Friday, August 9, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 37
Zodiac (2007, dir. David Fincher) Zodiac is a perfect movie. I think it's the best movie of the previous decade. It works as a thriller, a detective story and a journalism study. The performances are all terrific and it is one of the best depictions I've ever seen about obsessiveness. Zodiac's brilliance lies in its wisdom that the killer destroyed far more lives than just the people he murdered. He caused people to lose their families and spiral into alcoholism. The killer inhabited pure, unmotivated evil and a few brave professionals drove themselves crazy to have the opportunity to look evil in the eye and say "Fuck you." Unfortunately, that was all the catharsis to be had. This movie is a complete masterpiece.
My Amityville Horror (2012, dir. Eric Walter) The Amityville Horror is one of the scariest books I've ever read, not only because the author overuses exclamation marks, but because it purports to be a true account of the Lutz family's experience in a Long Island haunted house. The story became national news, spawning a series of movies and becoming a touchstone of paranormal pop culture. In the years that followed, allegations that the family fabricated the haunting to get out from under a mortage they couldn't afford have defused much of the story's power. Just don't tell that to documentary subject Daniel Lutz, who was 10 at the time of the Amityville events and who we see onscreen working through his memories of a shattered childhood. Director Walter mostly glosses over counter-evidence to the Lutz account, letting Daniel drive the film with his adamant belief that his family was indeed terrorized by demonic spirits. The closest he gets to identifying an earthly source of the haunting are his memories of being terrorized by his step-father. Walter doesn't seem interested in uncovering what "really" happened so much as giving Daniel a chance to tell his story and to inject new life into the Amityville debate.
The Untouchables (1987, dir. Brian De Palma) A couple of weeks ago I watched Brian De Palma's film version of The Untouchables for the first time in years. I was worried that it wouldn't hold up to my memories of it, but was pleased that it actually did. I noticed some more things about it this time that I don't recall zeroing in on before, though. I wonder if there was a discussion between De Niro and De Palma in which it was decided that De Niro should play Capone as a cartoon character. And Costner spends the film appearing as if he's in way over his head. This is either genius casting or his youth and inexperience worked in his favor, because he seems pretty wooden and it works. Some of his dialogue is hammy beyond belief. I wonder if David Mamet wrote the dialogue specifically for Costner or if Costner just has a way of reading it in a corn-fed, aw-shucks delivery. However it all came together, it definitely caught lightning in a bottle. Sean Connery gives what may be my favorite performance of all time (and he was James Bond!) and Billy Drago was just as creepy to me after all these years. Ennio Morricone's score is unique and memorable. Sometimes when you revisit a movie that meant a lot to you in your past, it can be a disappointing experience. I'm so glad that wasn't the case.
Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980, dir. Nicolas Roeg) Boy! If I told you how difficult this film was to see at one time, you would not believe me. I wound up finally catching it late at night at Facets Multimedia with a print that was beaten to shit. Art Garfunkel plays a psychiatrist who takes a "special interest" in patient Teresa Russell. He may (or may not) have done something terrible. Dogged police investigator Harvey Keitel tries to get to the bottom of everything. It is not a pretty picture. Nicolas Roeg movies are not for everyone; his trademark, fragmented editing style takes a while to get used to. Roeg ended up marrying Russell in real life, so that's KIND of a happy ending? Originally rated X.
Blown Away (1994, dir. Stephen Hopkins) The yin to "Speed's" yang. This one isn't as fun-loving as Speed (which has more to do with how we perceive Keanu Reeves as opposed to Jeff Bridges), but Blown Away is still entertaining with its terrorist bomb tension, a foreshadow-y Harvey Dent performance from Tommy Lee Jones, and some excellent Jeff Bridges rage-face.
It's a Disaster (2013, dir. Todd Berger) If you're not going to watch all of the Bond movies that just showed up on Netflix (I recommend On Your Majesty's Secret Service), try watching It's a Disaster, a very funny apocalypse comedy from earlier this year that plays out the end of the world as an uncomfortable brunch between a group of shallow, often petty friends. The dialogue is sharp, the characters mostly ring true and the punchline is great. You might see this in a theater and feel disappointed because it's so slight, but it's a perfect movie for Netflix Instant. It defines "pleasant surprise."