The Loveless

The Loveless. Gotta admit I got really restless watching this one. Funny to see old fashion from yesteryear that’s still around today, but the cultural associations are so different. I love Willem Dafoe. Another willfully slow-paced and stylish movie with a hero on the fringe: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Easy Rider is a better movie focused on bikers. Can I count The Place Beyond the Pines, too? And yeah, Sherlock Jr. has one of the best motorcycle scenes you’ll ever see.

Blue Steel

Blue Steel. It took me a while to realize I’d seen big chunks of this one before. Jamie Lee Curtis is a cop with itchy trigger finger issues, but she’s also in a frame and no one believes her! Interesting to watch this in the wake of The Thin Blue Line and see how easily cops are over-committed to their early suspicions and prejudices. Slowly catching up on Kathryn Bigelow films. She’s good.

Strange Days

Strange Days. The last movie I watched in 2014. The setting is a dark and messy L.A. where the go-to underground drug is VR “playback” of other people’s recorded first-person thrills. All the stuff with rampant police abuse, violence for entertainment, and mediated experience seemed relevant today. It’s one of those where I love the world they built in the early parts of the movie, but didn’t have much interest in the story they developed from there. Love the closing song. My Kathryn Bigelow rankings:

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Point Break
  3. The Hurt Locker
  4. Strange Days

She’s really damn good.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty. I can’t think of many movies with such a steady build-up. Really well done. Setting aside any moral/political/veracity issues you may like to bring up, what I really loved was the simplicity of the plotline. Like Steven Shaviro wisely points out (must read, I say), it’s a procedural film. There are people who want to locate a man. It’s really difficult. They spend a decade working on it. Although we have a single protagonist, there’s no love interest. There are only hints at a personal life, mostly so the possibility can be downplayed. (I actually thought some of the weakest, most embarrassing moments were when Chastain was showed some ‘tude, like in the hallway confrontation and the writing on the office window. The script just wasn’t built for it.) There’s no sabotage, no competitors, just work. Oh, and chronic failure. And somehow it didn’t feel like 2.5 hours! All the plot resistance comes from the difficulty of the task itself and bosses who like good work, sure, but demand incredibly great work. In the end, after all the collaboration, the actual fulfillment of the mission is completely out of our heroine’s hands. She just watches and listens, like us. And what’s interesting from a filmmaking standpoint, is that climax is pretty dry, detailed, by-the-book. There’s no personal bloodlust, just well-rehearsed and well-executed teamwork. The movie progress from the horrific, emotional opening, through a couple hours of procedural drudgery, to an incredibly competent raid. By the time we get to the end of the movie (sort of like how we might have felt by the end of the manhunt in real life), the ending lacks much triumph or satisfaction. Everything zipped up. On to the next. Like the heroine, I just felt drained.

While we’re on the topic, I remember the song I was listening to when I heard that Bin Laden had been killed: Marvin Gaye’s If I Should Die Tonight. It was a strange night, wasn’t it?