Saturday, May 30, 2009

"what are you gonna do now, charlie?"

since i'm taking my last few days' worth of break before i dive into the next section of my thesis (i did try going straight from 1980 to 1899 but then my brain started to creak and i thought that was a bad sign), i've had time to watch a few movies.

so, for televisual entertainment last weekend, anna and i had between us the proposition and state & main. i got to see both; anna only got to watch the second one due to work schedules.

state & main was okay. from my point of view, it never stopped being a movie -- none of the characters made me forget they were characters and while some of them were quite fun -- philip seymour hoffman, william h. macy -- others were just caricatures -- whatever baldwin that was (alec, i think), sarah jessica parker. and i understand that being a caricature was the point of their existence, but it sort of left me a bit cold. i mean, why bother caring about caricatures? unless there's something behind it which the caricature act is working to cover, hide, or protect, why should i get invested? it was funny, but since the entire ending of the movie depends on a giant sleight of hand trick on the part of the story.... i'm less than thrilled by movies which have to resort to that kind of thing in order to get their point across. if nothing else, i'm rarely ever convinced that it would work for the characters.

on the other hand, for my money the proposition was great stuff. very simple, very quiet. guy pearce, ray winstone, danny huston -- convinced yet? emily watson, david wenham? there we go.  

that said, fair warning: it's kinda violent. but i described it to someone as being "completely in-character violence." it would actually be ridiculous for these men in this situation to behave in much of any other way. given that it's mid-nineteenth century australia (not on anyone's top ten of nice places throughout history), they're actually kind of restrained. with the warnings i'd gotten on the movie from my parents, i was prepared for something dripping blood, torture, and mutilation and, really, it isn't like that. the violence is actually quite startling when it happens because you almost start to hope that it won't -- which is part of the point. when ray winstone says at the beginning of the film, "i'm going to civilize this country," i took it with a hefty helping of cynicism but part of what the film very effectively questions is what civilization looks like -- and how it gets to look like that. 

there's also some lovely photography -- guy pearce's travelling out into the desert in search of his brother is beautifully put together. the music took a little getting used to; i was expecting some kind of either period or generic "classical" soundtrack and, instead, there are some very creepy vocal pieces as well as instrumentals. it's worth keeping an eye on the filters used, too; my father pointed out that, just as the underworld movies are married to the green/blue filters, the proposition is married to an amber/sepia filter.

and through the week i half-watched, half-read through the breed and the last winter. the latter was disappointing; ron perlman could have done so much better. it came across like someone threw the first resident evil movie,  john carpenter's the thing, the blob, the birds, an algernon blackwood short story called "the wendigo," and a couple of other things in a blender, hit "shred," and called it a day. the biggest disappointment about it is that it could have been really good but where it has a chance to step up and do something nifty, it fails. the breed was your average "there are crazy animals attacking the young pretty people" horror flick; crazy dogs, in this case. beautiful dogs, for the most part, and completely unbelievably crazy; they were wagging their tails far too much to be believably rabid. that said, it was kind of fun; at least it didn't take itself too seriously and michelle rodriguez is photogenic enough to keep my attention. 

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