It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven’t been able to get around to posting as much as I’ve wanted. Sometime in the next week, I plan on getting to The Hunger Games, and a review should follow soon after. I also need to write some words about Chico & Rita at some point. But for now, I figured I’d just share some thoughts on the notable films I’ve watched for the first time in the past couple weeks. A couple of these I’ve pulled from writings on the Reelviews forum (http://reelviews.net/reelviewsforum/index.php), but the last review has been written specifically for this blog. In the future, I’ll be writing these reviews both for the blog and for the forum.
My Little Eye
A fantastically creepy horror film from director Marc Evans (who also directed the worthwhile Trauma). The plot revolves around a group of five people who participate in a web-based, Big Brother-style reality show. The prize is a million dollars to each contestant, but only if they stay within the confines of a secluded house for six months. The house has been set up with thousands of cameras, which record everyone’s actions. Of course, this being a horror film, not everything is at it seems. The film makes terrific use of all the camera placements, creating an incredible sense of uneasy tension as the events onscreen start to escalate. Perhaps more than any other film I’ve seen, it gets an incredible amount of mileage out of that uncomfortable feeling of being watched by something unseen. There are some inevitable logic problems, and in the final twenty minutes the intangible threat becomes tangible, which isn’t quite as well handled as the creeping paranoia that comes before it, but overall this is a film that all fans of the horror genre should check out. If prompted, I would place it high on my list of the top horror films of the last decade.
My Dog Tulip
A 2009 animated feature, based on an autobiographical novel by J.R. Ackerley, about the relationship between an old man and his dog. There are a couple big positives: Christopher Plummer gives a very strong vocal performance as the old man/narrator, and the filmmakers employ a crude yet expressive hand-drawn animation style that suits the simplicity of the story perfectly. It’s an easy film to admire, but my personal feelings regarding the subject matter kept me from finding any kind of deeper appreciation. See, I’m not a dog lover, and I have no intention of ever becoming a dog owner. Currently, the neighbors on both sides of where I live own dogs, and their constant yapping at the most ungodly hours of the day has become akin to daggers stabbing at my eardrums. Unfortunately, the dog in this film does a lot of barking, and the old man is the type of character who will let the dog continue on barking without any consideration of how irritating it is to other people. He has the mindset that, if he loves the dog, well, everyone else should love the dog as well. Despite the oftentimes quite poetic quality of Plummer’s narration, the old man and his dog are annoying, and spending a feature length film with them is somewhat exhausting. It doesn’t help that the second half of the film is devoted entirely to the old man trying to improve the dog’s sex life, with the film going into some surprisingly graphic details (this isn’t a film for kids). In the end, I can imagine that dog lovers would get much more out of this film than I did. As someone who doesn’t have any interest in dogs, my overall appreciation of the film was muted.
Gojira and Godzilla, King of the Monsters
Thanks to my local library making available some fairly recent Criterion releases, I was able to rent the classic Gojira, with the American version Godzilla, King of the Monsters included as a supplemental feature. Having been bombarded with images of Godzilla throughout my life, I went into the original Japanese film expecting a campy and dated monster romp. I was pleasantly surprised when Gojira turned out to be a much deeper and interesting film than I ever would have thought possible. Sure, the effects work hasn’t exactly held up over time, but there’s so much more going on in the film than the violent escapades of a giant lizard. Released at a time when the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings were still being felt, the film is steeped in a melancholic atmosphere. There are many discussions throughout the film about the dangers of the H-bomb and the responsibilities of scientists to tread carefully with potentially dangerous new inventions. Because the subtext of the film is so strong, the final moments of the film hit harder than anything I’ve watched recently. People who haven’t seen Gojira because of their preconceived notions need to give it a chance. It’s really something special.
Unfortunately, the American version is a textbook example of how editing can completely ruin a great film. Godzilla, King of the Monsters is essentially made up of about 90% of footage from the original Gojira, yet the overall effect couldn’t be more different. For one, the other 10% is made up of awkward inserts of Raymond Burr staring contemplatively into the distance, or the occasional scene where he interacts with characters from the original film, except the people he talks to are always awkwardly shot from behind, to disguise the fact that he’s not actually talking to the original actors. Add in the terrible English dubbing over the original Japanese actors, and the result is an unintentionally funny mess. It’s not much of an exaggeration for me to say that the American version has some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen. Worse, most of the subtext has been taken out. The result is a film that runs 15 minutes shorter than the original yet seems to drag on for much longer. Without the subtext and the exploration of deeper themes, all you’re left with is a painfully forgettable monster movie, and unfortunately nothing more than a historical curiosity.
9/10 and 4/10, respectively.
That’s it for now. I got a few more Criterion releases today from the library, so I’m sure I’ll have more to write about in the near future.