Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Week of Movie Watching

The Red Shoes – Ever since my wife and I saw Black Swan, I’ve wanted to show this to her. RS is still a great film, but perhaps not for exactly the same reasons that I remember. The big pluses are the performance of Anton Walbrook as the one-minded ballet director Lementov, and the set design and choreography (especially in the great extended Red Shoes sequence). The films falters a bit, (and I stress a BIT) where it comes to the romance between Moira Shearer and Marius Goring. The two lovers don’t really get a chance to deliver any heat – The film has to tell us how in love they are, because it’s not that evident. Still, recommended.

Rabbit-Proof Fence – The true life story of two young aboriginal girls who walk 900 miles across the Australian outback after being forcibly taken from their home by Government officials. This is the story of a monumental human achievement, and for all its terrific qualities, the film doesn’t do a great job of capturing the magnitude of what these girls did. I mean, the walk took 9 weeks, and the two don’t really look the worse for wear at the end. Still, this is a good film, and a biting indictment of a shameful racist law. Peter Gabriel does the soundtrack, and it’s top notch - Its organic, ethereal, and moody. Recommended

Woodstock (Blu-Ray Directors cut) and Monterey Pop – I love Woodstock, and I try to watch it every few years or so. Putting aside what I consider the musical highlights (Richie Havens, The Who, Ten Years After, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Sly and the Family Stone and especially Santana) it is such a perfect time capsule because of the non-music. Everything that made the sixties the sixties is here - The fashion, the drugs, the attitude (“We live in a group – what you would call a commune”), and it’s to the films credit that it spends so much time on the stuff that was happening when the music wasn’t playing. I’m fascinated at how many of the characters one remembers – The Porti-San guy and the guy who pops out of the Porti-san. The girl who has lost her sister out there. The “Stay ON the grass” guy. The naked Frisbee girl. The yoga guy. Watch this if you haven’t. If you have, watch it again.

Compared to Woodstock, the Monterey Festival in 1967 was small potatoes when you look at the numbers involved (half a million versus less than 70,000), but Monterey was the template for what was to come two years later. Again, there were some terrific performances, Like The Who doing "My Generation", (and smashing the shit out of everything), Otis Redding, Janis Joplin doing "Ball and Chain", and of course Hendrix again. This was the concert where Jimi set his guitar ablaze, and my favourite shot in this film is a quick audience reaction shot right after Hendrix’ set. Instead of cheering and pandemonium, the reaction is gaping mouths and utter shock and awe. My only musical quibble is that Ravi Shankar’s set seems to go on forever, after most of the other artists only get a minute or two onscreen. It’s doesn’t compare to Woodstock in giving the viewer the sense of what the experience was like, but I still recommend it.

2012 – If you love lotsa stuff blowing up, this is for you, because basically the whole planet blows up. This one is entertainment for 16 year-old boys, I guess. The premise is that the sun starts acting up, the earths core is boiling, and we’re all gonna die. The film centres on a writer (John Cusack), and his estranged family, and how they can make their way to China to join an enormous “ark” that has been built covertly to save the earth’s best and brightest. Hollywood being Hollywood, the bad guys are US Government officials who are willing to kill anyone who endangers the plan. The same pattern happens again and again. There is a little scene where people talk to each other, and then they are interrupted by that damn apocalypse. Cusack and family somehow outrun earthquakes, meteor showers, falling buildings, you name it. Not recommended. Really, don’t bother.

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