Movies I've Watched
Movies from 2015
Love & Mercy
Dir. Bill Pohlad, 2015
Paul Dano and John Cusack offer top-notch, maybe even career-best, work as Beach Boys braintrust and resident genius, Brian Wilson, during two pivotal periods of his life.
Dano is the Wilson in command of the recording studio, declining to tour with his brothers and the band in order to stay back and make what would become Pet Sounds, one of the great albums in Rock 'n' Roll history. Stress, familial strife, experimentation with drugs all mix in with a budding mental health issues and all are evident in Dano's performance. The Dano segment of the film also contains some of the most realistic, fascinating music-making I've seen on a non-documentary.
Cusack plays Wilson circa the mid-1980s, a man looking to escape a hell of mental illness and medication, tightly controlled by his psychiatrist/manager, Eugene "Gene" Landy (Paul Giamatti). When he wanders out to buy a car one day, Wilson meets the person who would change his life for the better, forever in Melinda Kae Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Cusack nails every nuance and emotion the real-life Wilson must have felt. And the result of his segment is as satisfyingly triumphant as biopics get. ★★★ 1/2
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2015
What more can be said. It's the most fun I've had at a movie all year. Full (No Spoilers!) review here.
The Hateful Eight
(70mm Roadshow Version)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2015
My favorite (and really only) Christmas present to myself was Advance tickets to Tarantino's Roadshow. It is every bit as sharp as you'd think and works as an interesting experiment in filming interiors. That image is wide and deep and so rich. I'm at a bit of a loss as to where I exactly stand on the movie as a whole, as a story. I refuse to write a full review until I see it again (probably when it comes to a standard wide release). It's so worth seeing (and see it in this 70mm widescreen format!!) for the spectacle alone. It's funny and stylish, as expected, but I just left without much of an emotional response to the story. And I felt the same way about Django Unchained, a film that has grown on me with subsequent viewings.
Tarantino (A Brief Retrospective)
For my next Directed by... post, I've changed my mind. I briefly started a David Fincher retrospective, but I sort of fell out on it, got all geared up for The Hateful Eight, and my wife and I decided to jump into a few Tarantino titles. The plan is to go through the rest and see the latest again and get to ranking/writing. Consider this a preview of that project.
One small motif I want to hit on with these watches is Tennessee as a geographical point of interest. Tarantino was born in Knoxville (where I was raised and currently live). He references Knoxville, or another city in Tennessee, in nearly every one of his films (Reservoir Dogs being the most abstract and presumptive. None at all in Kill Bill.). It's fun, for us East Tennesseans, to have that connection with his films. And I think it's no accident that Knoxville (by far the smallest city to get his Roadshow) was on the list for The Hateful Eight on film.
I'll start that here with the first three we watched.
Christopher Walken's cameo as Vietnam POW Cpt. Koons reveals to a young Butch Coolidge (the Bruce Willis character) that his family heirloom was purchased in "at a little general store in Knoxville...Tennessee." We know where it was hidden. Later, Butch is heard on the phone talking about collecting his winnings from a bookie in Knoxville.
Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is a hard-ass hillbilly in the business of "killin' Nazis." He tells Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) where he's from. Landa in interested. "Maynardville, Tennessee," he says. That's a small rural community about 30 miles from my house. We play their schools in basketball. I know them. A man like Raine would most certainly come from there.
Is there ever a wrong use of Don Johnson? His cameo as Big Daddy, the Tennessee Plantation owner, is one of the best things about the movie. Now, let's be clear, they didn't shoot that in Tennessee. See the Spanish Moss on the trees? That's Louisiana. There's also a mention of a plantation in Gatlinburg, a city in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. There was never a cotton plantation of any kind there. It's too mountainous.
I Heart Huckabees
Dir. David O. Russell, 2004
"And even tinier connections." - Bernard Jaffe
"And even tinier cracks." - Tommy Corn
Not as good as it once was. I connected better as a younger man. But still a zany, clever ride of a comedy. Mark Wahlberg really makes the movie.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Dir. Peter Weir, 1975
"Everything begins...and ends...at exactly the right time...and place." - Miranda
A second watch was irresistible. I am so in love with this film. Blind Spot post drops Tuesday morning.
The Color Purple
Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1985
"I curse you. Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!" - Celie
This movie is absolutely beautiful. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, triumphant. Ugly cry face multiple times. So much love.
Sati really dug The Force Awakens.
Dell has plenty of Christmas love, if you're still feeling festive.
I have seen 220 movies this year so far.
2015 Releases - 29
Re-Watched - 82
First-Timers - 109
What have you been watching?