F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 26, 2013)

26 04 2013

I’ve now (finally) caught up with David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Dr.”  Those films have given me an idea of what the term Lynchian really means.  Yet while both of those movies have their merits, the director made an entirely different movie called “The Straight Story” that’s virtually unrecognizable in his ouvre.

I saw this simple, straightforward film at the age of 7 upon its release in 1999.  Even then, its beauty was not lost on me.  I recently watched it again only to find that my critical instincts from a very young age were completely vindicated, so I figured it would make an excellent pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Though it’s easy enough for a child to understand, this is a film that works for everyone ages 7 to 77.  “The Straight Story” is about family, love, and dedication at its purest.  The late Richard Farnsworth, nearing the end of his life as the movie was shot, pours his heart and soul into the role of Alvin Straight.  He’s a simple country man in deteriorating health unable to drive a car to visit his ailing and estranged brother, Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton).

But that doesn’t stop the iron-willed Alvin.  He decides to buy a tractor and drive it from his home in Iowa all the way up to Lyle in Wisconsin.  At a speed of never more than 6 miles per hour, Alvin and his trailer chug through America’s heartland.  Along the way, he meets fascinating people that give the journey a powerful emotional component.

Lynch has called “The Straight Story” his most experimental film, a strange distinction given some of the bizarre things that have happened in some of his other movies.  However, the film isn’t merely worth remembering due to the fact that the raw, unadulterated compassion is emanating from David Lynch.  It’s one of  the sweetest, most heartfelt films I’ve ever seen from any filmmaker, period.  This is the ultimate family movie, so gather everyone around the television and watch it with the whole crew.

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REVIEW: Side by Side

18 12 2012

Side by SideIf you are a film buff, “Side by Side” is a documentary that is totally up your alley.

If you just enjoy watching movies for fun, “Side by Side” will easily raise you up to aficionado level on the craft of cinema.

If you don’t like movies at all, why would you consider watching a movie, especially one about movies, in the first place … and why would you have even made it this far into my review?

Christopher Kenneally’s doc about the Digital Revolution’s impact on how film is made and watched is insightful and captivating for anyone who cares about film at all.  If you don’t, again, I’m not sure how much this will work for you.  The film doesn’t preach to the converted, but rather to the convertible.  But it also manages to never feel like pandering to those with less knowledge.  I even thought I was very well-informed on the subject and found that I knew a whole lot less than I thought.

And right around the moment you might feel that “Side by Side” is playing to a level beneath you, the film geek inside will be tickled with excitement by seeing one of your favorite directors come on screen to opine on the matter.  From James Cameron to Christopher Nolan to David Fincher to Martin Scorsese, this movie has got some major talent to back up any claim it wants to make.

Then again, it also has bizarre appearances by Lena Dunham and Greta Gerwig.  Not exactly authoritative figures on these issues, but they add some nice entertainment value.  As does producer and narrator Keanu Reeves, who makes his first meaningful contribution to the cinema since “The Matrix.”  (Side note: he’s seriously disappeared from the movies these days.)

There are so many changes occurring so rapidly in the film industry, and “Side by Side” does a great job at trying to hit on all of them.  I really enjoyed taking in the full scope of all the enormous adjustments having to be made, but I also wish I could have gotten to learn a few of them in more depth rather than getting a cursory overview on several more.  Perhaps this calls for a sequel?  What do you say, Keanu, how about “Side by Side Reloaded” and “Side by Side Revolutions?”  B+3stars