Travis Bickle on the Riviera – month 4 – April

Well it’s the first of the month which mean I have to atone for my sins last month and admit that I only watched 9 films in April. I have an excuse, as I am currently experiencing the biggest workload I’ve ever had to deal with while at school, but really that’s just an excuse. If I’m going to hit my one-movie-per-day-in-the-year arbitrary goal, I’ve gotta get cracking.
– – –
legend –  * = new and great, RW = rewatch, C = personal classic, X = garbage, T= theater
– – –
01. The Killer Inside Me (2010) Michael Winterbottom
Winterbottom is insanely talented, but I don’t necessarily know if this movie is coherent as a story in any real way. I mean, it’s not reprehensible the way that a lot of people describe it and I’ve never read the book it is based on, but in general this is a really well made movie that kind of plays like Miami Blues as a period piece, which is… good I guess? It’s not bad. Elias Koteas and Casey Affleck do good work, Jessica Alba is actually kind of interesting where I wasn’t expecting her to be anything but a pretty girl to get brutally murdered (Kate Hudson is still unbearably terrible but she’s barely in this). So yeah, interesting but not really the kind of thing that sticks, aside from the amount of bruises on asses in this movie and the big car accident sequence, I barely remember what happened at all.

02. Hard 8/Sydney (1994) Paul Thomas Anderson  – *(commentary)
03. Hard 8 – no commentary – *, 2
PTA in screenwriting mode (he was working on Magnolia at the time), barely talking about the movie at hand and just going off about the most interesting thing which is writing and working with actors. This is a bit of a slept-on classic, especially with the cast of Sam Jackson, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, and Gwenyth Paltrow (now she’s in 3 movies I love, that’s weird). Really played cool, probably too cool, but this is like a slightly noir-ed and tarted up version of Altman’s California Split. The hotel scene is almost certainly what Tarantino was thinking about when he was doing the Beaumont sequence (which Elvis Mitchell once called the finest  sequence in Tarantino’s career), as it follows the exact same rhythms and screws with the audience in the same way.

04. 48 Hrs (1982) Walter Hill – RW, *
Best nasty one liners in any movie, Nick Nolte at his racist, hangdog best, Eddie Murphy actually acting instead of performing his persona. Walter Hill is the definition of not fucking around as a director, inventing the modern buddy action comedy without even trying.

05. Hackers (1995) Ian Softley
Oh god, this is bad. I left it on while writing a theater paper because I reread all of the William Gibson short stories a little while ago and figured I could trainspot it for references. Dumb, great soundtrack, incredibly dated. Angelina Jolie used to be a)way more interesting on camera and b) a pretty game actress before she became an “actress”. Back when she just needed work, in the Cyborg 2 days, she was totally down with dressing up like Maria from Metropolis for a sight gag. The Bunk and Fiher Stevens are always great to pop up steal ten minutes of screen time realizing they are in a bad movie and camping it up, Matthew Lillard is actually kind of funny, the rest of the cast are 15 and rattling off jargon that was dated before the thing was released. Basically, it’s Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown made into a Wipeout commercial. Still a good way to kill 2hrs, though.

06. A Journey Into the Mind of P (2002) Donatello and Fosco Dubini
07. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (directors cut) (1984) WD Richter – *, RW
I read Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 finally, and started Gravity’s Rainbow (again), planning on read through all his stuff this summer, so I figured I’d try and learn about the guy a little bit. The documentary is a german television production, with a soundtrack by the Residents (which considering that it’s a documentary about a recluse, that’s kind of a coup). Pynchon’s a pretty awesome figure to discuss because there is no possible way all the stories about him are true but some of them have to be. So he’s either a CIA rocket scientist who knew Lee Harvey Oswald and is confessing his knowledge of mind control experiments on the population in his work, or he’s a crazy guy who has a monochrome wardrobe and dresses up like his own relatives for some reason. Either way, it’s pretty great material for a documentary. This one is kind of terrible, though, padded out like crazy and really unfocused.
Buckaroo Banzai, on the other hand was once rumored to have been secretly directed by Pynchon (as WD Richter, who also wrote Big Trouble in Little China), and has a ton of references to Crying of Lot 49 in it. This is a great movie, and it is still the only movie that is structured the way as it is. In the director’s cut, with the extra opening scene (hey Jamie Lee Curtis cameo) means that you don’t see Peter Weller’s face until almost 20 mins into the movie, and how crazy effective something simple like that is at getting a viewer invested.

08. Evil Dead 2 (1987) Sam Raimi – RW, *, C, T
First time seeing this in a theater. Whole new movie, with all kind of ancillary details foreshadowing events Coen Bros/John Landis style that I’ve never caught watching vhs bootlegs of it. Raimi is putting on a clinic here of amazing filmmaking skills, from dumb jokes to technical mastery all on a zero budget. Also has a Rock of Ages/Hand of Glory crossover quality with Raising Arizona, where certain shots or certain techniques mirror the other film and add texture if you have seen/obsessively watched both for years. Watching it in a theater, with a bunch of the shittiest people I’ve seen a movie with outside of a bunch of fucked up teenagers watching The Lost World. There were a lot of bad laughs, a lot of people laughing at the acting instead of the gags, a lot of fat guys with beards who thought they were at a Mystery Science Theater screening ( I swear if I could destroy that show retroactively I could, it has ruined ever ejoying a movie).

09. The Other Guys (2010) Adam McKay
Michael Keaton on fire. Steve Coogan taking a paycheck. Rob Riggle completely underused. The Rock and Sam Jackson completely owning their two scenes (I wish the whole movie was a parody of Bad Boys starring them instead of what it is). Ferrel and Whalberg… well they do their thing and the movie turns into this half-assed message movie against white collar crime? Which is… well I guess it makes sense knowing how much McKay cares about that stuff but I really like Anchorman and Step Brothers and the idea that in the age of Apatow comedy-is-pain school, the funniest thing to do is be really really stupid and juvenile. This is either too straight or not straight enough to succeed at whatever it is trying to succeed at. Like, I get that that Keaton has to work two jobs to put his kid through college is the real point of the movie, but what the movie does best is Keaton rattling off TLC lyrics whenever there’s a lull. McKay and Ferrell  produce East Bound and Down, and I understand that movies like this fund stuff like that and all other kinds of things, so they understand what’s funny. But heartbreaking movies that make a socioeconomic point? That might not be a thing they are good at.
– – –
-81 movies in the year so far.
- Sean Witzke April 2011

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4 Responses to Travis Bickle on the Riviera – month 4 – April

  1. Chad Nevett says:

    Haven’t seen The Other Guys yet, but did often remark to my girlfriend that I would much rather see a comedy cop film starring Jackson and Johnson than this flick. Nice to know that my instincts were dead-on. (Then again, it just seems so fucking obvious…)

  2. I liked THE OTHER GUYS enough to give it a pass. A movie made much more interesting with the addition of intoxicants and friends. Keaton steals every scene, but I’m also increasingly convinced that Eva Mendes is some kind of unrecognised gonzo genius.

  3. Joe B says:

    The weird thing about The Other Guys is that it doesn’t actually really make the switch from decent comedy with a few great jokes (I particularly enjoyed all of Keaton’s stuff and Wahlberg learning to dance satirically) to hectoring anti-capitalism until the end credits, which are so magnetically weird in their tonal shift that you feel compelled to watch the whole thing thus obscuring the way you see the rest of the movie. Without the credits, it’d just be another film where the bad guy is a corrupt businessman and in this case his corruption is portrayed as to be as to be more a product of comic incompetence rather than malice. I can’t think of another film where the credits completely change the film that way.

    And everyone I know who’s seen it wanted more Danson and Highsmith. Spin-off?

  4. Jog says:

    The really weird and gross aspect of MST3K as a ‘geek culture’ thing (I guess) — and this is coming from somebody who’s watched and enjoyed a hell of a lot of that show — is how an awful lot of the show’s aspects, even the really artificial ones, seem to be accepted as received wisdom now…?

    Like, you watch something like Coleman Francis’ The Skydivers, which is a sort of aimless little hothouse drama with some clumsy themes about skydiving as a respite from the rot of society, and if you just watch the movie you’re like “ok, this is thin stuff, etc.,” but of course you can’t premise a long episode of a comedy show on that, so the MST3K version has lots and lots of jokes about how slow and confusing it is, etc., even though it’s not entirely like that, they just need to fill space on the show, because of course they’ve watched this movie four, five times and run their riffs through workshops, basically, and they’re all keenly aware of dead air bits where jokes need to go, so they fluff and fudge a little… and, y’know, you look around the internet for stuff about The Skydivers or Coleman Francis himself, and you’re just trudging on a fucking death march through this HAZE of people endlessly regurgitating these notions from MST3K, some of which are certainly byproducts of the show’s structure, but it’s like WRIT now to fans… you go on YouTube and, like, almost every comment is just people repeating jokes from the show, over and over, the same jokes over and over and over and over…

    And, y’know, it’s a withdrawing number indeed that gives a shit about Coleman Francis or even would have heard of him had it not been for the show, but to look around and hear fifth-generation viewers cackle about how such and such a movie is incomprehensible or inexplicable when it’s very obviously not, with even a slight application of critical thinking… that kind of fealty to an invisible ideal of how movies are ‘supposed’ to be freaks me out, especially when the basis behind it is just as much a product of entertainment-minded compromise as anything getting mocked…

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