October 12, 2009

Four from October, and 25 films you will never be able to enjoy again


Up (Pete Docter, 2009): The married-life montage is extraordinary -- and moving. Everything else in Pixar's Americanised Miyazaki outing is just -- no contradiction -- predictably spectacular.
Summer of Sam (Spike Lee, 1999): The Scorsese film Scorsese never made. Or Saturday Night Fever meets Seven in the imagination of Travis Bickle. But no amount of art-directed 70s sleaze and urban dread can ever be as pungent as the real thing.
Strayed (Andre Techine, 2003): Making the nature scene. A French idyll on the edge of WWII. Emmanuelle Beart you know about. Gaspard Ulliel? He looks like he walked out of a Pierre et Giles shoot. How apt that he's soon the gay angel in The Vintner's Luck (but just how gay and how much space he and his theology will get is a discussion that apprehensive Vintner's fans are having somewhere else).
Proof (John Madden, 2005): David Auburn's maths play about that slippery border between genius and insanity gets skilfully adapted by the author for John Madden -- but then, I've never read or seen the actual play, so who knows? Anyway, why do I feel like I've never seen a Gwyneth Paltrow performance as good as this before? And less is thankfully more for mad dad Anthony Hopkins. But can you buy Jake Gyllenhaal as a maths prodigy and rock drummer? Darko excepted, have you ever bought him as anything?

This is oldish -- from February 2009 -- but I only just came across it. The arch-conservative National Review has its list of 25 best conservative movies. You expected Red Dawn, Forrest Gump, maybe even Whit Stillman's Metropolitan ("He brings us to see what is admirable and necessary in the customs and conventions of America’s upper class"), the Christian allegories of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the enduring fantasy that Lord of the Rings is somehow prophetic of and applicable to America's mood post-9/11. You also expected that they would read The Dark Knight as an analogy of illegal tactics in the war on terror (but not as a critique of said tactics) and love every minute of United 93. Surprise entry: Team America: World Police, as "the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture". Actually, no surprise -- this is the anti-Sean Penn and Tim Robbins list. I can put up with all that. But this is my question: now I know that it's about how "the fads of modernity are no substitute for the permanent things", will I ever be able to enjoy Groundhog Day again?
Actually, wrong philosophy. A couple of years back, I reviewed Groundhog Day like this:
An existential classic. In the late 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proposed the doctrine of “eternal recurrence”: “The question in each and every thing, ‘Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?’ would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight.” In the late 20th century, that Nietzschean dilemma was illustrated with wit, panache and brilliance by the team of Bill Murray (star) and Harold Ramis (writer/director).