The Dark Knight. Second viewing. (The first). It’s not good enough to carry its thematic weight. But Ledger is brilliant. That scene meeting with the mob… (“You’re crazy.” / “I’m not. No. I’m not.”) …chills.
Knight of Cups. After I watched it I wrote some snarky tweets rolling my eyes at this movie having beautiful people walking aimlessly. I meant it, and I also still liked it. The interiority that’s getting stronger in his films is interesting for me. Not so much just watching the characters but riding along with them. Also, he’s the only person making weird idiosyncratically Malickian movies with big names, whenever he feels like it. However he’s getting it done, respect. Filed under: Terrence Malick.
Public Enemies. I love how so many people get to “lead” in this movie, though Depp is still at the heart of it. Forgot about the brief Channing Tatum scene. The arrest/trasnport/imprisonment scenes have some nice echoes of Kit Carruthers, the charisma and confidence. “We’re having too good of a time today; we’re not thinking about tomorrow.”
American Psycho. Great example of how a movie can depict the absolute worst human being and make it enjoyable. A tale of hyper-masculine narcissism and sociopathy. Status envy. The recitations of facts, routines, brands and such, all that cataloging reminded me of… Walt Whitman? Bale’s character develops in only one direction, but he gives it his all.
3:10 to Yuma (2007). Well, Russell Crowe is no Glenn Ford, but who is. Loved the original movie, which fleshes out the very short story really well. This movie adds in a bit too much extra material for me, which dissipates the tension. Good, though. Themes of pride, circumstance, honor. Love this line on insurance/forced retirement, basically: “They weren’t paying me to walk away; they were paying me so they could walk away.” Filed under: westerns.
The Dark Knight. Re-watched to re-evaluate. Individual performances are great but as a whole it’s just… ¯(ツ)/¯
American Hustle. Disappointed with the ending, but that’s heist movies for ya. I should note that most of my disappointment was because most of the movie has such an enjoyable, playful ambiguity to it. You spend so much time on your toes, wondering what these folks are really up to, because there’s no real obvious villain or goal, and then it all wraps up too neatly for my taste. But Amy Adams is so good, the sets and stuff are a trip, and there’s some fun visual gags in there. I’d also recommend David O. Russell’s Three Kings, which has a lot of the same energy and restlessness.
Public Enemies. It’s a good ride, and it’s greatest charm and greatest flaw is that it doesn’t have a big arc to it. It’s not dramatic. Fine by me. This is a movie about a single-minded, short-sighted guy, told directly. I’d love to see Johnny Depp in more movies like this (i.e. non-comedy, non-Burton). Not sure about the very last scene, but I’ll give it to him.
Time for updated Michael Mann rankings. The top 3 are set, for sure. The others fluctuate day to day:
The Prestige. Themes: obsession, sacrifice, craft, identity, showmanship, revenge, deceit, science as magic, etc. It’s a little mechanical and maybe overstuffed, but always interesting. Hugh Jackman is excellent. I expect viewers would either love or hate the ending, in which the inevitable is delayed while the story is re-told and all is explained. I kinda hate that, but I should have expected as much. I guess that’s Nolan’s own prestige moment? I get really annoyed when you watch a movie and then, near the end, the movie tells you about the story that happened that you didn’t know about. (Yeah, I know I complained about this recently.) Good twists are fine, but they always make me wonder how you could tell the same story in an engaging way while sharing more details with the audience up front. Isn’t it also fun when we know something the other characters don’t?
I’ve now seen all of Christopher Nolan’s feature-length movies. Here’s how they stack up for me right now:
The New World. In which the title is a metaphor. Terrence Malick is a seductive director. I thought it started a little conventionally, but partway in, it turned into something special. You’re forced to set aside Disney memories and whatever historical précis you’ve got leftover from school. Interesting to see what expected bits of history and relationship development that he delays or leaves out completely, or proceeds quickly through and moves on. Lots of amazing nature scenes and life out of doors. I love the contrast of Smith’s time in the lush forests, and then the return to grey, denuded, muddy Jamestown. Malick uses narration again, which is kind of a clever cheat. You allow characters to voice their thoughts over visuals, and that keeps you from having to dialogue all the time. Couple that with the often elliptical camera–characters rarely face to face, often staggered in distance or in gentle motion, seen over-the-shoulder or trailing behind–you just get to gaze and treat your eyes and ears. I like Ebert’s observation: “The events in his film, including the tragic battles between the Indians and the settlers, seem to be happening for the first time.” Right now I think Days of Heaven is still my favorite Malick, with Badlands coming in close third.