Today’s Shorts: Atonement (2007), Dizzy Dishes (1930), Flying Padre (1951), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Winsor McCay, The Famous Cartoonist Of The N.Y. Herald And His Moving Comics (1911), Sisters In Law (2005), The Theory Of Everything (2014)
A mesmerising film with a great sense of character and tone. Moreover, something of a rare film; a costume picture which isn’t stiff and boring.
Atonement is a wondrous orchestration of drama, comedy and tragedy, which sweeps you away immediately with an intricate plot that perfectly manages many perspectives. Imbued with rich subtext, Wright uses every element of cinema, from cinematography to mise en scène to sound design, masterfully to craft a powerful story of regret and longing. Doing this whilst retaining the personality and flow of a novel through script work ultimately makes Atonement truly special and a must-see.
The first film to feature one of the most famous cartoon characters ever conceived: Betty Boop.
Beyond being an intriguing look back through the history of animation, Dizzy Dishes is an ingenious meeting of music and creativity that manages to find an almost impossible amount of comedy and visual wit in the simplest of scenarios; a waiter being too distracted to serve a patron his meal. With both historical significance and a great entertainment factor, Dizzy Dishes is certainly something to check out.
An interesting early film of Stanley Kubrick, Flying Padre is (kind of) a documentary about a priest in New Mexico that has to use a plane to tend to and assist his commune. In this short documentary, we see key themes, motifs and techniques that are sprinkled throughout Kubrick’s filmography. The most stark of these would be the focus on technology, Kubrick’s framing and also his camera movement (both of which are a little rough). In this short, we also see some pretty unfamiliar themes too; those being a focus on religion and a warm-hearted hero – something you certainly will struggle to find in the likes of A Clockwork Orange, 2001, Full Metal Jacket or Eyes Wide Shut.
Ultimately, this is a very clearly staged narrative that doesn’t capture a genuine documentary feel, and so is just a nice bit of incite into a master’s career.
Enjoyable, amusing, immersive, O Brother, Where Art Though? is an easy watch, but certainly not the best Coen bros film. It taps into the ambiguous, wacky and arbitrary tone captured in Fargo, No Country For Old Men, Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski, but completely lacks a relative sense of verisimilitude. And in such, whilst you don’t watch The Big Lebowski like you do Saving Private Ryan or The Hurt Locker, it retains a sense of believability; all the ridiculous situations The Dude finds himself in make sense considering who his is. And this is the magic of a good Coen bros; they’re ludicrous but they still somehow rope you along with them.
O Brother, Where Art Though? lacks this above everything else and so is intermittently pretty weak.
The direction, cinematography and camera work are off-the-charts fucking phenomenal in this film. Without exaggeration, within The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you will find one of the greatest examples of direction in a horror film. The use of the sets, practical lighting, the ingenious shot types, extreme close-ups, zooms, the insane editing, all come together to produce one of the most visceral and powerful pieces of exploitation horror ever – and there’s no argument to be had on this point.
But, there are two things that drastically bring this movie down; parts of the writing and an awful lot of the acting. In fact, almost everything to do with character in this film is dog shit. Leather Face, when he isn’t wailing, is great, but beyond this, character is hugely detrimental to both the narrative and the technical/aesthetic design of this movie. But, a great watch and a terrific movie nonetheless.
A truly spectacular exhibition of early animation that, stylistically and in my view, far surpasses McCay’s much more famous Gertie The Dinosaur. Though this style of early animation has been completely lost for a long time, the imagination and creativity is still mindblowing to this day. And on top of this “Winsor McCay, The Famous Cartoonist” gives a minor, but very intriguing, incite into the process of early animation that solidifies it as a must see.
A powerful documentary that is formally simple, yet certainly effective, Sisters In Law takes us into Cameroonian court rooms and finds multiple poignant cases, plights, struggles and characters that are heavily resonant and touching. However, above anything, Sisters In Law is a joy to watch and thoroughly funny. Almost surreally so, every figure in this film finds light in and around even the most disturbing cases of abuse and injustice, perfectly balancing the weighted drama with great character and social exchanges you simply couldn’t script.
I remember deciding to skip this one 3 years ago. I think that was a good call.
The Theory of Everything starts out starkly boring and remains that way for a good 70 minutes. It then claws its way towards a relatively strong ending that is somewhat immersive.
Each and every character is tough work and it takes time to invest in them and start caring. As mentioned though, the last 40 minutes are somewhat redeeming as there is a build of dramatic weight that allows you to better engage with the characters and themes.
The worst aspect of this film is certainly the stylistic choices – especially in regard to exposure. I didn’t like the feel and look of this film one bit as the aesthetic and script come together to produce a cliched tone of dreamy airiness that results in a weightless mundanity.
If you’re interesting in Hawking, go for a space documentary – much more interesting. And if you’re looking for a similar narrative in terms of themes and characters go for Rust and Bone or A Beautiful Mind.
Every Year In Film #2 – The Persistence Of Vision
La Dolce Vita/8 1/2 – Character-Spectacle
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