As always, links to the other sections are appended at the bottom, and if there’s a film you hold in high regard, do go ahead and leave any suggestions in the comments.
Since I’ve summarized the thematic point of the film, you should no longer feel obligated to watch it. It’s
Thirst (u1) –
A few words I would use to describe Thirst: humorous, violent, playful, seductive, erotic, extravagant, elegant, mesmerizing, gonzo. A tale about a struggling religious man that never fully commits to its religious underbelly (Park Chan-Wook is not, as far as anyone knows, a Christian), it nonetheless draws upon the legend of the vampire as a metaphor for the baser primal instincts latent in all men, the id which wages a savage war for dominance with the hero’s waning Catholicism. It employs special effects rarely but effectively, has the best, most justified sex scene ever for what that’s worth, and couldn’t possibly close in more spectacular fashion.
Old review here. Top Secret! makes Monty Python’s Holy Grail look slow and dull and dated. No other film has such a sustained and rapid onslaught of visual jokes except for maybe Scott Pilgrim, which undercuts its own appeal by aiming so much humor squarely at nerds and hipsters.
People masquerading as critical consumers of media automatically (and quite stupidly) dismiss this as a stupid Michael Bay movie, but nobody rolls out a slicker Bayhem movie than the Bay himself, and Transformers undeniably crushes all alternatives in straight-up, effects-driven action movies. Just see the highway chase with Bonecrusher barreling through a truck, the opening assault on the Qatar base, or the shot of Ironhide blasting himself off the ground to avoid incoming missiles and a screaming woman. Even the cheesy and very well-worn subplot of dorky nerd Sam Witwicky trying to impress hot car mechanic Megan Fox has grown on me with repeated viewings. All this is topped off with one of the most epic-sounding, dramatic, woefully underrated scores ever. You’d have to wear a Decepticon sticker on your car to not appreciate this modern classic in waiting.
12 Monkeys –
The Vengeance Trilogy (u1) –
Taken collectively, these are the best films I’ve ever seen in terms of film form. Orson Welles is always credited with inventing the cinematic toolbox, but Park Chan-Wook has built much greater wonders using the same tools. Like Welles, Park underwent no formal film schooling, studying philosophy in college, and actually busied himself outside of directing with writing essays and film critiques. Knowing nothing of his personal background while watching the trilogy, it didn’t surprise me to learn afterwards that he counts Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Vonnegut among his major influences, as all three movies deal in the kind of high drama, dark comedy, and flexible narration those older writers mastered. To say a brief word about each film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a tightly scripted, starkly photographed thriller wherein every character action is justified, makes perfect sense, and contributes to an escalating trail of violence. Oldboy is the comic-book movie to end all lazy comic-book movies, running circles around American action flicks with parallel imagery, in-camera transitions, stunning long takes, and almost every other trick in the book. Lady Vengeance falls somewhere between them both, starting out as perhaps the most confusing and stylized of the bunch before transfiguring into the most contemplative, harrowing film of the series. I could write pages upon pages about every aspect I loved in each one’s framing, editing, scoring, cinematography, and writing, but for now I’ll simply exhort you to order the Blu-ray or pull Oldboy up on Netflix, which looks about the same. Since they’re not a trilogy proper but an accidental sequence of thematically related dramas, you can really watch them in whatever order pleases you – alone, without your kids or friends, because they’re rated R for many, many reasons.
Would Victoria be as impressive a film if it wasn’t captured in an unbroken two-hour take and just shot traditionally? As to this we can only speculate, but it is marvelously structured as a thriller and I wouldn’t expect it to weaken on repeat viewings, unlike Birdman, which uses its faux-one-shot grandstanding as a smokescreen for an insufferably masturbatory script. The flashing lights and drowning bass of a transportive nightclub beckon viewer and young heroine alike into a sensual underworld, demanding to be seen and heard in the same darkness that engulfs the characters.
Walk the Line –
Walk the Line doesn’t break any new ground in how to structure an artistic genius story: you’ve got the detached husband who dreams of making it big and the wife who wants him to choose a safer, family-centered career, montage sequences of said husband rising into stardom, drug addiction, infidelity, beautiful romantic interest who’s “too afraid to fall in love”, lots of movie-ish stuff we’ve seen before. Rarely are these stock components executed as movingly as they are in Walk the Line. I’m not sure how much of it is factual, but given that it’s based on Johnny Cash’s autobiography, I doubt that any of it was meant to besmirch his legacy. I would recommend this film to anyone who thinks that country music has always sucked, or who thinks that Straight Outta Compton or Pitch Perfect were aca-effing-mazing. Not only would they hear a splendid recreation of the sound of Johnny Cash and June Carter, but they’d also get to see one of the most versatile actors ever, Joaquin Phoenix, turn into a complete and utter wreck on camera. And people think that Leo gets cheated at the Oscars.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit –
Still a better love story than Twilight, and the cool thing is that Aardman Studios actually took a story about a wererabbit somewhat seriously. “I have two – one golden bullet left.”
We Need To Talk About Kevin (u1) –
We Need To Talk About Kevin (u1) –
Beautiful, tragic, grim, and more disturbing in a real-world sense than most anything since Silence of the Lambs, Kevin delivers a powerful meditation on pure evil, whether it exists as an entity in itself or is merely inculcated by external causes. Lynne Ramsay doesn’t make films often, but when she does they are astounding.