Nine Songs

9 Songs movie poster

 

Explicit in more ways than one: surprisingly, the theme is pretty much spelled out in voiceover in the first sequence. A man reflects on a past relationship in terms of concerts they went to together and the arc of their sexual life. I can only speak for myself, but those are exactly the kinds of mental landmarks that mark my past relationships.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four movie poster

 

Did they learn nothing from Spider-Man 2, clearly the pinnacle of the superhero genre (and I will fight a Marvel Team-Up with anybody that dares disagree with me)? FF is an aggressively stupid series of one missed opportunity after another. It just narrowly escapes one star by making me laugh a handful of times.

And another thing. Jessica Alba does nothing for me. I see hotter women every 10 seconds just walking down the street here in NYC. She just has an uncommonly small waist! But even wearing glasses couldn’t help her pull off a line like “The space cloud has fundamentally altered our DNA!”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

 

Yub yub!

While Empire was even better than I remembered (and I remember it being very good indeed), it was disappointing to discover that Return of the Jedi is even worse than I remembered. What happened to all the drama and conflict? Everybody’s hugging! Technically, even Luke and Big Daddy hug at the end.

I think the DVDs are totally worth it, but then again I’m a total geek with surround sound speakers. But the attached documentary is unique in that it is willing to take the piss out of Lucas and come clean about some of the legends: Harrison Ford telling Lucas something like “George, you can write this shit but you sure can’t say it” and Lucas’ sole direction to his actors: “Faster and more intense.”

Yub yub!

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead movie poster

 

For most of it, I thought for sure Shaun of the Dead was a four-starrer, but it lost its way at some point. I’m not sure exactly of the transition point, but I felt that the tone had changed too drastically by the time the characters were trapped in the pub (in other words, I had stopped laughing). Until that point, I was totally loving it, particularly a newscaster’s description of the zombies as “shambolic.” It became a bit nasty and grim (sons blowing their undead mum’s brains out), and then veered back to whimsy at the end. But all that said, it’s remarkable that despite all the humor, satire, and melodrama, it’s still an honest-to-goodness zombie movie.

Did you spot the virtually wordless cameo by Arthur De- I mean, Martin Freeman?

Tarnation

Tarnation movie poster

 

God, I want to jump out a window. I sandwiched a movie as innocuous as Willy Wonka inbetween this recent run of major movie bummers: Tarnation, Kurt & Courtney, Sid & Nancy, 11’09″01, Downfall… but it didn’t amount to much more than a breather. Let’s see… are there any Care Bear DVDs on Netflix I can use to balance out the movies I’ve been watching recently that feature grief, despair, holocaust, addiction, abuse, and terrorism?

Sid & Nancy

Sid and Nancy movie poster

 

And now to raise the gander of another friend. Sorry, Kevin, but I’m still not much of an Alex Cox fan and found this one a little hard to digest.

But no doubt, Gary Oldman is superb (the degree to which he disappears into roles is actually a bit scary – did anybody besides me not even recognize him in Hannibal and The Contender until the end credits rolled?). And some of the dialogue is choice: “What’s happened to Jonny?” “Johnny got beat up by fascists.”

Maybe like Kurt & Courtney, my Punk Appreciation Deficiency Syndrome colored my response the film.

11’09″01 – September 11

11'09

 

A series of short films inspired by or in reaction to 9/11 made by directors from nearly every continent.

At first, I thought for sure I would be giving this one more than three stars, but the quality of the short films takes a steep dive after the first two. The first in particular, by Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf, is excellent. It opens on an entire Afghanistan village emptying their well in order to manufacture bricks to build shelters for when the US will bomb them. A female schoolteacher rounds up all the children and attempts to explain to them what happened in New York, and why the Americans are about to kill them. Step one: try to illustrate the concept of a skyscraper.

The short from Egypt is quite bad, and almost laughable (dig the ghost of a buff American Marine killed in Beruit, walking out of the ocean, soaking wet and topless). And unfortunately, Sean Penn’s contribution was over-edited into oblivion. But a late high point is Ken Loach’s documentary about the US-instigated overthrow of Chile’s democratically-elected government on… wait for it… September 11, 1973!

And a bit of trivia: Mira Nair’s short was written by an old roommate I had back in film school.