Movie Roundup: Oden’s Depressing Knees Edition

Still got that Vancouver Film Festival thing coming. In the meantime, these are the films I’ve watched to try and get my mind off of the Trail Blazers.


Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans – Yes, it’s weird. But it takes awhile to get there. I really liked the slow build of crazy, with Nicolas Cage starting as a relatively normal guy and just getting crazier and crazier. Around the point that he starts doing a Jimmy Stewart impression for no apparent reason, the film just takes off. In fact, I loved everything about Cage’s performance, from his hunchbacked walk to the bizarre way he totally fails to holster his gun. It’s not nearly as ambitious as Herzog’s best films, but it’s fun, intelligent storytelling and that’s good enough. Very comparable in this sense to Star Trek for this year, I think.


Silent Light – As eye-poppingly beautiful a film from director Carlos Reygadas as it’s reputed to be. It’s about a man who lives in a Mennonite (which is apparently like Amish, but with digital watches) community in Mexico. He’s having an affair and can’t tell if the affair is the work of the devil (adultery and all) or God (he’s found his true love). Mostly he just feels bad. Then something happens and the film somehow turns into Ordet. Not much happens for most of the movie, but the crisp, sharply focused compositions and ultra-realistic soundtrack keep things interesting. The #13 film of 2007.


Funny People – The most ambitious of Judd Apatow’s films and one clearly made with a lot of affection. His love of stand-up and the people that practice is readily apparent. Seth Rogen is fine as the wanna-be who becomes superstar comic Adam Sandler’s assistant (in another fine, self-deprecating performance). It still feels a bit long, like the rest of Apatow’s films, but I don’t think it’s because Sandler’s illness goes away with 40 minutes of film left. It’s a portrait of a comedian, not a portrait of a dying comedian. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography makes it by far the best-looking Apatow film to date, at least in the areas of lighting and color. Apatow’s framing and editing is pretty much rote, however.


The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu – More clearly a dark comedy than 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days . . ., this film by director Cristi Puiu might be even better than that one at examining the little details of Romanian life. The titular Dante Lazarescu feels sick and calls for an ambulance. When it eventually shows up, the poor EMT (Mirela Cioaba) ends up spending most of the night shuttling him from hospital to hospital as everyone in town is busy dealing with the fallout from a traffic accident. The film’s focus is on the details of the case, how hospitals work and how the people who work in them are, for the most part, heroic. Lazarescu has many things wrong with him and for the first part of his odyssey everyone seems to find only one of them (though everyone is sure to scold him for his drinking). It’s an epic of a film, certainly not insignificant that at one point a nurse calls for Virgil to take Dante to see Dr. Anghel. The #4 film of 2005.


Mulholland Dr. – I don’t know that I can say anything coherent about it right now, but I loved every minute of it. Lynch’s surreal mode of filmmaking is ideal for a story about Hollywood, the Dream Factory that’s founded on people changing their identities. A world run by gangsters and cowboys where everything is recorded and everything is an illusion. Naomi Watts is as terrific as advertised, just about the cutest girl ever as Betty and then tragic and heartbreaking. The rest of the cast is very good as well (Ann Miller!). Even Billy Ray Cyrus, of all people, is hilarious. And it’s always stunning to look at: both the clean bright colors of the first half and the harsh dinginess of the second. I really like Lost Highway, but this is even better. Without a doubt one of the best of the decade. The #3 film of 2001.


Inland Empire – Yeah, I didn’t like this as much. It has a lot of great things about it: the low-grade video gives the whole thing a samizdat quality that only amps up the creepiness, Laura Dern is terrific (I never really considered Lynch an “actors director” but he consistently gets outstanding performances in his films, he should get more credit for this), I love a good Gypsy curse as much as the next guy and I like how the movie makes a kind of sense, even when I have no idea what’s going on (a Lynch trademark, I suppose). Basically, my complaint about it is that’s it’s essentially a horror movie and really good at being scary which means it’s so terrifying that I’ll probably never want to watch it again because really scary scary movies really scare me and I usually don’t enjoy being scared. Basically, mystery whores doing the Loco-Motion: Yay! Crazy deformed screamy mouth: Nay! The #16 film of 2006.

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