There are two types of people in the world: people who think there are two types of people in the world, and people who do not. I want to be the second kind.
They have the sort of band name high school bands cross off early, but I just can’t stop listening to these guys. Not much music hits me like this.
Come into the world
And you go out of the world
But in between
It’s you and me
Wes Anderson is one of those highly acclaimed filmmakers whose movies I watch because he is a highly acclaimed filmmaker. After watching last year’s Moonrise Kingdom I can see why he continues to hold a loyal fan base. It is beautifully shot, rich in color and detail, incredibly creative in its storytelling, and captures its themes of innocence, adventure and nostalgia brilliantly. It may be the best Wes Anderson film I’ve seen for exactly these reasons. He has masterfully created exactly the movie he meant to create, and pulled it off stunningly, and I am struggling to care.
As with all his other movies, Moonrise Kingdom is emotionally utterly flat. I understand this is a draw for his fans, as though sucking out all the emotion from each scene somehow makes them funnier or more tragic. And I get the impact of deadpan, and I see how Anderson leverages it to create a certain quirkiness in his characters which I suppose is meant to substitute for actual humans. But populated with expressionless characters the gorgeous natural setting and richly drawn scenes all come up empty.
I can’t emphasize enough how brilliant every other aspect of this film is – the visuals are stunning, the story is engaging, the production design is meticulous. It makes me want a giant full color poster to hang on my wall. As a matter of fact, I might prefer the poster over the film.
Luis Buñuel is a feisty, mischievous director and I love it. I have been working my way through the highlights of his catalog over the last few months and every one has been solid. He’s tackled religion, crime, racism, pedophilia, religion again, lust, and masculine impulses with a frank and mildly amusing air. The stakes are always high – obsession, poverty, rape, murder – and the dramas are understated in comparison. The action is simple and direct, the shots are carefully framed and utilitarian. And behind it all is a crazy Spaniard snickering gleefully at the world.
Viridiana (1961) is widely considered one of Buñuel’s masterpieces, though he would go on to direct other internationally acclaimed films such as Belle de Jour (1967) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), both of which are on my list to see. Viridiana is a nun about to take her vows, but first she must visit her estranged uncle. In a Julie Andrews movie this would be the start of a wonderful adventure, but with Buñuel at the helm this can only go badly. Without going into the plot (because I hate it when a film review spends most of its time rehashing the plot) Viridiana is unashamed to explore questions of faith, morals and the value of charity. Buñuel presents the action straightforwardly, without melodrama or commentary, and in the end the actions and events speak for themselves, posing his answers to the big questions.
Buñuel doesn’t despise religion (though he rightly despises its pomp and abuses of power), and he certainly doesn’t despise authentic faith. He just doesn’t think it makes any difference. Viridiana begins the film bursting with devotion and naivete, and Buñuel walks her through crises and disappointments until her original outlook is…well, not quite the same anymore.
The fact that Buñuel ends the film where he does belies his opinions. In my view the trajectory of Viridiana‘s plot is only the first act of a longer story, or the first film in a series examining a life of faith put to the test. What do you do when your best efforts and beliefs don’t seem to have any effect? The film is realistic and stark, but to suggest it is all there is to the story is to fall prey to the same naivete that it criticizes in Viridiana herself.
I’ll make this one brief. Despite being a great vehicle for the ever more popular Jeremy Renner (whose favorite role of mine is still by far Jem in The Town), last year’s The Bourne Legacy is nothing more than every other Bourne movie you’ve seen minus Jason Bourne and plus nothing. The movie ended and I was still waiting for it to get interesting. Renner’s Alex Cross is fun to watch, but is in fact Jason Bourne without the identity crisis, which effectively guts the movie.
The plot is the same plot as every other Bourne movie, which in itself isn’t bad, but by itself is empty. Let me sum it up (no spoilers ahead). A troubled CIA program cutting its losses pursues a rogue agent who teams up with an unsuspecting female lead. The CIA nearly catches them but they get away. The CIA catches up with them again. Then they get away.
And then…the credits roll. Seriously. That’s it. I could say more about the gratuitous milking of an established franchise, but I think you get the idea.