Friday, August 2, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 36
Bringing Out the Dead (1999, dir. Martin Scorsese) On initial release, great directors' movies are often sorted into 'haves' and 'have-nots,' needing some breathing room for proper analysis. Bringing Out the Dead is one that was a have-not and it really should not have been. It just fell victim to not being as good as Goodfellas or Taxi Driver. It's overused to say a movie is "dreamlike" or "hypnotic," but honestly few movies achieve those moods better than Bringing Out the Dead for me. It feels like you're on a version of Earth, but not quite Earth. The movie follows a burnt-out paramedic (played by Nicolas Cage in a performance that reminds you how great he is when he's trying) over the course of three nights of ride-alongs. The Cage character is hallucinating about the ghosts of people he couldn't save and overwhelmed by a malaise he cannot escape. This is not a flawed man due for a comeuppance, but rather a person that might be too empathetic for his job -- which is ironic, considering "shutting down" is basically essential in his profession. The heart of the movie, though, is quite poignant and worth noting: sometimes people are their own worst enemies. Cage decides to be a "grief mop" when no one else told him he had to. That point is made specific in a great decision by Scorsese to counterpoint him with three other paramedics with very different takes on the role. This is a dark and snail-paced movie, but also a very strong character study that should be discussed and not dismissed.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996, dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise) I don't think that Disney's animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a particularly good movie, nor do I think that Disney should have decided to tell the story if they were only going to cut up Victor Hugo's epic novel and rewrite large swaths of a classic. But there's something darkly enduring about their version that draws me in whenever I see it. It feels very subversive and twisted, and I find the idea of using a children's movie with talking gargoyles to house ideas about corrupt clergy members, lust and sin and the threat of eternal damnation to be too much to resist. There's quite a lot of darkness going on, including a song called "Hellfire," which is sung in the cathedral while flames leap from the fireplace and cast demonic shadows on the wall. Plus, I think it has one of the best pre-title song sequences in all of Disney's later output.
Heathers (1989, dir. Michael Lehmann) Apparently, there are actually people out there who have never seen this seminal black comedy! I cannot imagine who these people might be, and how sad and sheltered there lives are, perhaps they have spent far too many hours standing in lines that lead to no clear benefit, but there you go. Trust me, as a bonefide high school teacher, this is one of the few films to get HIGH SCHOOL RIGHT. Mean Girls shamelessly copied it. This is one of the few Winona Ryder performances that is watchable, outside of department store security camera footage. I love my dead gay son. By the way, Netflix's computer algorithm suggests that if you like Heathers, you will love Mermaids. You will not.
The Sacrifice (1986, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, Swedish language) Tracked this one down after reading an article from the British Film Institute about movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. You Kubrick-philes will see why he may have liked it from a technical and thematic perspective (there's a nine minute tracking shot!), but fair warning, Tarkovsky's last movie will require some work on your part as a viewer. Ultimately, it is what a man will do to protect his family in times of desperation.
Kuffs (1992, dir. Bruce A. Evans) HOLY SHIT DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT KUFFS IS ON NETFLIX INSTANT??