Film, Television, What We Watched

Is it? Could it be? Indeed. What We Watched: Some Things from The Past Few Weeks

Alec:

It’s the triumphant return of What We Watched! Things are starting to cool down around here, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to get back to regular updates for the ‘log, including the return of weekly What We Watched. Since we posted the last What We Watched approximately ten years ago, I can’t remember all that I’ve watched, but I’ve managed to coax a few memories out of my increasingly derelict psyche. Nathan, however, seems to have the recollection abilities of a cinematic savant, so I guess he’s got everything he watched on here. Actually, this will be a two-part article, because the number of movies and shows watched these few weeks overfloweth the bounds of just one.

Cowboy Bebop

I haven’t finished Cowboy Bebop yet because the quality of my set of episodes is really poor, so I need to find a new one. Nevertheless, I watched “Bohemian Rhapsody” a few weeks ago and found it to be a top notch Bebop episode. Without giving too much away, “Rhapsody” finds the Bebop crew investigating a series of cyber-robberies at hyperspace gates, but find the robberies are more than simple petty theft. Bebop has crafted a really unique, interesting world, and the best episodes, like this one, focus both on creating a new story for our protagonists while also making them intruders in the larger stories of the lives of others. Though Bebop may ultimately be Spike’s story, his isn’t the only story in the series, because Bebop has created a complex, interesting world around him.

Recommended? You should probably check Cowboy Bebop out if you haven’t yet.

Religulous

Don’t go into Religulous expecting anything substantial. While the role of atheism and theism in America is an important topic that deserves an insightful documentary, Religulous isn’t it. Essentially, it’s just two hours of Bill Maher riding around in a van making fun of religion both fringe and mainstream. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film; Maher is a pretty funny guy and the film is pretty entertaining, but you don’t get anything out of it that you couldn’t get browsing r/Atheism on reddit for a few hours.

Recommended? If you want to kill some time.

Game Change

Oh, I had quite a bit to say on this one after I saw it, but the passage of time has made me forget. Essentially, Game Change is a great historical document but a poor dramatic film. On the positive side, it provides great insight into what happened within the McCain campaign during the Sarah Palin debacle, and illuminates this bizarre and nebulous time in history. However, it fails as a film with terrible dialogue and flat characters. Everyone seems to speak only to provide context to the events surrounding the movie, not as actual human beings. It’s great as nonfiction, but a failure as art.

Recommended? For politicos: yes. For those seeking a good drama? no.

American Psycho

Just a terrific film. While it couldn’t possibly reach the dizzying heights of the novel, the film version of American Psycho wisely doesn’t try to, focusing on creating a slick, powerful satire all its own. I usually describe American Psycho as a satirical Great Gatsby for the ’80s: a scathing indictment of a time so morally vacuous that a serial killer fits right in. Patrick Bateman worries when his mask of sanity begins to slip, but he’s really the most well-adjusted person anyone could be to the values his world promotes.

Pick of the Week:

Frisky Dingo

Boosh. Frisky Dingo, the spiritual predecessor to Archer, is an absolutely groundbreaking comedy, and one of the most daring things I’ve watched in a long time. The laissez-faire style of production at Adult Swim can lead to disaster for some shows, as they become completely unhinged, but it pays off in Dingo, as the show spirals to insane heights without stopping for a second. Together with the second half of Moral Orel, Frisky Dingo stands at the pinnacle of Adult Swim’s programming and is one of the greatest achievements in animated television in the last decade.

Nathan:

Due to my general laziness/the overall business of the last few weeks, we’ve gotten, um, a bit behind. So here’s an overview of what I watched in the past three weeks.

The King of Comedy

While usually overshadowed by the giants in his body of work, Martin Scorsese’s chsatirical farce about celebrity obsession and the entertainment industry is one of his secret best. Starring Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis, the lighter and more ridiculous tone of this film is somewhat unexpected from the man celebrated for his Catholic guilt. While I wouldn’t guide you to this film as an introduction to Scorsese’s work, it is an essential treat for those familiar with it.

Recommended? Yes.

Memento

What Christopher Nolan has in terms of conceptualization and idea-crafting ability is continually shot-down by his visual incompetence and smug attitude, as shown by this film. Like all of his other films, or at least those I have seen, the idea behind Memento is excellent; however, it suffers due to its banal dialogue, cheap conflict, cheeky metaphors, and lack of visual direction. Nolan has ideas, but he has no grasp on how to keep the interest of the audience’s eyes and makes no effort to build his characters or use the color palette available to him. However, it seems others are able to forgive him. Maybe I’m just an old crank.

Recommended? Meh. It’s up to you.

Alice in Wonderland

Don’t see this movie. As it managed to shove its digitally-rendered hands into the pockets of everyone passing by a theatre in 2010, you probably have seen it, but if possible, avoid it. It represents Tim Burton’s definite fall as a visually original filmmaker and rise as a tween pop-goth icon screwed over by Disney and the third-dimension. I mean, really. Avril Lavigne sings on the soundtrack, and Burton completely forgets the traditional (and more interesting and engaging, in my opinion) special effects techniques used on the film I am about to discuss below (by this I mean that I was originally supposed to write about Beetlejuice, which I somehow forgot to do, but anyway, you should see Beetlejuice). So yeah, don’t see it.

Recommended? NO.

Double Indemnity

The sad thing about film noir is that most audiences today are now more familiar with parodies of the genre than they are with the genre itself. So most people my find Double Indemnity dated, but I don’t. With a captivating first shot and unforgettable last, there is not reason not to enjoy this film.

Recommended? Yes.

Little Shop of Horrors

While I may respect Frank Oz a wee bit more for his puppetry than I do for his directorial efforts, I enjoy this adaptation of the musical which was itself an adaptation of the Roger Corman film. Oz successfully manages to mix a duplication of the schlocky Corman-esque feel with great comedic acting and that hopping Motown sound to produce a pretty entertaining film.

Recommended? Yes.

The War Room

What’s great about this documentary is not necessarily the subject itself, but the people involved with the subject, particularly James Carville and George Stephanopaulos, Both men are some of the most fascinating characters in recent political history, and their centrality to this documentary about the first Clinton presidential campaign make it equally fascinating, humorous, and enjoyable.

Recommended? Yes.

Pick of the Week:

Leningrad Cowboys Go America

Do you dig that title? Because I really dig that title, and it’s initially what attracted this movie to me. However, I soon found that there was a lot more to it than just the title. One part Stroszek, another part Spinal Tap, this straight-faced Finnish yarn about a Russian band that ventures to the United States only to find success in Mexico is hilarious, awkward, strange, everything. The film’s visual irony and general Herzog-like absurdity is fantastic, and the bizarre send-ups of rock-and-roll hits (by way of gulag prison band) peppered throughout the film make it even more memorable. My gosh, I can’t explain this film. You just have to see it. And Jim Jarmusch is in it as well, so if that doesn’t sell you, nothing will.

All previous editions of What We Watched can be found here.

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