Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And Don't Call Me Shirley.

AIRPLANE! (1980)
What can I say about this movie except that everything it does it does right? It's thirty-two years old and still one of the funniest comedies of all time. A lot of credit can be given where credit it due--no one can really think about Airplane! without Leslie Nielsen's face coming to mind. His deadpan is hilarious and his comic timing is pure genius. Throw in a dash of Peter Graves and Lloyd Bridges and you've got a stellar cast. But the real heart of this movie is in the script. It doesn't let up on the humor for a second, twisting every line for the end punch. Not to mention the fact that it has a little something for everyone--from classy word play ("A hospital? What is it?" "It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now") to potty jokes ("the shit's going to hit the fan!"). Even if the humor occasionally dates itself, the most prominent example being the "Jive Dudes", watching an old white lady talk "jive" will still never get old. Airplane is truly a comedy classic that will hold up for all time and appropriate for every occasion (except maybe in-flight). Even the kids have something to learn from it, and if you don't believe me, let the movie speak for itself:

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Lesson In (B)romance.

It's a story you've heard before: two teenage boys with raging hormones persistently try their luck with a woman far out of their league. It's been done before, it will be done again. What will never be repeated, however, is the brilliant subtlety that this movie really rides on. I could count on my fingers the amount of times narration in movies has been done right, and this one would certainly hit high up on that list. The real meat of this movie is in the depth of its characters and the richness Mexico, which may as well be a character in itself.  Diego Luna gives a solid performance as the rich and spoiled Tenoch, while Gael Garcia Bernal matches his performance with his less fortunate best friend, Julio. The dynamic between these boys is so rich and believable that it came as no surprise to me when I found out that the two actors actually had been childhood best friends. But what is really brilliant here is how the politics of Mexico play out between these two boys. While they initially never address the differences in their social class, we do know (via the narrator) that Julio "lighted matched to mask the smell when he used the bathroom as Tenoch's house", while Tenoch "used his foot to lift up the toilet seat at Julio's house." It's a small detail which, in any other movie, might seem like too much information, but here clearly adds a tense layer of economic discrepancy between the two best friends. 

The object of their teenage desires is Luisa Cortes, played by the talented Maribel Verdú. While Luisa is an interesting character in her own right and a good motivating force, it's clear that the movie really belongs to the two boys and their intense friendship. I would call it a bromance, but anyone who has seen the movie will know that even that is being polite. Y Tu Mamá También is more than just a good movie, it's a lesson in the art of subtle screenwriting, proper narration, and natural, genuine character development. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We're Not Bad People.

SHAME (2011)
Here's a challenge: how do you make sex with two beautiful actors look repulsive and ugly on screen? The repetition. The uncomfortable expressions on the actors faces. All the quiet little details that give the scene the edge of unease it needs to make the audience squirm in their seats...and not in a good way. Shame follows the life of Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender)--the man all the girls want and all the guys want to be. He's a successful business man and attractive bachelor with no emotional commitments to weigh him down. He's also a sex addict of the ADD generation whose inner demons rear their ugly heads when his down-and-out sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in with him and upsets the delicate balance of his sanity.

One of the real accomplishments of Shame is that director Steve McQueen manages to take the very temptations that Hollywood so often uses to draw people to the box office--sex, beautiful women, attractive actors--and twists in it on its head. The magic of this subtle yet brilliant little trick is the fact that instead of buying into a "time is money" feel, McQueen lingers in every scene. We have long, fleshed out gazes into Brandon's life instead of brief snippets and highlights. At one point, Brandon goes on a date, and we get the first ten minutes of the date in a single shot, getting everything from what food they order to the way they awkwardly stumble from topic to topic with nervous first date smiles. By dragging the scene out without any snappy cuts and breaks, we've ceased to become movie-watchers and instead become voyeurs, hooked on watching these characters bear themselves bit by bit.

McQueen doesn't bother with trying to explain why Brandon is the way he is or what led him and his sister to lead such self-destructive lives with distracting flashbacks and forced exposition; instead, he holds us in every second of the painful present and doesn't let go. As Michael Fassbender said, "There is no place to hide in this whole script." Between the fearless acting, the solid script, and the unflinching eye of Steve McQueen, Shame is, if nothing else, the most courageous film of the year. The characters bare themselves (literally and figuratively) again and again, yet, like Brandon, when the film tempts us with "Want to play?", we find ourselves unable to look away. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Inaugural Post.

It's official: I'm addicted to movies. Unable to sate my cinematic gluttony with only The Smoking Pen, my place to rant and rave about badass ongoings in film, I've created my second monster. Behold: Feed Me A Stay Cat! (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the blog.)

Here you will find...

  • Movie reviews. On everything from dramas, to horror flicks, to (the ever dreaded) romcoms. 
  • Concise reviews. At least, that's the intention. We'll see how good I am at actually implementing it. 
  • Best of lists, top tens, any other various features I come up with as the blog comes into its own.

Hopefully, you can find something here that will whet your appetite. After all, insanity loves company.

M. Hufstader

PS: In case anyone's wondering about the name...(potential American Psycho spoiler alert)...