it’s been a trying past month, with all the papers and projects being due and the final fall semester of my undergraduate career winding down. now it’s five days before christmas, and i find myself at work (NFL) eagerly awaiting the company party at the Museum of Natural History. it’s been a while since i listed some of the films i’ve watched… been lazy i guess. i picked up Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full again… finishing up the last 200 pages or so… getting kinda exciting. Anyways, the past three weeks have been a film fest for me, some of the films being required for class and some being an excuse not to do school work. i thought i would list most of them and comment on them — an exercise that will hopefully allow my memory to distinguish the large quantity of films i’ve ingested in a short time span.
closer (dir. mike nichols, 2004) – good looking actors and actresses in a cyncial love story. i couldn’t help noticing how natalie portman in this movie looked not too different from the natalie portman of the professional (1994)… a bit disconcerting since she’s a stripped in this one. but she does have a beautiful face; even my mom agrees.
white balloon (dir. jafar panahi, 1995) – this was the first iranian film that i stayed awake for in its entirety. it’s about a little girl who wants to buy a goldfish on new year’s day but loses her money and tries to find it. it’s one of those neo-realist type films. i wrote a paper on it for film theory talking about its ‘slight-narrative,’ but i was happy that my suitemate graceface stuck around to see it with me on vhs.
the secret of my succe$s (dir. herbert ross, 1987) – i watched this in order to research my film senior thesis about yuppies and i must say, for an eighties movie, this was fairly entertaining. i found michael j. fox even more sympathetic a character than his back to the future roles. but what i found most valuable about this film was that it definitely did capture that horatio alger american myth of “working hard” to get on top — and it’s a romantic feeling that we still perpetuate such beliefs.
risky business (dir. paul brickman, 1983) – i expected more from the subway sex scene at the end of the film since it was supposed to be one of the “sexiest scenes” of all time, but then again, i really liked how the scene was built up with tom collins singing in the air tonight. tom cruise is not as sharp or cool as he is made out to be in his other roles (i.e. top gun, mission impossible, minority report), and he does a good job in essentially being a dork who happens to be convinced by prostitutes that he can be a pimp for a weekend.
ocean’s twelve (dir. steven soderbergh, 2004) – a most disappointing sequel, i could not find much entertainment in seeing famous people have fun on screen without much direction or story to entertain the audience. i mean, to use julia roberts as a character who pretends to be julia roberts while having bruce willis play himself — corny! i understand that perhaps the first one was too good and set high expectations, but not really – this was just too loose of a story. but brad pitt was pimp as usual, and i guess that redeems the “cool” factor.
the aviator (dir. martin scorcese, 2004) – the more i think about the film, the more i realize that i enjoyed it. visually stunning and masterfully directed by the master scorcese, i was a bit disappointed that my emotions were rarely touched. it was funny to watch with wook because he seemed to sympathize with howard hughes’s OCD. leo dicaprio does a great job of playing hughes, and the story of hughes itself is fascinating and sort of a personal inspiration for me – filmmaker, engineer, businessman, playboy – it was great because he wanted to do all, and did it – except by the end, he became crazy.
national treasure (dir. jon turteltaub, 2004) – i downloaded a bootleg of this and saw it on my computer because the reviews for it were so awful, but once a nic cage fan, always a nic cage fan. i didn’t think it was so bad – maybe the critics have a thing against nicolas cage. i found the whole celebration of historical knowledge to be corny but nice at the same time because i am a history major as well. but i hate the sidekick charater riley who is so annoying with his corny jokes and his acting just ruins the film. it wasn’t a miscast, it was a miswrite.
don’t trust that girl (some korean director) – i went home for a night and my parents told me to watch this film; it’s about a con woman who gets parole and is on her way to her sister’s wedding. a goofy guy with an engagement ring sits across from her on the train but someone steals his ring. the girl goes after the guy and recovers the ring, but the train leaves before she can get back on. of course, she goes to his town and is mistaken for his fiancee… you can tell where this is going – it was a nice typical romantic comedy but the acting was superb, especially by the lead character, who has hilarious facial expressions and becomes more and more likeable although she could’ve been prettier.
assault on precinct 13 (dir. jean-franÃ¯Â¿Â½ois richet, 2005) – as a treat after our final test in Film Theory I, our professor – james schamus of focus features – gave us a sneak peek of the upcoming remake of john carpenter’s assault on precinct 13. i was struggling from an all-nighter but this film kept me wide awake. starring ethan hawke as the cop of a precinct open on its last night, this action/seige flick is pretty intense. laurnence fishbourne, as the notorious gangster who plays on the good side against bad cops, is pretty intimidating in his thug don gear. a shocking moment was when they shot the pretty blonde character point-blank in the head… sorta sad. but i must say, more and more, i identify with ethan hawke than most other white hollywood actors – he’s intelligent, insecure, and scrappy but capable of rising to the challenge.
million dollar baby (dir. clint eastwood, 2004) – someone at work warned me that this film would “punch me in the gut” before it was over, and surely, i had a most gut-wrenching experience watching this film. it’s quite an inspiring and sentimental film, but it does take an emotional toll. i am only being vague because, unlike most other films that i love to ruin for people, this one i’d like people to see for themselves. i watched this with sarah and she was creating rivers down her cheeks towards the end. you could hear the whole theater sniffle. and i don’t blame eastwood for going overboard – it was just dark enough to keep it from being a pure tear-jerker.
house of flying daggers (dir. yimou zhang, 2004) – people think this movie is too much like hero in that it is beautifully shot and features some diesel martial arts sequences, but i think the two movies are worlds apart. while hero was entertaining in its own right, zhang ziyi has a much more expanded role in this and more often than not, a pretty girl who makes things happen can mean the world of a difference in a movie. the love story in this film, which becomes a triangle towards the end, is very potent and is allowed to remain subtle by being in the background of the fancy action. i particulary loved the scene when the camera pans across a plain with luscious foliage in the background only to have snow trickle down and then blanket the entire terrain with white. perhaps cliched in this sort of genre, but beautiful indeed.
there are a few other movies which i’ve attempted to watch but had to put on hold or fell asleep through – perhaps they are worth mentioning so i can go back to them at a later time: infernal affairs, vertigo, the big chill, close-up, and weekend.
next up on the film agenda: in good company (scarlett!), life aquatic, the merchant of venice.