Hot Fuzz

Everybody loves Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Everyone but me, anyways. I found this one only moderately funny. I may be an insufficient fan of the genres they skewer, or something. The pacing seemed a bit off to me: we have a fairly limp beginning, a comic twist delivered a mite too late, and an altogether too rushed end. I dunno. I just found it all rather enh. I can sort of see how it might really appeal to other folks, but it basically didn’t do much at all for me, which may be a problem with me. Or something.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Pixar short films, volume 1

Pixar is a wonderful company. We can get that out of the way right away. It helps that they can do top-notch animation, but what seems to set them ahead of the competition (besides their insanely good mathematics) is their sense of fun. We see that here. Even in their crude, early pieces there’s a sense of whimsy, a sense that even if they can’t get the polygon count up they want to use this medium to do something authentically entertaining. Thus it is for this odd Pixar collection, which include all of their shorts through 2006, most of which I’d never seen before. One odd distinction from their feature-length films is that almost none of them have any dialogue, which means they rely almost entirely on expressive visuals to convey emotions. Any computer animator can do a perfect-looking lamp, but convincingly doing a dejected-looking lamp, or a joyful lamp, as Pixar does in Luxo, Jr., is the work of an artist. These works are almost uniformly charming, and explore different enough themes to be non-repetitive. Particularly memorable ones include Knick Knack, the aforementioned Luxo, Jr., and For the Birds. For the reasons I mentioned above, the later, vocal ones draw me in less. Using a voice track to convey meaning almost feels like cheating.

See also: IMDB (Andre and Wally B., Luxo, Jr., Red’s Dream, Tin Toy, Knick Knack, Geri’s Game, For the Birds, Boundin’, Jack-Jack Attack, Mater and the Ghostlight), Wikipedia.

Funny Girl

[Screenshot]Barbra Streisand steals the show. She might as well be the only character in this one, really. Omar Sharif puts in a valiant attempt at consequentiality, but, honestly, this is really all about seeing Streisand be brassy and sassy in the way only she knows how. It’s worth seeing if only to get a proper context on “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, the two songs from this film that have trickled into mainstream consciousness. The other songs are well-performed too, but aren’t obligatory literacy the way those two are. As for the story away from the song-and-dance numbers, I was mostly struck by the odd datedness of the central conflict. Granted, being the noncontributing member of a relationship could be desperation-inducing nonetheless, but the primary aspact of the Nick/Fanny dynamic was solely gender-based, specifically that the woman was supporting the household and that this was somehow intolerable. It felt kind of weird to be seeing this, because it was a situation with which I had no sympathy whatsoever. So I tried my best to ignore the ridiculous plot and focus on the fine, talented starlet instead.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

ごくせん/The Gokusen episodes 1–5

[Screenshot]Gokusen ended up in my queue because it’s ostensably josei, a genre I’m interested in, but didn’t give me much to judge the genre as a whole on. It’s pretty fun, albeit a bit colorless: it’s got a wacky premise but honestly doesn’t go very far with it. It’s a good anime to watch while shutting your brain off, really, a moderately interesting wrinkle on an Azumanga Daioh-esque high school hijinx series. I don’t really have too much to say about it: it’s fun but not fun enough to really rise above the crowd as far as comic series go.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

Paris, je t’aime

No screenshot for this one; I watched it while my desktop was sad. It was a most excellent collection, though. There’s something about short films: even when they’re imperfect or even subpar, you don’t feel like your time was wasted. And there are more hits than misses in this collection, but it’s all over the map, from the slice-of-life of Podalydès’s Montmartre to the intense quirkiness of the Coens’ Tuileries to gothic horror romance in Natali’s Quartier de la Madeleine. They’re mostly character sketches, though, in which a few characters are drawn with broad brushstrokes and interact with each other in either sentimental or situationally ironic ways. There’s enough variety in directorial styles, and in plots, though, to keep this collection feeling fresh and interesting, even nineteen films in.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Werckmeister Harmóniák

[Screenshot]I figured Béla Tarr deserved another shot. And, well, he blew it. I’d hoped getting away from the dreary everyday and the hazardous dullsville of cinema verité might make his films watchable, but, alas, not to be. Werckmeister Harmóniák is a story of a town beset by psychological horrors. How do you make that boring? By making every shot way, way too long, apparently. Remember that powerful, long shot at the end of The Third Man, with Valli walking from a long distance away towards and straight past Joseph Cotton. It’s a great final shot, well-paced and well-scored. Make the music mournfully dramatic, extend the length of the shot by about 50%, and you have the end of every scene in this film. It’s painful. And somehow, by the end, it still isn’t terribly effecting, hindered in large part by its own opaqueness. There’s a critical scene involving a massacre in what appears to be an old hospital. The whole film built up to a fight, but it wasn’t clear to me who the aggressors in this scene were: the townsfolk? the strangers? No answers, and not very many compelling questions The story started out on a great note: there’s a brilliant scene in which János explains how eclipses occur, but it was all downhill from there.

It’s starting to look like maybe I lack the discernment to appreciate art films. I have considered that possibility.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.