May 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)

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Though it was given a wide release in 2012, We Need to Talk About Kevin is another one of the seemingly inexhaustible 2011 films about the coming Armageddon.  We've seen Americana, the working class, and even the whole planet get destroyed in the last year.  This go-around paints the family unit as something which is on the verge of total implosion.  The problem is the difficulties this family faces are so unique to their seemingly demon-infested son that it's hard to feel much of anything once the curtains go up.

Emptiness, yes, but it didn't really come with it a sense of empathy or sadness around the events of the film.  Since We Need to Talk About Kevin mines school shootings for the brunt of its emotional arc my lack of emotion shouldn't really have occurred.  Those events are so pointless and tragic that I understand how a lot of art fails to really capture the feeling of helplessness which comes around the deaths of so many young ones.  The real sadness here is that the film comes so close to understanding the pain of going on from the perspective of the assailant's family, but then gets bogged down in explaining itself.

The first hour of the film is amazing in its ability to completely dislodge our normal sense of perception.  Space and time mean nothing to Eva (Tilda Swinton), the scream of a young child could bring her back to a memory of sitting by the side of the road or partaking in a hellish orgy.  That orgy, the second thing we see in the film after some table setting against soft, billowy curtains, recalls Woodstock '99 and the kind of danger Eva seems to enjoy.  From that point on there is little sense of control over audio or video with the only anchoring point coming from what appear to be present day scenes of Eva trying to get a job and clean paint off of her home.


Goon (2012)

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It's best that you go into Goon knowing little to nothing about hockey.  In fact, if you know anything about hockey just go ahead and try to forget it as soon as the opening credits roll.  Goon is one of those exercises in frustration for those who want a story to hem as close as possible to tradition.  You know, the kind of people who went into a Civil War drama and were upset there weren't the proper number of buttons on the Confederate uniforms.

Those aren't the kind of people who would enjoy Goon anyway.  It's a strangely progressive, exhilarating violent, sweet and funny film I wasn't expecting at all.  The rules and regulations around hockey are tossed around to allow a specific kind of personality to flourish within the system.  This someone happens to be good at dishing out the violence without reveling in it, the kind of natural talent for destruction we sometimes see in kids that they don't grow out of as they get older.  In this case, that talent is wrapped around a damn good guy, and more surprising is that guy is played by Seann William Scott.

Yes, The Stifler finally managed to play a character I could give a damn about beyond whatever the screenwriters threw at him.  His natural penchant for smarmy white middle-class dickishness is completely pushed aside for a character we might have expected Channing Tatum to play a year or two ago.  These days Tatum has shown his strengths playing to broader comedy and romantic dramas while Scott finds himself an excellent talent at the understated kind of sweetness that always seemed too silly in Tatum's hands.

Who knows, maybe if each had the other's career we would remark on the last year as a misstep and the remaining time as a stretch of genius.  But such is the way of film, and I'm glad I have this to watch.


Akria Kurosawa: The Most Beautiful (1944)

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I don't like crippling fear of a director's early films to go to waste, so there was a bit of schadenfreude at myself for liking Sanshiro Sugata so much last week.  Twisty emotions aside, I should have stockpiled that suspicion instead of deeming it completely unnecessary.  Because now we have both seen The Most Beautiful and my fear of a dull and creatively uninteresting feature came a week late.  Now instead of rapt anticipation, I will approach each of the remaining films of Akira Kurosawa's career with dread.

Overdoing it a bit, but it's almost a reflex to the perplexing lack of wartime urgency during the film.  It was made long after the United States had entered the Pacific and made clear they were not going to be resting until Japan's shoreline was theirs.  Since we all have the hindsight of history this obviously turned out to be true.  But even for the Japanese fighting in 1944 it was definitely plausible.

Given the enemy was pretty much right outside their doors the workers and supervisors of The Most Beautiful seem to live in a land plagued by the idea of an enemy instead of one that is an island over.  Kurosawa took a lot of steps to try and make sure there was easy familiarity between all of the cast members to forge as documentary-like an approach as possible.  The ladies of the factory lived together, sometimes worked in the same space for practice, called each other by their character names, and basically tried to forget all about the outside world and focus instead on the fiction of the factory.


Perfect Sense (2011)

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Question - how do you bring an audience to care about a romance in the throes of plot magic?  That mysterious, screenplay-dependent substance has long been the fuel opposites attract plot-lines since cinema sprawled into existence.  I love a good melodrama where the audacity of lovers goes against the machinations and sheer randomness of existence, but I have my limits.  There are films like Perfect Sense, which can't even build that honest attraction to begin with thanks to that plot magic that makes the film possible.

The lovers in question, a chef played by Ewan McGregor and a epidemiologist played by Eva Green, are already stretching the point of romantic credulity during their meet-cute.  He is smoking a cigarette and announces himself as a chef, which in the world of this film amounts to moving fast and talking loudly into an elastic camera while holding a fish.  The chef fares a little better than the scientist, whose screen time in her profession consists mostly of sitting around her improbably handsome scientist cohorts while intoning something bad is happening.

Yes, I would agree if everyone across the world is losing each of their primary senses in rapid succession over a course of a few weeks, something "bad" is happening.


American Warship (2012)

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I don't believe in guilty pleasures.  If, at some point, you feel guilty consuming something than that means someone has either made you feel guilty or there may be some moral aspect of what you're consuming that you haven't considered which will slowly nag away at your soul.  Eternal struggles of morality and ethics aside, it's up to you to defend what you like and why.  Depending on the product I've accepted answers as little as "It was cute" and rejected those in-depth as a treatise from a film theorist.

Asylum's films have been a bit troubling for me given this.  Danny and I endured a number of attempted camp classics they churned out but were instead long-form torture devices of boredom.  But after watching Nazi's at the Center of the Earth my shift changed.  That film had such a go-for-broke aesthetic and flare that the subtext illuminating and targeting the far right of America ended up really engaging, if only on a visceral surface level.