A video on Funny or Die remembered me that I had wanted to watch IDIOCRACY since when I found the DVD in a Wal-Mart in Alabama sixe years ago, and os I decided that the time had come.
This science fiction comedy is at the same time hilarious and terrifying. Hilarious, because the jokes are funny and well played out. Terrifying, because of all science fiction stories, this is probably the most dystopian and most likely to happen of them all.
Go watch this film. It’s got electrolytes!
On the opposite side of the spectrum, compared to Jackie Brown, lies DEATH PROOF, a film that has clearly been made just for fun - the fun of making it and the fun of watching it. Which is not too deep, but it’s still a pretty good reason.
I first saw bits of Death Proof years ago - bits that included the scene in the bar and the final car chase, which culminates in a rather abrupt ending. The way the film ended annoyed me a great deal, but when I rewatched the film this time it did not disturb me - probably exactly because I knew what to expect, so my hopes weren’t set too high.
A fun film with great action - but Tarantino likes to hear himself talk way too much.
I read somewhere that JACKIE BROWN would be Kermode’s favourite Tarantino’s film (although I haven’t found anything written or said directly by him that explores this matter in-depth). I honestly cannot see why. I found this film rather boring and uninspired. Moving on…
IMAX: HUBBLE 3D is one of my favourite films. It is the only film I have seen four times in a cinema - specifically, a the IMAX screen inside the Science Museum in London. I have went there once a year since when it opened in 2010, and I am still not tired of it.
This is the only 3D film of the ten I have seen in my life that uses the third dimension with visible (ha!) results. Unremarkable events like the dressing up of the astronauts suddenly became grandiose with the immersive feeling given by the 3D and the huge screen - it really looks feels as if I was there with them, and that if I stretched my arms I could touch them.
The film follows a group of astronauts on a mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble telescope, and it includes an amazing CGI sequence (available on YouTube with an ominous soundtrack rather than with the beautiful narration provided by Leonardo DiCaprio, unfortunately) that combines several photographs taken by Hubble to create the illusion of space travel.
Everyone from James Cameron to Peter Jackson should take lessons from Toni Myers on how a 3D film is done.
So, after watching Django Unchained, I decided I would fill my gaps in Tarantinology, starting from his oldest films I hadn’t seen and then moving to his most recent.
TRUE ROMANCE is the film he wrote with Roger Avary after Reservoir Dogs and right after Pulp Fiction. The film was notoriously directed instead by Tony Scott, who took a more conservative approach to the script choosing to tell the story in a chronological order rather than what Quentin had originally intended.
The film is relatively short and light hearted despite all the blood and the killing, and plays out as a collection of funny moments involving common characters. I enjoyed it, but by the end of it I felt like I had been told a funny joke rather than watching a proper movie. The most memorable scenes are the one involving Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, which might be viewed as short films on their own.
I wondered if QT ever thought of having Clarence and Alabama in Pulp Fiction in the place of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny? Tha would have made an interesting crossover between the two films - although Tim Roth sure is a thousand times better than Christian Slater.
“Swollen by Tarantino’s usual loquaciousness - there are so any monologue breaks it feels like a toastmasters’ meeting - Django Unchained stretches towards three hours of screen time and has a rambler’s tendency to repeat itself.” - Nick Pinkerton, Sight & Sound February 2013 Vol. 23 Iss. 2, p. 90-91
DJANGO UNCHAINED is the first of Tarantino’s films that I have truly enjoyed in a long time. Kill Bill (the first Tarantino film I ever saw, on DVD at the age of 14) seemed to me to be little more of the B movies it seeked to homage, with gripping action scenes but yet a retarded plot. Then I had the pleasure to see Pulp Fiction, which I have since seen and analysed about four or five times, and I consider to be one of my favourite films of all time. Reservoir Dogs was fun. Of Death Proof I saw only bits of it (and had the same feeling that Kill Bill had given me before - kind of fun but very silly). And then I was deeply disappointed by Inglourious Basterds, which Tarantino himself blatantly described on-screen as his “masterpiece”, whereas I thought it was boring and stupid. It seemed like Quentin had gone down a path in which for him making good cinema coincided with quoting other (better?) films rather than making something really new and intelligent.
So it was with little anticipation that I approached Django - and this was probably the best attititude. The film is way too long - as Kermode says, somewhere in there you could get a good 90 minute movie instead of a 3 hour-long one - but it is fun enough to justify its length. The action is good, the dialogue is good and some scenes are quite memorable. On LWL Jonathan Crocker wrote that “You can’t shake the feeling that Tarantino writes great scenes not great movies”, and to a degree I agree with him, but this time the story feels much less disjointed than it did in that mess of Inglourious Basterds (which can be noted by the absence of Tarantino’s much beloved title cards).
Not the Tarantino film that I wanted then - but a little step forward in the right direction.
”[…] Once past the idée fixe of the Knightley chin, A Dangerous Method is disconcertingly timid, given the subject-matter and the creatives involved. It’s Cronenberg’s least interesting film since M. Butterfly (1993) - not bad exactly, but a quiet, safe period piece, hewn by Christopher Hampton from John Kerr’s book as the sort of tidy historical script a Britflick plodder like Joe Wright, Tom Hooper or John Madden could have done just as well. […] As a study of psychoanalysis, transference, the ethics of acting-out and the dangers of tampering with the mental blocks people use to shore up their daily lives,this is sadly a lot less insightful and on-the-money than The Brood (1979), which made far more of the theatrical drama of revelatory therapy sessions and mind-snapping breakthrough. Given the subject, it’s strange there are no Cronenbergian dream sequences to illustrate the Freudian unconcious or Jungian archetype. The battling photographs of Freud and Jung in Jan Svankmajer’s Surviving Life (2010) remain a more exciting cinematic representation of the differences between the fathers of psychoanalysis than this chatty team.” - Kim Newman, Sight & Sound March 12 Vol. 22 Iss. 3, p. 63-64
Luckily for me, I approached Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD with not too high expectations. The film can be considered an interesting introduction to the lives of Freud and Jung, but after watching it I felt as if I knew less than before. Unfortunately, in fact, the film indulges more on the sexual (romantic?) relationship between Jung and her hysterical patient Sabina, but only scraps the surface of what were the early days of psychoanalysis. For example, although Freud is present for most of the film, I had the feeling that I had berely seen him on scene.
I hope someday someone will go back to these characters and make something of more substance than this sorry excuse for a costume drama.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is a finely shot documentaryabout the life of 85-year-old Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono and of his two sons. Jiro’s tiny subway place is the first sushi restaurant to have been awarded the prestigious three Michelin stars. He is a vary old-style, traditional, even stereotypical Japanese man who lives to work, and has made of his craft the obsession of a lifetime, striving for a perfection that he will never know if he has ever reached or even come close to.
What draw me to watch this documentary was the combination of a friend of mine’s love for sushi and my own fascination wtih Japanese culture. The documentary offers a glimpse into the life of this chef, his culture, his value and how all these have affected the lives of his two sons, who followed in his steps becoming renowed sushi chefs in their own right.
However, it is apparent that the filmmakers either fell in love too much with their subject matter or did not enjoy enough time or space to explore their characters in depth. The film becomes soon repetitive with montages of sushi being made and served to customers, leaving the many questions that a Western viewer might have unanswered. I do not often like Roger Ebert’s reviews, but this time I admit that I couldn’t have found better words to express my ambivalency towards this film:
“This is a portrait of tunnel vision. Jiro exists to make sushi. Sushi exists to be made by Jiro. Do the math. Even at the high prices of his premium fresh ingredients, you realize he must be a rich man. But to what end? The existence of his sons are an indication that he has a wife, although we never see her. He must have a home, although we never visit it. There must be hours when he cannot be at work, but the film indicates no amusements, hobbies or pastimes. The idea of his courtship of his wife fascinates me: forgive me, but I imagine that even while making love, he must be fretting about the loss of valuable sushi-making time.
As a documentary about world-class sushi, this film is definitive. It runs only 81 minutes, but the subject is finite. While watching it, I found myself drawn into the mystery of this man. Are there any unrealized wishes in his life? Secret diversions? Regrets? If you find an occupation you love and spend your entire life working at it, is that enough?
Standing behind his counter, Jiro notices things. Some customers are left-handed, some right-handed. That helps determine where they are seated at his counter. As he serves a perfect piece of sushi, he observes it being eaten. He knows the history of that piece of seafood. He knows his staff has re??cently started massaging an octopus for 45 minutes and not half an hour, for example. Does he search a customer’s eyes for a signal that this change has been an improvement? Half an hour of massage was good enough to win three Michelin stars. You realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.”
I’d heard good things about LOOPER, but I was somewhat sceptical that this science fiction film was actually good. What worried me was the fact that according to the reviews I read this film did not take the time travel plot device too seriously, but rather asked for the viewer to just accept it as it was and to just enjoy the story. As it happens, time travel is one of my favourite science fiction tropes, which however almost always causes the stories it is used in to fall into some kind of plot hole. But the beauty of it is also that it stimulates speculation about what happen if we could move across the 4th dimension. Take away the mechanics of it, and you take away the fun.
I was also worried by the comparisons made with other films such as Blade Runner, which usually to me means that the film struggles to have an identity of its own but rather benefits from the references and comparisons with other, better, original films.
Having now seen the movie, I can safely say that Looper can be forgiven if it doesn’t indulge too much on the how and why of time travel, but rather cuts to the action showing the direct consequences on the characters’ lives.
The film is enjoyable and (kind of) smart, adrressing in its own way the ageless question “would you kill Hitler when he was a child if you could back in time to avoid WW2?”. The characters are interesting, the story is engaging and the action’s good. The most memorable scene for me is the one in which a man exist at the same time as his present and future self, and is shown what happens when the present one is captured and tortured. That was something new that I had never seen before.
I only wish this film had enjoyed a slightly better direction, and got rid of those godaweful, useless voice overs, which fortunately almost disappear after the first few minutes of the film. I also feel like the films somewhat lacks a real finale - I expected an epilogue in which someone (Sara? the Rainmaker?) would make one final time travel again to save Joe. Or maybe it would have been nice if we’d had one of those circular endings hinting that the same or similar events to those just depicted are right around the corner. Time travel stories are so apt to circular endings.