12 November 2011

Catching Up, Round Three: Movies I've Watched Here Lately

I've watched quite a few movies recently. Let's dive right in. Shall we?

Moneyball (2011) - Dir. Bennett Miller; Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

I, for one, find baseball statistics fascinating. Of all the reviews I've seen of this film, the most oft-heard comment is that this movie makes something boring entertaining. I agree, but that is not what I was thinking about as I watched. What I was thinking was how great a performance Brad Pitt gives as Oakland A's General Manager, Billy Beane. I truly believe what Beane has done there really has revolutionized the inner-workings of baseball teams in many ways. And this movie about it is one of the best movies of the year.

50/50 (2011)- Dir. Jonathan Levine; Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick

My girlfriend described this movie as "an experience of the whole range of emotions." When the characters laugh, we laugh. When the characters cry, we cry. This is what makes a movie good: a response of feeling. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a twenty-something dude who gets cancer. Sad and depressing, right? Wrong. Seth Rogen is in it. And Anna Kendrick. Both play important people in the life of this young man, best-friend and shrink respectively. Both light up the screen. Lively and funny, a little bit sad, funny again, a little bit sad, funny again: a roller coaster. But that is precisely what Amanda and I both liked about this film.  Leaving the theater after 50/50 was over, I felt as if I had experienced a true connection with these characters, true emotions, a truer movie than most "true" movies.

Clerks. (1994) - Dir. Kevin Smith; Starring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes

I have a list that I made when I first starting dating Amanda. This was nearly two years ago, and it contained about 40-50ish movies. We have made it down to the very end. We have about ten left at this point.  Clerks was on the list, but I didn't have the DVD. Therefore, finding in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart was a blessing to us. Kevin Smith's original, dirty, grungy, talky debut has now reached cult-classic level. It is really a crappy movie. It looks awful, sounds awful, many of the "actors" are horrible. But, then again, I think look awful and sound awful was the mantra of Generation X, and Clerks, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of that scene, that time. It is about the people who made it. It is incredibly funny. I laugh out loud still after seeing it 50 times. The dialogue is so great that I quote it when it's over. I want to watch it again.

Swingers (1996) - Dir. Doug Liman; Starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston

I figured since I was on a kick of watching movies I used to watch in college, memorize, and recite with my friends while drunk #Clerks., I may as well introduce Amanda to Swingers as well. It is "so money, baby." It's a Hollywood movie about Hollywood, but there is no glitz or glamour. We follow a group of struggling young actors, played by emerging actors at the time (Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau), who have now gone on to great success, trying to simply make it. One of them, Mike (Favreau), has only been out West for a little while. He broke up with his girlfriend of six years. He is depressed and struggling, hosts an open mic at a small comedy club. He and his friends, led by Trent (Vince Vaughn), skip from party to party trying to meet women, get connected, staying sober enough (most of the time) to maybe make an audition the next day. All we see is the nightlife. Small clubs and bars. A very cool Old Hollywood vibe. Great conversations about how long to wait to call a "baby" after you get her number...among many others. It is a very funny movie! I'll leave you with a quote, "Vegas, baby!"

Red State (2011) - Dir. Kevin Smith; Starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman

I follow Kevin Smith news online fairly closely. He does things in a very interesting way. He basically promotes his own movies, makes them cheap. He does a podcast, which is often very funny. He pretty much maintains a fair amount of success by promoting himself. He is, first and foremost, a comedy man. That he has made a movie like Red State is awesome. His latest movie, it strikes such a stark difference to his first movie (see Clerks.), it is incredible. Red State is an all-out thriller. It is non-stop action and violence. It has much to say about religious fanatics by examining a cult-like Christian "family," radicals, who have no trust in or respect for life outside of their "community." A group I liken to those religious groups that go out and protest at funerals because we are all sinners. A fairly conservative friend of mine was saying something the other day about Christianity being "under attack" in this country. I don't quite believe that to be true, but I think that there are Christians out there who have lost sight of what it is they are truly trying to achieve thus bringing the attack on themselves. Kevin Smith sees this and comments on it with this film. By far, his darkest. And as far as his work as a director goes, his best.

J. Edgar (2011) - Dir. Clint Eastwood; Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts

The things that most people think about when they hear the name J. Edgar Hoover are as follows: FBI, Lindbergh baby, cross-dressing. That's pretty much what I knew about the man when I walked into Clint Eastwood's masterful new biopic. Leo plays the man at various points in his life spanning over fifty years. Armie Hammer (who should along with Leo win an Oscar nomination next year) plays Clyde Tolson, who would become J. Edgar's right-hand man in the Bureau and his companion as well. Yes. The notion that J. Edgar Hoover was homosexual is not glossed over here, yet it is handled in an incredible way, a believable way. Naomi Watts (as Helen Gandy), Hoover's life-long personal assistant, and Judi Dench (as Hoover's mother) round out the inner-circle of trust. They are both terrific here as well. It is rare to see a movie that spans such a long period of time. It is even more rare for it to be believable. It's a long movie (and needs to be) and is made longer by its slow-pacing, which keeps it from greatness, but it is well worth seeing. There will not be much better acting this year.

The Breakfast Club (1985) - Dir. John Hughes; Starring Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy

John Hughes movies just never get old. I could watch The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles once a week for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. The man had an unreal knack for getting inside the emotions, hopes, dreams, fears, etc. of the teenaged mind. Watching The Breakfast Club all the way through un-edited for TV was like a stroll down memory lane. When I was a budding young movie-buff, this was one of the first movies I felt connected to. It seemed important even when I was just 13 or 14-years-old. It is truly timeless. And despite a few over-the-top scenes very true and believable. It is iconic in its images. The dance sequence on the library railing. The Wang Chung on the soundtrack as they try to allude Mr. Vernon in the hallway. The incredible dialogue. The one location. Only ten actors. It's a stage play that works as a movie. It is funny, sad, dark, light, and a true depiction of stereotyping at its worst. It is so great! And classic!

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