REVIEW: Moonrise Kingdom

17 05 2012

Cannes Film Festival

Wes Anderson made a name for himself on clean, quirky visual style, and “Moonrise Kingdom” forges a further name for the director on that basis. It’s a Wes Anderson movie for people that love Wes Anderson movies, and for everyone else … yeah, there’s a different movie for you out there somewhere. If his insistence on the rule of thirds, smooth horizontal tracking shots, and manipulation of the mise-en-scene frustrated you in “The Royal Tenenbaums” or “The Darjeeling Limited,” then this movie, which is Anderson stylistically to a T, will only frustrate you more.

I, like many, enjoy the quirkiness of Anderson’s idiosyncratic eye, so watching “Moonrise Kingdom” felt like devouring sugar for an hour and a half. The film almost feels like the director is making a tribute to his own technique as it hits the viewer with a sledgehammer with its flair within the frame. But that sledgehammer is more like a blow-up hammer you get at a carnival, one that whacks you in a fun and enjoyable way (provide you don’t mind the bump on your head). He does extreme close-ups on written notes, takes it to Kubrickian lengths with his dolly shots, and sports costumes and sets that look both of their time and out of this world. I doubt there is anyone that couldn’t tell you what a Wes Anderson movie is after watching his latest feature.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 7, 2011)

7 10 2011

I don’t quite know what inspired me to watch “25th Hour” recently, but I’m certainly glad that I did.  Spike Lee’s 2002 film about the heavy weight of the past and the future that we carry around in the present got little attention at the time, but over time, it has gained some passionate backers, namely Roger Ebert.  That inspired me to check the movie out, and while I don’t think it’s one of my favorites of the decade, it’s good enough to qualify as a “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

David Benioff’s script captures a day of solemn importance in the life of Montgomery “Monty” Brogan, played with typical excellence by Edward Norton.  We follow Monty in the last 24 hours before he must head up to prison to serve a 7 year sentence for dealing drugs.  He is remorseful for his past, apprehensive for his future, and filled with anger and hatred in the moment.  As he spends a day in a sort of purgatory state, we see the uneasy state of his relationships with his friends (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper) and girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) as they all offer a sort of false optimism.

While this story is quite limited, what makes “25th Hour” such an interesting film (and one that I suspect will be increasingly viewed as a reference for future generations) is how poetically Spike Lee juxtaposes Monty’s biography with the larger tale of society, here post-9/11 New York City.  After the film’s prologue, Lee rolls the opening credits over various takes of the two bright beams of light shining to the heavens from Ground Zero.  Much like Monty, the site is a reminder of the emptiness of that day, while the lights represent a brighter future that can still be rebuilt once the ashes are removed.

In perhaps the film’s most memorable scene, Lee employs a sort of Allen Ginsberg-meets-NWA rhythmic lyricism to express the pent-up rage that many New Yorkers felt in the wake of the tragedy.  It’s an unsettling, no-holds-barred diatribe against the city and everyone in it, and a man like Monty about to lose everything is the perfect person to deliver it.  Yet “25th Hour” is not just a movie of anger; indeed, Lee, ever the New York filmmaker, makes his movie an admiring tribute to the city’s strength and perseverance.  Even as Monty heads off to the pen, there’s a smiling child on the bus in the next lane willing to smile at him.





FINCHERFEST: Fight Club

27 09 2010

Fincher followed up disappointment with “The Game” by directing “Fight Club” in 1999, which would prove to be an iconic movie and cultural phenomenon.  While it didn’t do much business in theaters, it became a cult hit on video.  In today’s installment of Fincherfest, I’ll attempt to peg what has made it such a smashing success with fans for over a decade.

There are a multitude of ways to interpret “Fight Club,” and for precisely that reason, it is a great movie.  It can mean so many things to so many people; everyone gets something different out of it.  Heck, you can even see it through a Fascist light!  I’ve only seen it once, so there is a certain level of depth of the movie that I haven’t reached.

However, I don’t intend to bore anyone by reciting the plot or saying that the acting, directing, and writing is great.  That’s been common knowledge for over a decade now, and me saying that doesn’t really add anything to the movie.  The proof is in the celluloid (and now DVD and whatever other formats are out there).

I watched the movie a year ago after some residual curiosity from “Benjamin Button” compelled me to check out David Fincher’s violent side.  But before that, I had heard nothing but amazing things from the legions of male fans my age.  Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed.  Although it still ranks behind “Button” for me, this is my favorite of Fincher’s early explorations to the darker side of human nature.

Here’s what I think has made it such an endearing classic for the younger generation: we have been so diligently trained to suppress all our impulsive emotions that eventually we want to explode.  Sometimes, our lives are so sheltered and so desensitized that sometimes we have the deep desire to feel some kind of emotion, even if it must be pain.  To quote Lady Antebellum, “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.”

“Fight Club” indulges that side of all teenage boys and budding men by going back to our primordial cavemen instincts.  We have to fight for what we want.  Kill or be killed.  The movie finds a sort of catharsis in violence, using it to express all the frustration men feel at the oppression of their natural tendencies.  So in a messed-up kind of way, the movie has served as a wake-up call to boys and men everywhere to reclaim their masculinity and reassert themselves.

There’s a perfect quote from Fincher himself that sums up the movie from my interpretation:

“We’re designed to be hunters and we’re in a society of shopping. There’s nothing to kill anymore, there’s nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation this everyman [the narrator] is created.”





Random Factoid #82

18 10 2009

In the now rare occasion that I read a book that isn’t about to be released as a movie, I can’t help but cast the movie in my head.  Not only that, but I also imagine how the cinematography would look and how the score behind it would sound.  For example, when I read “Fahrenheit 451,” I cast Edward Norton as Guy Montag.

In this case, I also imagined the books that would be burned.  I’d throw in some of the banned books like “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Harry Potter,” but of course, I’d have to cut to a few of my least favorite books.  I’d burn every copy of “The Lovely Bones.”