Virtual Bourgeois

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Archive for June, 2017

Summer Movies 2017 #1

Posted by Gerald on June 1, 2017

2017 Summer Movie #1 – From Caligari to Hitler (Rüdiger Suchsland, 2014): Summer 2017 Movie #1 – This is a documentary based on a 1947 book which analyzed Weimar era German film to show elements of Nazism. I’ve not read the book, but the film loses that thesis repeatedly – and often to its benefit. The film is really at its best when analyzing popular genres of Weimar movies and bringing in elements of cultural and social history. It suffers from a lack of structure but has enough interesting details to make it worth watching.

2017 Summer Movie #2 – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder, 2016): Okay, I’ve finally seen it. I’m sorry, but I just don’t like Zack Snyder’s version of all of this. Martha Kent telling Clark he doesn’t owe the world anything… A middle-aged Batman who is still primarily motivated by his parent’s deaths… a long and grinding series of fights mostly motivated by everyone’s daddy issues… a big funeral scene for a character no one in the audience really believes is dead… Not really exciting, fun, or thought provoking. I’m hoping Wonder Woman might work.

2017 Summer Movie #3 – Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016): Figured I’d get them both in today. The humor wasn’t funny enough, the action wasn’t thrilling enough, the drama wasn’t moving, and the ending was just terrible.

2017 Summer Movie # 4 – The Seven Five (Tiller Russell, 2014): This is a decent documentary about a famous police corruption case in NYC. Frankly, if you watch this sort of thing you’ve probably seen this before – interviews with cops and crooks (and cops who were crooks) interspersed with archival footage; the corrupt cops who feel invulnerable because of police loyalty right up until The Thing happens that brings it all down; the central figure who lies so well you can’t tell whether he is lying to himself or just to everyone else and who may not know himself, all building up to the final fall and then credits backed by a Rolling Stones song that references New York. This is at its most interesting when it deals with the complex negotiation of loyalty and morality these guys use to justify what they did.

2017 Summer Movie #5 – CBGB (Randall Miller, 2013): I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Given the comic-book framing device it used (I get why it was used, but it didn’t really work well) I suppose it makes sense that the film feels more like it has a series of caricatures rather than characters. It just seems to me that there was a fascinating subject here and some good acting talent on hand, but the film-makers did little with them.

2017 Summer Movie #6 – Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa, 1965): If you know Kurosawa from “Seven Samurai” or “Yojimbo”, this film might be a surprise.  It follows a young doctor in Tokugawa era Japan who winds up working in a clinic in a poor area run by an older doctor (Toshiro Mifune) who becomes his mentor.  There really isn’t a single narrative here so much as a framework that is being used to examine humanism and social injustice.  In the hands of a lesser director this could have been sentimental melodrama but in Kurosawa’s hands it is a thing of beauty.  Great.

2017 Summer Movie #7 – They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray, 1949): Ray’s directorial debut is a film noir about a young couple on the run.  There are many parallels here to Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde”.  It has good performances by Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger as well as some interesting touches, including what seems to have been the first use of a helicopter to capture arial footage of action (as opposed to landscape shots).  Well worth checking out if you like the genre.

2017 Summer Movie #8 – X-Men Apocalypse (Bryan Singer, 2016): Another superhero movie I hadn’t seen yet.  I thought this had some good sequences and performances, but I’m not sure the whole-world-is-in-peril structure can work in every entry in a franchise.  I knew what was going to happen most of the way through the film.  Of course Magneto’s happy family isn’t going to make it, of course Storm will eventually switch sides, of course the Big Bad will be defeated and the world saved.  This is, of course, true of many types of films and sometimes everything else happening makes it all work.  In this case I think it almost worked, but not quite.  I’m glad I saw it, but I didn’t love it.

2017 Summer Movie #9 – Snow Trail (Senkichi Taniguchi, 1947): This was Toshiro Mifune’s film debut and the script was written by Akira Kurosawa.  The story follows three bank robbers attempting to evade police by crossing the mountains in winter.  While there is some action, it isn’t really either a cops-and-robbers movie or a survival film, instead it is mostly about themes of innocence and redemption.  There are some really good landscape and weather scenes and decent performances all around.  If you like Japanese cinema, this is very worth checking out.

2017 Summer Movie #10 – In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950): This is a great movie.  Humphrey Bogart plays a screenwriter with a history of violent outbursts who becomes the suspect in the murder of a young woman.  Gloria Grahame plays a woman who becomes involved with him and is increasingly suspicious about his guilt.  Both are just amazing in this and the film manages to leave you wondering about the truth right up until the end.  If you love film noir and haven’t seen this, do so immediately.

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