Shorts #13

Today’s Shorts: Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012), 10 Minutes (2002), Pale Flower (1964), Bo Burnham: Make Happy (2016), The Ice Storm (1997), Pusher (1996), Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Well-made in almost every single respect, Gangs Of Wasseypur is a movie that cannot be given any particularly damaging critique. But, whilst I enjoyed this movie, I never felt fully engaged or particularly interested in the characters and the endless plot-points.

What Gangs Of Wasseypur then lacked in my view was an element that really shone; the comedy was there and it usually works, but I wouldn’t say this is a hysterical movie; the action is all right, but never amazing; the drama and romance is present, but isn’t poignant; the application of themes is cohesive, but lacks a striking message or an emotive punch; and the world building is strong, but it didn’t really stick with me.

All in all, I’m glad I finally saw this movie as I have been meaning to see it for a few years, but wouldn’t really be too interested in its part 2 or a re-watch.

This is a straightforward short film that utilises the little time it has quite well. It juxtaposes a Japanese tourist in Rome waiting for his pictures with a scene from the 90s Bosnian War.

An interesting element of this film is its use of the long-shot as a form of realism in the war scene. This is something you see in a vast plethora of films (Children of Men, Atonement, Oldboy) and is also something you can read theorists like Bazin discuss. The long-shot not only imitates a real perspective (an omnipresence POV almost) in real-time, but it forces a viewer to watch a scene much like they would watch the world passing them by. What the long-shot then presents, as Bazin would widely talk about, is an alternative to montage (a scene made up of cuts and many shot types). There is then an ambiguity that lies at the heart of the long-shot as we are not told so directly where to look and how a scene functions through montage based cinematic language. Such mimics reality because, largely oblivious, we form visual narratives as we move through life – and cinema can be an abstract representative of this.

And I think this outlines the crux of this movie. Not only does it show abstract parallels throughout the world, but does this through realism, implying what we may refer to as a form of truth.

Pale Flower is a remarkable film noir from Japan, and is certainly one of my favourites of the genre, ranking way up there with French noirs such as Rififi and Le Samouraï.

I’ve never truly liked a classical American film noir, beyond maybe their aesthetics, because they often fail to capture what Pale Flower does so poignantly. As with many other crime films, there is a silent code embedded deeply into the world and characters of Pale Flower. This counterbalances the brooding existentialism and nihilism of the film noir as, though they seem empty and macabre, there can be reasoning, thought and understanding belying this sombre trudge through life. With ideas of honour, loyalty and vigilante justice, the noir is then given meaning and direction, making the experience of the narrative much more rich.

It’s because Pale Flower injects this mafia ethic into its narrative through its depictions of the Yakuza that it is such a worthwhile watch and an exceptional example of film noir.

I’m not much of a fan of Bo Burnham and his kind of comedy, though I do like it quite a bit and can appreciate him as a significant (though not entirely new) example of modern stand-up comedy.

I see two major faults in Make Happy. The first is the audience that Burnham plays to; they’re, without much of a better way of putting it, incredibly teenager-esque in an off-putting manner (see other peoples’ reviews). The second problem with this special is fed and emphasised by this. Burnham is self-aware, yet communicates his sometimes profound ideas in a very basic way. A lot of his comedy then boils down to pop observations that basically say “life is hard”, but with some grip on a reality that says, “so what?”, in a positive manner. The theme of critique that I’d use to assess this special is then, without wanting to be completely dismissive, immaturity.

Whilst I did laugh quite a few times at this special, which I’ve already seen once before, I’ve been left wondering how Burnham will evolve as the years go by. I hope he doesn’t become a 21st century Bill Hicks as I never liked him, but, time will tell.

Ohhh… it’s been a while since I felt true disdain for a movie.

The Ice Storm is rife with vapid, boring characters whose conflicts are not compelling even in the slightest. No matter how hard Ang Lee tries to have us sympathise with the plights of the upper-class, he goes about it all wrong as there is nothing and no one to truly empathise with. In such, Lee fails to capture the humanity and inner-workings of his characters, reducing many of them into inarticulate morons supported only by some dreamy sound design. Plain and simple, this movie has a disgusting tone that is never overcome. The Ice Storm is then pretentious, ugly and utterly contrived (especially in its final ‘revelatory’ act).

I can see exactly why many people would enjoy this movie (because of its themes and imagery), but, I don’t see how anyone could look past this nasty veneer.

This is, in essence, a story about a rat, one that is constantly backed into a corner, yet never stops fighting to remain in his sewer. Pusher is then a dark crime thriller, but could also be considered a neo-noir, and it fully embraces some of the worst human attributes possible, depicting a man who has nothing to live for but his own momentary self-satisfaction.

Whilst I somewhat enjoyed this narrative as it is well acted by the entirety of the cast and competently directed by Refn, it doesn’t bare too much depth, nor does it try to entertain. Refn then has designed a strange picture, one that is almost a noir for the sake of being a noir, a film for the sake of being a film, one that doesn’t have much meaning, nor spectacle.

Many people will then despise this picture, but I was immersed into this world with its entirely corrupt characters and so have to say the opposite. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s certainly good.

If “Dumb” was a movie genre, this would be a masterpiece.

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey has no business being as good as it is. It’s ridiculous in every single respect, but I love this movie (almost as much as the first). The humour works, the terrible writing works, the tone and sensibilities… it all works. Technically, this isn’t a bad looking movie. The director, Hewitt, knows what he’s doing and knows his cinematic history, implementing just as many nods to German expressionist and Swedish art films as pop American blockbusters and sequels. Reeves and Winter kill it. The soundtrack (the clearest element that is superior to the first film) is amazing; Kiss’s God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You with Steve Vai’s solo intro being a perfect ending to this utterly tremendous movie.

Excellent, non-heinous and bodacious. Obviously, a personal favourite.



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