Friday, May 10, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 25
Adam Riske: Dumbo (1941, dir. Ben Sharpsteen) It was a lot of fun re-watching Dumbo as an adult. I've been meaning to re-watch some classic Disney to see which ones I still like, and I'm glad I started with this one. It's charming and adorable. Also a little racist, but there's a lot of good stuff here that supersedes that. I can't say enough about how great the animation looks. I haven't seen a hand-drawn animated movie in a while, and I was kind of floored. The watercolor backgrounds really pop out. And that pink elephants sequence -- my goodness. Maybe I should get drunk more! But the real reason I like Dumbo as an adult is that it has one of the most satisfying endings of any movie. Dumbo flies and is all like "F**k you, mean clowns" and "F**k you, spinster elephants" and then becomes rich and famous and reunited with his mother. Come to think of it, you know what Dumbo reminds me of a little? Django Unchained. Think about it: Dumbo is given sh*t the whole movie for just being himself, he gets a mentor to look out for him and build his confidence and then at the end he is unchained and reunited with a loved one. You know what? Congats, Dumbo! I'm making you the first animated character to be inducted into the Hall of Kick Ass.
Super 8 (2011, dir. J.J. Abrams) In honor of the fact that I just showed this to my students as part of a discussion about Steven Spielberg and summer blockbusters (not to mention Heath Holland's column this week), I'm recommending Super 8. I love all the kids in this movie, especially the boy who plays Joe Lamb. I want my son to grow up to be Joe Lamb. I laugh and I cry in this movie, and you will too.
Justice League: Doom (2012, dir. Lauren Montgomery) This direct-to-video animated movie finds the supervillains of the DCU systematically targeting each member of the Justice League and hitting them where they are most vulnerable. To discuss more of the plot would be criminal, but I can tell you that it is based on the comic storyline "Tower of Babel," written by Mark Waid (he's from Alabama, so he and I are tight) and that most of the voice cast from the original animated series returns. That means Tim "Wings" Daly as Superman and Kevin Conroy as the only Batman I ever need to hear again. I think that Warner Brothers Animation have nailed almost every single one of these DC Universe projects, and this is no exception. Top shelf stuff.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, dir. Robert Weine) and The Hands of Orlac (1924, dir. Robert Weine) Oh, allow me to wax rhapsodic about my love for silent film… I can still remember the first time I saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in a film class in college. I was blown away by the expressionistic set design, the stylized performances, and the general spooky atmosphere. One of the all-time classic endings too! A strange young man (Freidrich Feher) recounts the tale of two friends stalked by a mad carnival charleton (Werner Krauss) and his sleepwalking pet killer zombie (Conrad Veidt, who would later play Major Strausser in Casablanca!) In From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, author Siegfried Kracauer makes the case that this film, and the attendant controversy that surrounded its making and release, presaged the rise of the Third Reich! Featuring the same director and star, The Hands of Orlac is not as famous or well-known as Caligari, but just as entertaining. Conrad Veidt plays a concert pianist who, after a tragic accident, undergoes a transplant for both of his hands. Too bad no one informs him that he has been given the hands of a KILLER. This film was later remade in the US as a talkie, the Peter Lorre vehicle, Mad Love. If Netflix had existed in the 1970s, I would NEVER have gone to school!
The Cabin in the Woods (2012, dir. Drew Goddard) 2012 will be a touchstone in horror movie history because of this particular movie; it's just not the same experience watching horror movies anymore if you have The Cabin in the Woods one clanging around in the back of your memory. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't by now, then I should say no more, and you should go watch it.
Hit and Run (2012, dir. Dax Shepard/David Palmer) I've talked about this movie on the podcast before. It's a super low-budget labor of love from Dax Shepard, and it is far from great, but it's a good low-fi car movie. It has a real throwback charm, recalling the fun drive-in movies that AIP used to put out in the '70s. If you're a fan of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry or Grand Theft Auto or Eat My Dust, you should check this one out. It's charming, and if you can can get on the movie's level, there's a lot of fun to be had. Sometimes, driving fast can be awesome.