What We Watched This Week: 2/5/12
Nathan Smith and Alec Lindner
(Note: This is actually from the last few weeks because there are some films I saw shortly before we began this feature that I wanted to talk about.)
My Winnipeg is pretty much one of the strangest films I have ever seen. I had heard of Guy Maddin before but wasn’t expecting this psychoanalytical smoothie of sleepwalking memories, fever dreams, and freezing temperatures blasted with a dose of day-time soap opera when I decided to watch this film. Maddin’s style and visual tone is reminiscent of everything you have ever seen before but at the same time it is something completely original and almost transcendent in terms of medium. I don’t know what kind of brilliant freak show of half-assembled dreams and nightmares goes on in Guy Maddin’s head, but whatever it is, it’s amazing.
My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami)
My Best Friend is the type of poignant film that really appeals to me. A lonely art dealer is challenged by a co-worker to find a best friend within a week, and the art dealer finds a friend in an incredibly unexpected place. It might sound a little hokey, but the film reaffirms the necessity of human companionship through its simplicity, and it doesn’t attempt to be anything more than it is, which is what I like about it.
Blast of Silence
A gritty, jagged noir with chapped lips, Blast of Silence is a Christmas movie with a dark heart. It’s about an emotionally stunted hit man living a Spartan life who comes to New York over Christmas for one final job. Its jazzy score sizzles, and it also has really beautiful shots of people walking. I liked it, but I felt that it relied too often on its hard-boiled narrator to move the plot along.
Recommended? Yes, but only if you watch it in a completely dark room.
Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep is probably one of the most important piece of modern African-American cinema, and also an extremely beautiful reflection on everyday life. Burnett’s camera lies in the streets and meditates on what it sees. He doesn’t push the action along or force his way into the lives of characters; he simply watches events unfold, quietly, lovingly. It tells the story of a man who is tired and sensitive, a man who loves his children and wife, a man who loves the feel of a cold drink against his face. Killer of Sheep is quiet and still, but it is also deeply moving.
Recommended? Yes, and if you enjoy it, I would also recommend David Gordon Green’s George Washington, another film in the same vein.
The Great Muppet Caper
Anyone who was around me when The Muppets came out last year knows that I really, really love The Muppets. So I loved The Great Muppet Caper, a musical romp that sees Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo pursuing a jewel thief in the name of investigative journalism. So yes, the whole gang and a few celebrities show up, Miss Piggy falls for Kermit, and an inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational time is had by all.
The Steel Helmet
Despite feeling a little dated, Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet tackles the issues of war and race with remarkable resolve. Though I’m not the biggest fan of war movies, I liked The Steel Helmet and found it to be a nice break from the typical patriotic filler of its day, because it actually has a conscience and moral purpose. Made six months after the start of the Korean War, The Steel Helmet was the first film to focus on and discuss it (and one of the few Korean War films I’m aware of). I think its message for the most part still holds up today.
Recommended? I think so.
Two in the Wave
Two in the Wave is an informative French documentary on Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, the two most notable filmmakers of the French New Wave. To be honest, it moves a little slowly and gets a bit boring, but I thought it was interesting and I learned quite a bit about both filmmakers from it. It’s a solid documentary that stays away from the typical tropes of the genre, and is put together pretty well overall.
Recommended? It’s probably only for fans of Godard and Truffaut, so I suggest you see a few of their films before watching.
Most of you have probably seen this, so I won’t go into much detail. We watched it in my film studies class and honestly I don’t find it that funny after having seen it a few times. But most films lose their humor after repeat viewings, so I kinda expected it.
Recommended? I mean, I guess you should probably see it if you haven’t, but it won’t kill you if you don’t.
(A haunting image from My Winnipeg, just for fun.)
I’ll be covering the past two weeks for this week’s column.
Stop Making Sense
The genius of David Byrne captured on film, Stop Making Sense is often called the greatest music film of all time not just for its imaginative setpieces, but for its incredible music performances; the arena-funk reimaginings of classic Talking Heads songs found in the film are often superior to the originals.
Recommended? Most definitely.
Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb!
What can be said about Dr. Strangelove that hasn’t been said? It’s one of the greatest comedies of all time, and is still ominously relevant as America continues to assert its dominance over the world. But it’s as funny as it is prescient; after probably a dozen watches, I still laugh out loud at “Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The BOMB, Dmitri! The hydrogen bomb!”
The Big Lebowski
So I watched this, uh, four times this week. But not on purpose! I watched it three nights in a row, but I only watched it a fourth time after Ben Gazzara, the actor who portrayed Jackie Treehorn, died, and I had to watch the movie in his memory. “Jackie Treehorn treats OBJECTS like WOMEN, man!”
Recommend? Hells yes.
Don’t be suckered into the anti-Artist backlash, The Artist isn’t Oscar bait, but a very stylish tribute to the silent film era and the actors who lit up silver screens all over America. Even if it doesn’t deserve the Best Picture trophy, it does deserve to be celebrated.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Part of the reason I didn’t watch more movies these past few weeks is because I was sucked into It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a criminally underrated and hilarious look at the lives of a group of narcissistic friends who own a bar in South Philadelphia. I’ll probably write a longer piece about the show later, so I won’t write much now, but I do want to particularly praise the performance of Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly, the bar’s illiterate and unpredictable co-owner, janitor, and CAT ENTHUSIAST.
Recommended? Definitely, especially if you watch stuff like Community and Archer.
Pick of the week:
Psychedelic, scary, and violent, Francis Ford Coppola’s epic about how war affects the soldiers that are sucked into it is essential in every sense of the word. I liked it even more than The Godfather!
All previous editions of What We Watched can be found here.