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

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Movie Review: The LEGO Movie

If there was ever a movie that could be physically concentrated into a piece of candy and still be as tasty as the cinematic form, this is it. I don’t care if it’s a movie based on a toy line, this was a blast to watch.

An ordinary guy stumbles into a larger plot that could end with the destruction of their universe as they know it.

I had really high hopes when the teaser was released months ago. I imagined it would be animated like the LEGO video games, more fluid in movement. But when I saw how true to life the movement was, I lost any notion that the film could possibly fail. Even though it was just the teaser I couldn’t help but smile. It would become one of my anticipated movies of 2014.

The entire world is well-built. So much detail lies in the secondary parts like the billboards and instructions that it will require multiple viewings to see everything. Even the fact that their instruction books are based on the real-life LEGO ones as well as specific part numbers shows how much care was taken to make the world as real as it can be.

The animation is indeed spectacular. If you’ve even seen some good Brickfilms (movies made using LEGOs), then that’s what you’ll get on the big screen. What’s mind-blowing is that, for the most part, is all computer animation. I was reminded of the movements the Nicelanders from Wreck-it Ralph and how it captured the 8-bit movements. But here, the line between practical and CGI is blurred in the best way possible. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a well-animated CGI movie or a ridiculously crafted stop-motion film.

The humor is a large part of the film. The only way to describe it is by watching the video below.

That’s only one minute out of the 100 minute runtime. It’s just a joy to watch.

There is a planned sequel and the hook involves another toy line; I’m game. It’s not a giant toy commercial, even though it seems like it. It’s just a film that knows how to have fun with toys and it clearly shows. It’s only February but already the bar has been set high for my best of 2014. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you watch this, all that matters is that you are a child at heart.

9/10

Movie Review: On the Waterfront

 

For a movie that’s supposed to be incredible, it’s not talked about much where I come from and that’s a shame. Even in the above picture, it looks like Terry’s thinking, “C’mon, why haven’t you seen this? After all, I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender and all that.” That you were Terry, that you were.

Terry Malloy is witness to a murder and is pressured into revealing information that can destroy his life.

I saw a lot of me in Terry, right down to the flannel. He tries so hard to figure out what the right thing to do is that it leads him to the climatic battle on the waterfront. He may not have been the smartest man on the docks but he had the guts to do what he needed to do. I was cheering for him all the way, something I don’t usually do.

It’s really cruel what the boys do to the pigeons after Terry attends the hearing. I thought i saw something fly by the screen rather quickly and the movie allowed us to see what that something was: a dead pigeon. Why would anyone kill a pigeon, especially one that was taken care of? Sure a pigeon is just a pigeon but Terry cared for them. Kids can be so cruel sometimes.

The “Contender” speech in the back seat was something I looked forward to. The delivery of the line, the emotion, everything that was going on within the world of the waterfront showed how hurt Terry was and we feel that pain. Because of his past actions, he has resigned to the fact that he will always be a bum and with that, no ambition to do anything. Whatever he does now is not seen as impactful, according to Terry. It is up to him to do something about it.

When I said this film isn’t mentioned much, I really mean it. Aside from “I coulda been a contender” and the occasional puzzle clue, it seems forgotten. That’s not good for a film that netted eight Oscars, including Best Picture. I suppose I need to get my own copy, preferably Criterion if I can afford it.

Good job Terry, good job.

9/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

AFI Top 100 (1997): #8

AFI Top 100 (2007): #19

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Direction Black-and-White, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), and Best Film Editing

Movie Review: The Shining

Before I begin, I would like to say that I would have eventually seen this film, being a Kubrick fan. However, I needed an extra push. Earlier this year, I was looking about IMDB and found that Room 237 would be released later that year. It was the director that intrigued me and that told me that I needed to see The Shining before Room 237. I bought a secondhand copy and saw it. I didn’t think much of it but after multiple viewings I started to dig deeper. After starting this blog, I knew that I wanted to review this but could not do so until after watching Room 237. I’ll explain why in that review but for now, let’s drive to the Overlook Hotel.

Jack Torrance goes to the Overlook Hotel for an interview to be the winter caretaker. He later arrives with his family and things pretty much go downhill. That’s the short version because I’d rather talk about the atmosphere and the details I picked up.

It is said that Eraserhead was shown to the cast so that they could get a better understanding for the movie’s mood. In relation to this movie, I suppose there are a few similarities. The soundtrack is minimal but still haunting. Obviously there are bizarre events in both films that aren’t explained. However, in my opinion, there is not enough correlation between the two films for it to be a major influence.

In the scene where Jack sees Lloyd, there is a part where Jack begins to drink. Jack is seen in three forms. You have the actor Jack Nicholson playing Jack Torrance drinking Jack Daniels. What exactly this means, I’m not sure but it’s an interesting fact.

The name “Torrance” sounds similar to “torrent,” as in the torrent of blood that gushes from the elevators.

Each time the exterior of the hotel is shown as the days wear on, it’s shown farther away. It shows how isolated the family is from the world as they plunge into the horror.

Of course, I have done my best to not mention the alternate theories behind the movie. I had come across them before my first viewing and had thought of them when watching. But, like HAL 9000, I never gave them much credence. Afterwards, I found some more theories but dismissed them as completely ridiculous. At the same time, the people who believed those theories intrigued me and led me to Room 237.

For me, I enjoy this movie for intellectual purposes. I like to work on puzzles and when I come across a film that has multiple layers I take it as a challenge to figure out what it means to me. I do not have a defined personal meaning as of yet for this film but it’s one that I will enjoy for years to come.

9/10

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Overlook Hotel

July 4th Ball

1921

Movie Review: Life of Pi

With summer vacation winding down, I figured I might as well end it with a bang. I have meant to see this movie, mostly because it’s on the cover of the new 1001 Movies book that won’t be out for another month. Figured I might as well check this one off and get ahead of the game.

It’s breathtaking. The highlights are the special effects and the acting. Just the main part of the film where it’s on the ocean with Pi and the tiger are wonderful to look at as Pi is the only living creature that exists. Acting scared, fighting for his survival, Pi does his best in a CGI landscape.

Now, when I watched it, I saw it on a portable DVD player. Arguably, it’s not how it should be seen but that’s not the point. The tech specs said it was widescreen. It was widescreen, sans black bars, except for two scenes. In the flying fish scene, it becomes letterboxed and the fish actually go beyond the bars, making it look like a trailer for a 3D converted re-release of a 2D film. It then returns to widescreen. In another shot, the film is pillarboxed, making it look square. I had to look at the back to see if this was mentioned. It was not. Normally, something like a change in aspect ratio would be mentioned before the film, like Brother Bear and Tron Legacy. If anyone saw this in theaters, were those scenes like that or were they framed differently?

I found this film to be more engaging than the other visual spectacular, Avatar. When you focus on a man stranded in the middle of the ocean with a tiger and not much else, you have to care for him, regardless of the story being told in flashback. At least I ended on a high note.

9/10

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IMDB Top 250