Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anti-Oscars Part 3

IN BRUGES: This movie came out SO early in 2008 yet the moment I saw it I knew it was going to be one of my favorite films of the year. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson turn in career best performances and Martin McDonagh wrote easily one of the best scripts of the year. This is a film that really surprised me with just how funny and witty it was, yet also how deep and brilliant of a character piece it was as well. I’d really love to see McDonagh win an Oscar for his screenplay, but I don’t expect it to happen. This is easily one of the best movies that came out in 2008 and I sincerely hope Farrell realizes he’s so much better at this sort of fare than say SWAT.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN: Hands down one of the best vampire films ever made! Don’t let the fact that it’s Norwegian scare you off, this sucker is an out and out masterpiece. Focusing on a child vampire and the little boy that befriends her this movie boasts some of the best child performances every committed to film and is deeply sweet and touching while also being ice water in your veins chilling. This is so unlike most vampire and horror movies you’re used to seeing and as such when it does embrace the tropes of it’s genre it becomes all the more effective. The final sequence in the pool (That’s all you get, there’s no way I’ll spoil it for you) is one of the most brilliantly directed, effective pieces of cinema I’ve seen in quite some time. Please do yourself a favor and seek this out when it hits DVD. I guarantee you will not be disappointed in the least.

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO: In many ways I think this might be Kevin Smith’s ANNIE HALL. I know this is going to sound weird but if there were EVER a Kevin Smith film that my parents were going to like, I think it would be this. Out of every film Smith has ever made in many ways I think this, like Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL will be the work that the most people connect to and embrace. Like ANNIE HALL and Woody Allen this doesn’t mean that every single bit of what makes Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith isn’t on display, it just means that there’s something here that is engaging for everyone, whether you’re a fan of Smith’s work or not.
Now before you go out and start showing this to your Aunt Ruth and everyone in between know that this is still VERY much a Kevin Smith film and that I am only using this simile to try and describe what it is that makes ZACK AND MIRI work so well. As with all of Smith’s film this movie is dirty, debauched, lewd, crude and hilarious. However like many of his greater films the movie has a tremendous amount of heart and I think more than any other movie he’s ever made at the end of this day the movie is just flat out sweet. If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith you know that’s not a word one would usually use to describe his work.
Kevin Smith shows a lot of the ways he’s grown as a film maker in this movie. For one it looks like a real movie (He himself readily admits he’s good at people talking, not much else), more so than any of his other films. It’s also refreshing to see obviously well known and talented stars spewing Smiths’ words. By casting Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen and allowing them to inflect themselves into the dialogue each character actually sounds unique and different bringing a whole new level to Smith’s work and making the central romance come alive in a truly effective way.
At least for me though, I think the thing that works better than anything else is the story of the characters actually making the umm…. movie. If you know anything about Smith’s career you’ll recognize that in a lot of ways he is recounting what he did to make CLERKS. In doing so he does a great job of showing how such a hair-brained, wild idea brought a bunch of people together by struggling through the various ups and downs of trying to make anything that could be considered art (I’m not saying that’s what adult cinema is, it’s just the device Smith uses to get such ideas across). Having made a movie within the last 6 months that, more than anything else really spoke to me and got me right where I lived. Those emotions that come with embarking on such an endeavor are such a hard thing to capture yet somehow Smith managed to do it.
This film is very much like every other movie Kevin Smith has ever made and yet in a lot of ways so much more as well. I love all of Kevin Smith’s work and the more films he makes the harder I find it to figure out which ones I like better than the others. While no matter what I will always hold CHASING AMY as his master work this one definitely goes up there with the likes of CLERKS II and DOGMA and over time I may find that it surpasses even those. Sorry to go on so long but I really love this movie.

GRAN TORINO: Many have speculated that this may very well be Clint Eastwood’s last film as an actor and if that be the case I can’t think of a more fitting swan song to end one of the greatest screen careers of all time. The fact that this movie got completely shutout of the Oscar nominations shows just how moronic the Academy can be.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that the script for this movie isn’t one of the most complex things ever written, in fact the entire film hangs on one thing; Eastwood. If not for his brilliant turns both behind and in front of the camera this movie may very well play as nothing more than an overripe after school special. However, what sets it apart and makes it one of the truly great films of 2008 is the way Eastwood uses it to deconstruct his vigilante, Dirty Harry like persona that he spent so many years building up on the big screen. In many ways this film is the perfect companion piece to Eastwood’s beyond amazing UNFORGIVEN in which he did the same thing to his Spaghetti Western, Man With No Name alter-ego.
Going in I didn’t expect to like this movie nearly as much as I did. Walking out of it I was blown away by the brutally precise way Eastwood dissected the fallacies behind what made him such a legend, in turn because he like so many others provided the cut and dry, might makes right solutions American society was clamoring for. Decades removed from those characters and looking at their influence on society and vice-versa Eastwood has turned in easily one of the greatest performances and greatest films of his career.


Anonymous said...

Totally missed out on Let The Right One In, this is the first I ever heard of it. Off to Netflix.......

I met Smith a few times and he's probably one of the most confident public speakers I've ever come into contact with. He's one of those people who you can put you with any group and everyone will end up loving him in the end, I think that everyman quality really comes across in his pictures and I hope he never loses it.

Anonymous said...

I just saw Gran Turino and I was suprised at how funny it was without being overtly comedic.

Adam said...


Couldn't agree more on Gran Torino being hilarious. I wasn't expecting that at all. It ended up being one of the funniest films I saw in 2008.


Anonymous said...

I wish more films would surprise you like that, I just thought it would be a simple revenge story from the trailers I saw beforehand and not as nuanced as it turned out to be.