Gravity

Gravity. It’s definitely worth seeing. Very stressful in an entertaining way. Gotta respect a movie with moments where just grabbing a rail feels like the most important thing in the universe. It’s a steady sequence of disasters and new problems. The special effects are just tremendous. I love the way Cuarón plays with the sound, changing with the environment or how the camera or the viewpoint would experience it. The score is omnipresent, for better or worse, depending on how you feel about that sort of thing, but I liked its spacy abstraction.

The writing is a real weakness I was willing to ignore in the moment, but made me sour a little bit when thinking back. The plotsplaining was a bit tedious at times (“But now we have to do X, but we have to look out for Y.”, or “It’s getting really hot in here!”), and there’s some backstory and associated melodrama that probably could have been excised, but it’s a popcorn genre film, sooooo whatever. Deal.

Solaris (2002)

Solaris (2002). I really liked the Tarkovsky version of the novel, and Soderbergh’s is very good, too. It’s more trim and spare. What I really loved was the sound throughout. Footsteps, rustle of clothing, breath. And that soundtrack! Cliff Martinez to the rescue again (see: Drive; Contagion). So perfect. That said, the script is a little painful here and there. What are you gonna do? At least the ideas about memory, empathy, regret, etc. are evergreen.

There’s not a single dud in any of the Soderbergh films I’ve seen lately. Looking forward to more. My current rankings:

  1. Haywire
  2. Out of Sight
  3. Solaris
  4. Contagion
  5. Ocean’s Trilogy, which I don’t remember all that well, honestly.

The American

The American. It seems that critics are a bit mixed, but I’m with Ebert: I loved this one. It got billed as a semi-action-thriller. Yeah, there’s some killin’, but this is really more of a slow-burning mood piece like Le Samouraï. Or, say, a Sergio Leone western – there’s even a scene with the Once Upon a Time in the West McBain massacre playing in the background. This is not (just) about assassins doing jobs, but about an existential crisis–I detect some parallels in In Bruges, and in film noir like Blast of Silence and my beloved Out of the Past. Except this is set in sunny Italy. Great photography, absolute minimal soundtrack.

Some obvious detractions are the heavy-handed dialogue with the priest and also the–yep–hooker with a heart of gold. But still. Master craftsmanship from Anton Corbijn. I’ll probably watch it again soon. Coincidentally, the only movie I watched twice last year was Clooney’s Michael Clayton. The guy’s got great taste.

Three Kings

Three Kings. The setting is Iraq at the end of the Gulf War, when bored/greedy soldiers go in search of stolen Kuwaiti gold and get in over their heads. It veers from buddy-movie hijinks to touching moments to graphic battle scenes and never rests, never goes wrong. Very highly recommended. Ebert says.