Friday, January 24, 2014
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 61
Dances with Wolves (1990, dir. Kevin Costner) The last time I saw Dances with Wolves was maybe 20 years ago, so seeing it again recently was practically a first viewing. I chose to watch the theatrical cut and I've got to say...I think it's a tremendous movie. I have a soft spot for three hour epics and this one has such amazing music, photography and depth of feeling that I find it really sad that it's reputation is so shit upon (sorry JB) mostly because it "beat" Goodfellas for Best Picture of 1990 at the Academy Awards. Is it as good as Goodfellas? No, but not many movies are. In the case of Dances with Wolves, it doesn't even matter. What matters is that a great (yes, I said great) movie has been crapped on and unseen by many because it had the temerity to win a bunch of stupid awards. Fuck the Oscars and the culture of negativity they foster. They are like the soldiers to my movie-loving John Dunbar.
Stolen Seas (2012; dir. Thymaya Payne) Captain Phillips is a great movie that surpasses its "true story" label, but it’s more interested in the story of a captain and his kidnappers than the origins and politics of Somali pirates. If you want a Hollywood thriller, watch Tom Hanks. If you want a deeper (also thrilling) exploration of piracy watch director Thymaya Payne’s Stolen Seas. This brisk-yet-thorough documentary tackles the issue from all sides. It rejects the easy good vs. evil narrative, digging deeper into the African region’s troubled past, how shipping companies’ willingness to cut legal corners leave their crews open to attack, and the economic incentives preventing major players from taking steps to solve the problem. All wrapped around the harrowing story of the CEC Future, a steel ship hijacked in 2008 and held for more than two months. Payne goes to the source with home footage, phone calls recorded between the two sides, and a candid interview with the pirates’ conflicted negotiator Ishmael Ali.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979, dir. Don Siegel) Once a staple of American cable channels like TBS and USA, Escape From Alcatraz seems to have been taken out of the rotation in the last few years. Thankfully, it's been added to Netflix and is back in the limelight. Starring Clint Eastwood, this is the last collaboration between the actor and director Don Siegel, who worked together on one of my favorites, Two Mules for Sister Sara and the iconic Dirty Harry. The film dramatizes the only (theoretically) successful escape from the famous prison and shows us how three inmates MAY have planned and executed their escape. What makes this even more interesting is that last year was the 50th anniversary of the escape and the investigation is still being conducted to find the inmates, but no evidence nor bodies have ever turned up. There are really only two possibilities: either their bodies are resting at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay, or they survived and could still be walking among us as free men. It's almost impossible to watch this movie and not want to root for the criminals, hoping they did indeed make it out of the most famous prison in the world and live to never tell the tale.
American Psycho (2000, dir. Mary Harron) "Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it."
Chocolate (2008, dir. Prachya Pinkaew) A couple grows together in love, but they're both involved with the criminal underworld. They manage to get out and part ways, but the mother keeps their baby daughter, who is autistic. As the daughter grows up, others discover that she can instantly learn martial arts just by watching it (because autism is synonymous with MAGIC, apparently). Some seedy elements from the mother's past crop up, and the daughter has to defend her mother with her unique set of skills. Lots of practical effects, and several mouth-wide-open-with excitement moments from the female lead. I don't know if it's offensive (the autism is too outrageous of a plot device to take seriously), but there is a spirit of imagination in this that is hard to resist.
Cold Blooded (2012, dir. Jason Lapeyre) What drew me to watch this incredibly small-scale crime film in the first place is that it's an early effort from Jason Lapeyre, one of the co-directors of I Declare War, still one of my favorite movies of last year. This feels a lot like a first film -- it's low budget and mostly rough edges -- but there is such promise on display. It reminds me a lot of what it felt like to watch Blood Simple or Bound for the first time. Besides, you've got to give it up for any movie commits to a very bold act of violence at the halfway point and then has to live with that decision for the rest of the movie. A very small cast, one location, two good lead performances and a sense of unpredictability make this worth watching.
*Mom -- Hopefully you feel like seeing Dances With Wolves again?