Quick Hit: Beautifully shot, deeply written, with criticism available for any aspect you wish.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is like a very large onion – no matter how many layers you peel off, there seems to be more to it. A critique on gender roles, a critique on the entertainment industry, a master class in filmmaking and acting, there’s just about everything you could ask for in a film. The story of Dirk Diggler is nothing short of great.
Let’s first take PTA’s use of the camera. Here he shows that he is truly one of the best camera showoffs in film. He has numerous sequences that are absolutely beautiful. One is a sequence where the camera dives into the water following characters into an underwater world. There are other sequences where PTA uses mirrors to reflect his main character Eddie/Dirk as he tries to get himself together before shoots. This is creative even if it’s a bit derivative – and PTA is flawless in his execution.
PTA also coaxes some terrific facial reaction shots from his characters. There’s a lot that goes into directly filming a character’s face when they see something that the camera can’t – which is used over and over in this film. That’s because, at least until the final shot in the film, Dirk’s greatest asset is held back from the screen. This is a movie that is about pornography but doesn’t reflect any sexuality – this is about the business, about filmmaking, and about the people that are involved in it. And those people’s status is lower than everyone else’s, as reflected in multiple scenes throughout the film. That’s a huge statement for a film to make, and PTA makes it effortlessly here.
Speaking of those people, this cast may be one of the best ensembles that is out there. Featuring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Heather Graham – the list positively extends beyond belief. Some of the standouts feature Marky Mark in what I think his best performance. I can’t picture anyone else as Eddie or Dirk, and he just fits so well into the character’s journey. William H. Macy has one of the most emasculated performances I’ve seen on screen in Little Bill, whose wife continues to cheat on him and flaunt it in his face, and Burt Reynolds has an awesome performance here that is so understated you barely notice him. He just wants to be a film director, and his ability to look at the sex that is going on and stay completely distant from it all is the same as a slaughterhouse working knocking steers in the head all day and becoming numb to it.
I could go on and on about how Rollergirl (Heather Graham) is a metaphor for how women become objects in society, how Phillip Seymour Hoffman is an example of how the gay culture was expanding to become people instead of just jokes, how Don Cheadle is an example of not just racism but masculinity and the aspects thereof, but there is literally so much in this movie that I don’t think I could cover it without truly rambling on. I love this movie.
And of course, it’s an “A+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: What’s in the box????
People have difficulty classifying movies like Se7en. Is it a horror film? Is it a crime drama? I for one believe it’s both, which may be due to the fact the when I first watched it as a young teen, I had nightmares about the sloth scene. But I don’t think that there is any denying that Se7en is a well-crafted thriller that features solid acting from its leads, leading to an ending that is just short of glorious.
For those that haven’t seen this – Se7en follows Detectives Somerset and Mills as they track a killer who is killing people according to the seven deadly sins – gluttony, greed, pride, lust, sloth, wrath, and envy.
I think one of the best things about Se7en is the way director David Lynch shoots the film. Everything in this city is grimy. The apartment complexes are run down, the roads are bumpy, the place is just disgusting. This fits well into the motivation of someone like John Doe, as a city like this is bound to cause some sort of mental breakdown. This is reflected in Somerset himself, who is now ready to retire from the force despite not having any specific plans. He’s just ready for his faith in humanity to be restored, even knowing all the crimes he could still solve – because he just can’t do it anymore.
Another thing about the setting of the film – it’s nearly always raining. The finale is therefore contrasted because there isn’t any rain, which should be the first evidence that something major may occur. And the ending is one of the great finales that I can think of in a film. I honestly think if the movie ended right at that moment, the film would be an “A+”. But the movie continues for a short time, despite us knowing what’s going to happen. It’s just a bit unnecessary and detracts from the work that Lynch has done to this point.
The acting in this film is pretty good. Morgan Freeman is believable as the wise but checked out Somerset, possibly at his best when taking the time alone to do things like research in the library or study a crime scene. Brad Pitt as Mills is perfectly cast as the young man who requested being transferred to this hole of a city, who has a bit of a temper and something to prove to everyone. Gwyneth Paltrow is adequate as Mills’ wife Tracy, home with the dogs awaiting her husband. Kevin Spacey puts his mark on the movie despite only being in a portion of it, and his performance seems even creepier with the recent allegations against him. There are also some great character actors hidden within the folds of the film, including R. Lee Ermey and John C. McGinley.
Make no mistake – this film is violent and pretty gross in its implications. There’s plenty of scenes that are massively uncomfortable, and a lot of them will hit you where you feel the most guilty. Despite there being very few violent acts carried out on the screen itself, there is enough violence to give you the willies.
So is Se7en a good crime horror? Absolutely. Lynch shows why he is so talented and why he really took off in the nineties. I’m giving it an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Here’s another short film review, courtesy of Timothy J. Cox. I’ve linked to the IMDB page, where the short can also be found, at the end of this review. I’d advise you to check it out.
There’s a subsection of independent shorts that exist in a category of their own at many film festivals I’ve been to – “Short shorts”, which normally fall into the five minute range of length. Who is Elmore Dean? Falls into that category at just barely over five minutes. And for a short short, it’s pretty good. That’s because the trick of these ultra-shorts is to give you a topic, give you a setting, and let you draw your own conclusions. And Dean does that.
Elmore Dean (the aforementioned Cox) is a songwriter that burst onto the scene. His apartment indicates he’s been mildly successful, but is also at a bit of a stressful moment – the covered over desk indicates he’s been attempting to write something over and over. But it gets stranger than that – his apartment seems to have a mind of its own. Cox is good here, even if he’s given less to do here than usual. He doesn’t have to carry the movie because there’s another star present.
What carries the movie is the score, which is lilting and yet frantic, with a touch of that beauty that most of the best music has. This surrounds the apartment, and the cameras movement and spin accents that, never allowing us to rest our eye in one place. This is probably helpful on the effects, which are good for such a small budget (per IMDB $15,000). This focus also puts us firmly in a place and so the ending is that much more jarring.
I liked the short – and I’m giving it a “B” to go with it.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"