(500) Days of Summer – A very good romantic comedy that’s a little too much indebted to every other romantic comedy since, well, The Graduate, but still plenty of fun. Joseph Gordon Leavitt sorts through his recently ended relationship with Zooey Deschanel, and the film flits back and forth through time in a wholly unnecessary manner (like in Eternal Sunshine but less interesting) as he tries to get over the relationship. The romance is effectively comedic and its actually kind of fun playing spot the reference (the film is so infused with Woody Allen films I was sure it was set in New York until a third of the film had gone by and even now I’m not so sure they didn’t film it there and call it Los Angeles). I very much like the end, which is strikingly mature for a contemporary romantic comedy. The whole thing, in fact, feels like a breath of fresh air, unpolluted by the Apatovianity that has dominated the genre for the last five years or so (let alone the hideousness of the ones I can’t manage to stomach the trailers for, which all seem to star Sandra Bullock). I wouldn’t be insulting it to say it’s the Singles or Reality Bites of its era. Not an all-time great film, but perfectly enjoyable.
Dames – If such a thing as a by the numbers Busby Berkeley film is possible, this is it. There’s a slight, but pleasant and occasionally funny plot about a millionaire’s relative conniving to fund a broadway show. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler do their thing (though Keeler’s tap dancing is sorely neglected). There’s a fine supporting performance from Zasu Pitts as Keeler’s mother. The Berkeley numbers at the end are mostly underwhelming, except for an inspired section Keeler’s image multiplies giving us dozens and dozens of Rubys. The film’s most notable for introducing the song “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which is one of the greatest songs ever and has been stuck in my head for the last week. The #17 film of 1934.
Shutter Island – I don’t know how to talk about the plot without spoiling it, so I’ll try to avoid that. Scorsese does a lot of really cool things to create a tense and unsettling mood, ranging from a dramatic classical, Kubrickian, score to some decent CGI create some wonderful effects with Robert Richardson’s lurid cinematography to editing rhythms that are just a little bit off, a little bit out of continuity. The large cast filled to the brim with excellent actors does an excellent job, and Leonado DiCaprio not only gives his usually very good performance, he’s also finally starting to show his age: for the first time I can recall, I actually thought he was a believable grown-up. The story’s initially unsatisfying, but after a couple of days, I’m thinking it has enough depth that it actually manages to be something a bit better than simply the best Christopher Nolan movie ever.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil – It’s everything it has been reputed to be: a terrific story about a 30 year old metal band keeping their dream alive despite an almost complete lack of success. It’s funny and moving and inspiring, but it somehow feels incomplete. One of the more interesting questions the film raises is why Anvil failed while their peers (the other metal bands of the 80s) succeeded? The film’s too much in love with the band (and that’s totally understandable, these guys are quite lovable) that it doesn’t really want to address anything negative about them or their music. The #39 film of 2008.