourself if they're worthwhile gripes):

One, the gore is pretty amazing. But none of it really is anything that you haven't seen before. The movie feels like a "best of" gag reel for a special effects house. The plot is similarly thin serving porno-like as a mechanism for connecting effects tricks.

Two, with the thin plot that it has, I just couldn't shake the heavy handed nihilism of the film. Rather than finding it too dark, it just reminded me of the 'Nihilists' in The Big Lebowski. I don't know what's up with Europe, but there are some pretty angry and bleak movies that are being made there at the moment...

THE LOOKOUT - Dir. Scott Frank - File this under a Lawrence Block mystery short story. I liked this simple concept of a former rich jock high school hockey star who after a car accident suffers a debilitating frontal lobe injury and is just trying to live a normal life when he gets wrapped up in a bank robbing scheme. If this film were made back in the 1940s it would've been a cracker-jack noir. The film has modest aims, good performances and [generally] good directing. There are one or two false-notes in the film and the climax for some reason doesn't peak as much as I thought it could've, but I still really liked the film. Worth a look.

VACANCY - Dir. Nimrod Antal - Another film that has modest aims and shoots and scores. This story of shitty, dysfunctional yuppie couple who has a rural car breakdown and has to stay a night at a motel specializing in snuff films is a tightly made, fast paced genre flick. I really enjoyed it and while the ending is lame (Jeeze guys! What's up with writing scripts with lame endings??) the film is fun viewing. It's worth noting that part of the reason that this film is as strong as it is, is because of it's casting and it's direction. The director Nimrod Antal is a multi award winning director whose debut feature Kontroll was featured at -- among other places -- Lincoln Center's prestigious New Directors, New Films back in 2005. Ooh la la!

GARY'S TOUCH (Short) - Dir. Ken Takahashi - Was sent a copy of this by a sick and twisted friend. The best piece of outsider art I've seen in a long while. Inept filmmaking, to be sure, but who cares? There's more energy, ideas and transgression in one minute of this film than in 90 minutes of Saw IV. I'll quote Fantasia's Mitch Davis as to what this film's about: "Gary hangs around toilet seats in women’s bathrooms. Gary keeps containers of his semen in a refrigerator. Gary walks alone. Imagine a Buddy Giovinazzo film crossed with Harmony Korine and Jorg Buttgereit..."(link) Holy shit.

That's all for now!

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