Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rickey’s Film Corral: Round up Movies You Were too Damned Lazy to See

[We know, you’re downright elated about Sarah Palin’s new media gig. Look at you, you’re practically bouncing up and down. But if you can pry yourself away from Fox News for juuuuuust a second, we think you’ll enjoy Rickey's in-depth analysis of the various cinematic offerings currently available for your viewing pleasure. In this column, Rickey will attempt to use his critical skills to weed out the dreck from the moderately watchable, thereby saving you money and vastly improving your quality of life. Don't say we never did anything for you, OK?]

Fitzcarraldo. This was one of those movies that Rickey has been informed by individuals far more cultured than himself that he simply must see. And sure enough, those individuals, despite being unbearably smarmy, were right. The movie revolves around one batshit crazy man (actor Klaus Kinski) and his quest to build an opera house in the heart of the Amazon jungle. The movie is filmed by another batshit crazy man (ahem, we mean noted Teutonic director Werner Herzog) who decided the centerpiece of his film would feature a 320 ton steamboat being dragged up the side of a mountain via an elaborate pulley system. No models, no camera tricks, no special effects. Just one crazy man’s film telling the story of a crazy man’s quixotic quest. People love to rave about James Cameron’s overbearing obsession and how his newfangled cinematic technique and plot in “Avatar” are so closely connected. To this, Rickey says, “have you not seen FITZCARRALLLLLDO?!” People were freaking injured making this movie. If possible, rent the version of the film with the director’s commentary on it. In it, Herzog talks about amputated body parts, tropical diseases, and threats of murder with an almost alarming nonchalance. Sure at one point, most of the film’s crew almost died while filming a crazy waterfall sequence, but hey, they got the shot! Who knew the Germans could be so cold-blooded?

Revolutionary Road. Rickey started watching this one lazy Sunday morning as Mrs. Henderson departed for work. And sweet fancy moses, Rickey wishes he hadn’t seen this movie alone. “Bleak” doesn’t quite begin to describe it. Directed by Sam Mendes, this movie, much like his “American Beauty” is a grim look into deep rooted suburban discontent. Leonardo DeCaprio plays the unhappy office drone who aspires to some vague career different from his current one while Kate Winslet plays the discontent wife whose dreams of acting have been sacrificed for the hausfrau lifestyle. With kids in tow, and in their 30s, the two slowly realize that they hate their jobs, themselves, and ultimately, each other. There’s talk of rekindling the spark from their earlier lives with an impulsive move to Paris, but then things turn seriously tragic and even more unimaginably bleak. The movie demands that we ask if it was society that doomed these two or if it was simply their own inability to adjust. Or maybe they just should’ve gone out for tacos and a movie every now and then. We’re sorry, but on the cusp of buying his first house, Rickey can’t relate to this sort of self-pitying melodrama. Suburban life may not be Sam Mendes’ cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean he needed to make a horror movie about it. Rickey supposes that the one good thing about this movie is that it caused “Titanic” fans rooting for a lovey dovey Jack and Rose reunion to storm out of the theater in tears. So, uh, there’s that at least.

Spartan. When Al Bundy storms into a dimly lit basement office in suit and tie and says “Where’s the girl?” in quick succession three different times using different inflection, you immediately know that you’re watching a David Mamet flick. This movie, Mamet’s take on the spy-thriller genre, is a serious treat for those who love modern day film noir. The criminally underrated Val Kilmer plays an unnamed government agent in search of the President’s kidnapped daughter. A guided missile of a man who utters witty cryptic comments, there is nothing Kilmer’s character won’t do to accomplish his mission. There is action. There are reversals. There is Mamet-speak. Rickey really enjoys the droll Mamet-speak. Here’s little excerpt:

Random Army Dude: Nice knife.
Val Kilmer: Yeah. Got it off an East German fella.
Random Army Dude: He give it to ya for a gift?
Kilmer: No. As I recall, he was... rather reluctant to part with it.

Reluctant, yes, BECAUSE HE KILLED HIM! HA! HA! How is it that no one writes sleek minimalist dialogue like this anymore? This movie harkens back to a time when meaning could be derived what characters didn’t say and do rather than what they did. Sure it’s a little hard to discern the meaning from all the minutia, but that’s half the fun. The implied meaning. It’s a helluva lot better than Jerry Bruckheimer angrily dangling his balls in your face for two hours. Go check this one out, pronto.

Tell No One (or "Ne le dis a Personne" for you cheese eating surrender monkeys out there) is another film that falls squarely the "noir" category. Mrs. Henderson, having read the book this movie is based on, recommended that Rickey check this one out and he's all the better for having done so. Without giving too much away, Rickey can tell you that the film's tagline reads "8 years ago, Alex's wife was MURDERED. Today... She e-mailed him." Think the French version of "The Fugitive" and you're on the right track. Particularly enjoyable is the film's soundtrack, which tosses in some great tracks from U2, Ottis Redding, and Groove Armada. There's one terrific scene following a harrowing chase where the protagonist unwinds in the backseat of a car driving through the outskirts of Paris with "Hands of Time" by Groove Armada playing in the background. A very chill breather scene. You don't see that sort of thing much in movies. This one comes highly recommended by Rickey.

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Adam said...

I absolutely agree with your take on "Spartan"- Mamet's flirtation with "24"-type material.

I have "Tell No One" on dvd ready to go, coincidentally I got it before reading your article, but it's good to know I was on the right track.

I will never see "Revolutionary Road" because I detest the concept. But "Fitzcarraldo" looks awesome and I'll be giving that a viewing soon. Thanks, dude!

Smitty said...

And now my Netflix queue is full. I personally can't wait for Spartan.

By the way, Rickey. You need to go to Around the Keg today. You have an invitation waiting for you.

Anonymous said...

Are there subtitle in "Tell No One" and if so, does it detract from the movie? I haven't watched a subtitled movie in a long, long time.

Rickey Henderson said...

Adam: hey buddy, great minds think alike...

Smitty: wow Rickey is freaking speechless. Holy fuck... Yes, yes, and yes!

Anonymous: dubbed movies bother Rickey a helluva lot more than subtitles. You'll get back into the swing of it quickly. Watching at least one subtitled flick a month is good for you goddamnit. It's like eating kale.

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