Quantum of Solace (dir. Marc Forster, 2008) – Finally gave this one the second viewing it clearly needed, after unfairly measuring it against the standard (whether too high or just too different) of Casino Royale. It definitely sat better this time around, held its own more and seemed more like its own story rather than just an episode. An abundance of political content was hard to ignore. While not a bad thing in spirit, when the Bond franchise tries to make humanitarian statements, it feels a little like Starbucks saying they’re giving x% of the profits from one kind of special seasonal bean off to Africa. Also, how is this not influenced in every department by Bourne? Nothing against this new-and-supposedly-improved Bond, but he’s really more Matt Damon than Sean Connery or Roger Moore, isn’t he?
The Clock (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1945) – Thanks again, Stanford Theatre. This is kind of a goofy little movie, melodrama at its purest, a musical minus the music. Robert Walker and Judy Garland are a couple fated to fall in love, which they do, and then fated to see the difference between love and romance. Of course, it’s all still very romantic. Aside from a formulaic narrative and some quirky acting, the quintessentially urban camerawork is worthy of praise. Almost seems as if the film hired a cinematographer who was over-qualified for the project. You get a real sense of height and depth. The camera begins and ends the same way: free-floating over crowds, relieving the viewer of the claustrophobia of the characters. It’s a God’s-eye view, or at least a view from the top of a skyscraper, recognizing the comfort that the cinematic audience experiences in contrast to its diegetic subjects. Most of the narrative conflict results from the city drowning out its inhabitants, separating them and crushing them. That the eponymous “clock” functions as the centripetal focus is fitting. It’s only a two-day shore leave, and they’re always at the mercy of time, which seems to tick away faster than it should in the metropolis. The question always seems to be whether they’ll have time, and it’s only when they make themselves and their romance subservient to the clock that they have any success.
Bottle Rocket (dir. Wes Anderson, 1994) – C’mon, like there’s anything bad about this one. Even Marty Scorsese says it’s completely devoid of pessimism. After more-or-less completing a huge Wes Anderson project that didn’t have room for the beloved first feature, we had to watch it; it was a love-screening. Noticed a couple little edits of the Criterion edition. When Anthony picks up the book during the bookstore robbery, it’s not “Jobs in Government” anymore; it’s some warfare book. And when Bob tells his brother Futureman, “Can I at least have three bucks for gas?” His brother replies, “No, you can’t.” But above all, Bottle Rocket feels way more French New Wave than I ever gave it credit for. Watch some Godard & Truffaut – especially Band of Outsiders, Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim, and even Breathless and then you see their fingerprints all over Anderson’s first feature effort. Jump cuts, close-ups, zoom-outs, barely-audible dialogue, petty crime, criminals on the lam, funny cars, and that overall attitude of taking everything with an enormous grain of salt; the only big difference is Anderson’s delightful disdain for politics, making him more in line with Truffaut than Godard. There are too many beautiful and hilarious lines in this film to pick just one for here…might need to initiate some kind of new series. Yeah, probably.
Scanners (dir. David Cronenberg, 1981) – After A History of Violence and watching numerous clips of The Brood, not to mention David Spade’s little joke in Tommy Boy, figured it was finally time to watch Scanners. It’s all there. And it’s not just a movie about photo-copying equipment. It’s been said that Cronenberg likes poking at bodies, but with Scanners he’s poking at them from the inside out. What’s truly horrific isn’t being blown up by a grenade or shot at; it’s one’s own brain exploding. While the dialogue, acting, and even narrative of this film is MST3K-worthy, the ideas presented are quite interesting. Much of it seems like an excuse for Cronenberg to investigate his own fear of the body and expose ours at the same time. There is something quite uncanny or unnerving about the body, isn’t there? Those of us who aren’t physicians can only wonder at what’s going on inside at any given moment in any given area. Not unlike Alien‘s great scene, there’s something freakish about our own innards, and our own obliviousness to the fact is probably a result of suppression more than simple ignorance. Scanners is mind over matter, or something like that, except the formula changes direction to expose suppression rather than wallow comfortably in it. Don’t swallow your puke, just blow chunks, is the idea here.