Movie Review: The Royal Tenenbaums

 

This year was the year for me to familiarize myself with Wes Anderson’s filmography. I started the year with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, revisited Moonrise Kingdom, stayed at The Grand Budapest Hotel, and met one quote-unquote Fantastic Mr. Fox. I saw this film over the summer and didn’t get around to reviewing it until now.

Three gifted siblings reunite after several years and deal with family issues.

I want to live in the Tenenbaum house, not necessarily with them. I’ve always liked really large houses since I was a kid. The floor plan that was included with the Criterion Collection print was very detailed, as usual with any Anderson work.

I know this sounds strange but I think there’s too much quirkiness in this film. Granted, each character has their own distinct traits but it doesn’t create a cohesive whole. Then again, the entire family isn’t really together in the traditional sense.

It was at a little more than an hour into the film that it started to lose steam. Then came Margot’s montage and the bathroom sequence. These are the two best sequences of the film in terms of telling a story. On the one hand, you have rock music playing over a series of life events (something that doesn’t come to mind when I think of Wes Anderson) and the other has mellow music with a serious course of action, coupled with some brief flashes of life.

Somehow, this is only one of two Wes Anderson films listed in the 1001 Movies series (the other being Rushmore which I have yet to see). I can’t say which is the better of the two listed but I will in the Rushmore review, whenever that will be. I think this was put on the list early on as a way to get some representation of his work. I expect that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be added to the list in time.

While it is considered one of the more popular films of Wes Anderson, it’s not one of mine.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

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Movie Review: WALL-E

 

There are times where I watch a movie and partake in some riffing; then there are times where I want everyone to just stay quiet and watch the film. The latter didn’t happen last night when I saw this for the first time in a while. If anything

A robot who has developed emotions finds a plant and helps bring humanity back home.

This was one of the few movies my entire family saw in the theaters when it was released. From what I can remember, it was a good experience and eventually my autistic brother got it for Christmas years ago. Over time this movie eventually moved to the movie collection in our basement, only to be retrieved whenever I felt like watching it.

I enjoyed the first half where it was just WALL-E and EVE with minimal dialogue. I cannot remember the last time an animated film started off without dialogue from our protagonist for a noticeable amount of time. Looking back, it reminds me of when I saw some silent films with a large crowd that included children. They connected with WALL-E the same way they did with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

The themes of commercialism and the culture of consumerism was not lost on me. I laughed at the superficial material goods offered like the septuacentennial cupcake-in-a-cup but then it got me thinking about what I prefer in terms of brand and quality. I want the very best version of a movie if at all financially possible. But why am I willing to put money behind a brand (e.g. The Criterion Collection) if it means burning a hole in my wallet? I guess it’s more about the prestige of having a high-end version of a film on my shelf (more so if I get it autographed if the opportunity arises).

Considering it’s position in the Pixar chronology, it’s a solid installment in the post-Cars era and makes up a trilogy of great films (Ratatouille, this, and Up). I’d rather have all three of those films make the list but alas, it was this one. Not that I utterly dislike this particular film but it’s more in the upper half of my favorite Pixar films.

At least it’s comforting to know that VHS tapes will still work seven hundred years into the future.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Winner of Best Animated Feature

Movie Review: Eyes Wide Shut

 

There are some films that I will watch every chance I get because I enjoy them. Others will be given some distance between viewings because I didn’t like what I saw or that it it’s akin to a fine wine, only enjoyable in sips instead of gulps. Eyes Wide Shut is one of those fine wines, something I view every six months because of what it is.

A doctor fights with his wife and explores a sexual underworld, trying to figure out what it means to be faithful to a person.

This odyssey started when I was a sophomore in college, before I started to watch movies seriously. I bought this and a few other tapes at Salvation Army with the plastic wrap still on it. It had been opened and viewed at least once. I didn’t get around to it until the beginning of winter break. After the first viewing, I had to step back and think about what I saw.

At first, I noticed the one-point perspective used in other Kubrick films. But I saw the use of the specific red and blue in the first five minutes that would appear countless times throughout the rest of the film. From the neon lights to the apartment paintings, to the coats on the extras and even the hospital tiles, they were present. Since then, I have tried to figure out what each color means with some success that’ll be in a separate post.

The sequence that captivated me was the famous masked ball ritual scene. It’s so surreal that I could do nothing but stare, occasionally remembering to breathe. The strong reverence for this ceremony can be felt through the music and the slow tracking of the camera. The scene that followed was from the North American R-rated version with the superimposed figures, according to This Film is Not Yet Rated. Since then, I’ve upgraded to the two-disc version that contains the unrated cut just to update my collection.

I enjoy the soundtrack a lot. From the flowing waltz of Dmitri Shostakovich that bookends the film to the unnerving Gyorgy Ligeti piece from the unmasking scene, I cannot get enough of it. Sometimes, I listen to the masked ball music before bed because of how it sounds. I could listen to that piece for hours on end and never get tired of it.

Now, why do I prefer this over a film like Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom? It’s true that both films have strong sexual content. For me, Salo was an exercise in depravity by showing that sex equals power and without attachment or resolution. Here, the infidelity happened but it reached a resolution by the end of the film in a way that both characters could learn something. While I personally don’t agree with some of the content in either film (especially the former), I accept that it is what the director intended.

I have found a few peers who have heard or even seen this particular film. I’m not entirely surprised because it is an adult film and should be treated as such. It’s not one you watch just for kicks. There’s a serious commitment involved with choosing to watch this film. I find that it is one where it’s better to watch it alone than with other people.

As Kubrick’s last film before his death, it’s amazing. I know it’s not for everyone but I highly recommend it.

9/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: The Sixth Sense

 

Today, it’s another birthday for me. I figured it was time to watch another movie that was released on this special day; this is one of them. Also, today happens to be M. Night Shyamalan’s birthday. I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.

A psychologist helps a kid confront his fears.

This was my first (and, so far, only) Shyamalan film. I saw this for the first time last year and returned to it today. I had heard the criticisms about his recent films and reportedly how terrible they were. I had my doubts when I saw this had placed on the AFI Top 100 for 2007. Keep in mind that this wasn’t spoiled for me.

My first time through, I thought it was a slow film that, once I knew the twist, was another box ticked off my list. It wasn’t until I pored through the bonus features that there were a lot of things I missed, specifically the use of color. The second time around, I saw the signs and gained a better appreciation for them.

The story’s tight, but what about the cinematography? It’s very deliberate but treads close to being pretentious. The slow pan during the “pendant” conversation, while somewhat visually engaging, seems to ask for a series of over-the-shoulder shots by the end just to break up the mundane nature of the scene. At the same time, the shot length complements the atmospheric feel of the film.

As for the film’s legacy, I figure it has had its fifteen minutes. From what I remember as a kid, my friends would say “I see dead people” without meaning. I knew it was from the film but I wasn’t sure how it fit. I dismissed it as one of the plainest quotes. As time went by, the quote was parodied to the point that when I saw it in context, the power was diminished.

Come to think of it, all of the people I know of who talk about this film only mention the quote and nothing more. It’s like knowing who or what Rosebud is, protecting the spoilers. Not exactly thought-provoking.

In the end, I believe that this is a well-crafted film that holds up today. Even though it doesn’t rank high on the AFI Top 100 or my personal favorites, it’s worth a few viewings that are worth your time.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

AFI Top 100 (2007): #89

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for 2007

Movie Review: The Nutty Professor

 

I found this on the list and figured it would be a while before I could find a copy. The remake was available in most stores I visited but the original was not to be found; that is until this past weekend. One copy on tape for fifty cents, couldn’t pass it up considering the scarcity.

A totally inept chemistry professor goes from Jekyll to Hyde in order to woo a student.

This was my first Jerry Lewis film. All I knew about him was that he was a comedian, he has a telethon every Labor Day, and the idea that the French find him hilarious; whether the last part is true, I don’t know. Once he started talking, my heart sank as the voice grated on my ears.

I never liked obnoxious comedic voices or crossed eyes for the sake of getting a laugh. Seeing Jerry as the professor, I cringed. I started to question the inclusion of this film on the list, thinking they needed at least one of his films. I found out afterwards that this was one of three.

But then I found a shot where his back was toward the camera. It dawned on me that I looked like that (in the back). The diction, the mannerisms, his introverted nature, it was me. Remove the whine in the voice, correct the eyes, thicken the frames on the glasses, close the mouth, and it’s me. I was surprised because of this connection.

Do I have moments where I wish I wasn’t socially awkward or was suave and sophisticated? Sure, but I wouldn’t put Buddy Love as the paragon of “cool”. But in the world of opposites, he is in every way the Hyde whether we like it or not.

During the scene where they talk about the senior prom, I got confused. For most of the movie, I assumed that this was college solely because of the title “professor”. But when the term “senior prom” was mentioned, I became uncomfortable as it turned into high school. After some rationalizing and a few more minutes with the film, it turned out to be college. Do they still throw senior proms in college or was that something only done back then?

Aside from the acting, I liked the use of color, especially for the Purple Pit. Even though I saw this on tape, it still looked vibrant.

Did I like this film? Somewhat. Even with the strange connection, it wasn’t laugh-out-loud. I make it a point to watch the original version of a film first before the remake, just to understand what the remake might do better or worse. This is one of the few where I wonder if the remake improves upon the original. That remains to be seen.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection