Monday, March 18, 2013

Thus Spake the King of Comedy

309) Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Dir: Elio Petri Date Released: December 20, 1970 Date Seen: October 4, 2012 Rating: 4.5/5

324) The Human Tornado (1976) Dir: Cliff Roquemore Date Released: October 2, 1976 Date Seen: October 21, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5*

RV!: Wolfen (1981) Dir: Michael Wadleigh Date Released: July 24, 1981 Date Seen: October 26, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

330) Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) Dir: Teruo Ishii Date Released: October 31, 1969 Date Seen: October 27, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

341) Cannibal! The Musical (1993) Dir: Trey Parker Date Released: August 30, 1996 Date Seen: October 31, 2012 Rating: 4/5

344) Pootie Tang (2001) Dir: Louis C.K. Date Released: June 29, 2011 Date Seen: November 2, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

375) Katie Tippel (1975) Dir: Paul Verhoeven Date Released: September 26, 1976 Date Seen: November 21, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

385) Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989) Dir: Arthur Penn Date Released: September 22, 1989 Date Seen:
November 27, 2012 Rating: 4/5

390) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) Dir: Hayao Miyazaki Date Released: June XX, 1985 Date Seen: December 1, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

398) Sharky's Machine (1981) Dir: Burt Reynolds Date Released: December 18, 1981 Date Seen: December 8, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

406) First Name: Carmen (1983) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: August 3, 1984 Date Seen: December 11, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

I made a list for Bob Freelander and these films are on it. You can see that list with better poster art and some brief writing on each film at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

*Trying something new on for size: I feel Steve Carlson is right in saying that the whole, "So bad it's good" mentality is BS. If I were to objectively rate this movie, my rating would be really low. But I had a great time with it, and think that matters more at this point. So yeah, B+.

The Horrors of Subjectivity and Feminism

328) Sexykiller (2008) Dir: Miguel Marti Not Yet Released, Thank Jaysus Date Seen: October 26, 2012 Rating: 1/5

329) American Mary (2012) Dir: Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska Date Released: May 31, 2013 Date Seen: October 26, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Sexykiller and American Mary were the first two films I saw in a mostly disappointing triple feature. The films were almost ecertainly paired together by Film Society at Lincoln Center's annual "Scary Movies" series because they both follow empowered female protagonists. The latter film is considerably better than the former however because its creators at least had an icky, disquieting, and yes, cogent vision for their anti-heroine. 

There are a couple scenes in American Mary, the Soska sisters' festival hit that remind viewers that we are seeing events from a cold, deliberate, and highly subjective perspective. I'm not really sure if we're sutured into the film's subject's POV, or a not-quite-omniscient third-person's, but without spoiling anything, there are one or two of decisive jump-cuts that suggest that allow time to elapse in such a way that our anti-heroine's pain is indulged (OK, FINE, SPOILER: like when her grandma dies, and we find out via voicemail; there's another earlier jump cut that bugged me, but I can't think of it off-hand. May have to rewatch). That's why I don't like American Mary more than I do: first it's too easy to sneer at one-note misogynist baddies, then it's impossible not to balk at the downward, irrevocable turn Mary's story takes. Revenge isn't sweet, it's icky, but it's also basically justified, and that's kinda lousy. 

Sexykiller, by contrast, is all-lousy. Irony-slathered, post-Scream (ie: po-pomo) horror-comedy where the titular lady murderess winks at the camera and constantly blabs about how subversive she is for turning chauvinists' expectations against them by becoming a, ahem, killer. Imagine that, a self-described bimbo killing a bunch of dudes, including some jocks! Ugh, toxically quirky.

Would You Like to Fly/In My Beautiful Private Hell?

327) Flight (2012) Dir: Robert Zemeckis Date Released: November 2, 2012 Date Seen: October 25, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

Been a while since I saw Flight, but I was rewatching it out of the corner of my eye when my family rewatched it. My sister's negative reaction to the film made me realize just how much I love Flight (ie: I characteristically got defensive). Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins's vision of an agnostic's toxic combination of alcoholism and survivor's guilt is exciting because it's not as clear-cut as it seems. This is the kind of character study I love, the kind that doesn't let its hero off the hook too lightly, but rather shows us events with some much-needed perspective, while not being entirely sympathetic to its subject's plight. Still, I get it: the creative decisions that rankle many of my peers' nerves are some of the film's most boisterous, and therefore the easiest to misinterpret. For example, when "Sympathy for the Devil" accompanies the entrance of Harling Mays, John Goodman's sleazy supporting character, it's not a celebratory moment. When Harlin's introduced, the music is an expression of his self-fashioned/inflated ego, so of course it makes him look like temptation incarnate. And the second time "Sympathy for the Devil" plays, Harling's come to rescue poor, strung-out Whip Whitaker (an equally impressive Denzel Washington). These music cues are not pat endorsements.

In fact, I'd go farther and say that that kind of self-deflating music cue is as cruelly funny as it is because the joke is, in a small way, on the viewer. Harling's only admirably diabolical if you ignore the consequences of his actions. Sure, Goodman's character is suave and lovably shrill enough to be charismatic, but well, he's also a drug dealer. It's worth belaboring that point since so much of Flight is about remaining committed to one's own decisions. This is why Zemeckis has no love for Whip's co-pilot's religious zealotry. Religion isn't a bad thing in Flight, just when it's taken to such an extreme that prayer becomes a substitute for personal responsibility. Doubt, on the other hand, is very spiritual, and you see that in the way that Whip looks at a stewardess that he tries to get hustle (while she's at church, no less). Whip's desperate, but the film's lithe tracking do a great job of replicating the wide berth that Whip's fairly cushy position in life has afforded him. Zemeckis shows us how much rope Whip has to hang himself. Whip's allowed to do so much and go to so many places because he's been afforded so much responsibility (even if he ignores his duty, to his passengers, his son, his wife, himself, etc.). Zemeckis does a fantastic job of visualizing the freedom that Whip has been granted: when Whip boards his plane, or when he's surveying the crash from a hydraulic stage, or when he's in a huge airplane hangar, and is told that nobody could do what he did, not even while sober.

The circumstances that leads to Whip's actions are simultaneously mysterious and explicably frustrating because they are and they aren't entirely just his problems. I like that when he falls off the wagon before testifying, the door to the hotel room that's adjacent to his wafts open on its own. But from that point on, Whip's decisions are his own. I also like that Zemeckis makes us gasp when Whip grabs a bottle, and lets us fear the worst about hero for a couple seconds before rejoining him hours later. It's not a dirty trick if it's effective, and Zemeckis does a good job of pulling the rug out from under his audience, making a shocking personal decision that much more shocking. I don't think that this jump cut makes Whip look like a monster, and I don't think that the abrupt-ness of this cut makes Whip's decision any less worthy of viewers' empathy. Quite the contrary, I think Zemeckis's selective brusqueness makes Whip's story that much more traumatizing: the door to the next-door hotel room wafts open gracelessly, and Whip's grasping hand also closes with a bump. Flight is moving because it is essentially ambiguous, save for the happy ending Whip earns for himself. There's typically a considerable amount of weight to characters' actions, because there's almost always a catch.