That's how tall the draft of my dissertation measures. Funny how so much work and so many opportunities can be tied to one inch.
I've been watching a lot of films to balance out the hardcore attention to detail I've had to maintain. Now, I will tell you which ones were good, which ones were terrible, and which ones were simply tolerable.
I'll start with the bad ones:
1. 500 Days of Summer: I've already gotten flak about this one. I really hated it. Actively. I found myself actively disliking this film from the first, self-referential scene. What didn't I like about it? Everything. More specifically: Zooey Deschanel, the uber-indie feel, the hypersaturation of hipster culture, the temporal bounds. I like Joseph Gordon Levitt, but this film lost me at: "The Smiths? I love The Smiths." Like Juno and any film with Michael Cera, this film was obsolete by the time it hit DVD. And someone needs to teach Zooey to emote.
2. Amelia: Good story. Terrible acting. Hillary Swank is a talent, for sure, but this film pushes her to vamp up her prairie accent, make much ado about everything, and cut a figure as the scrappy-but-still-elegant pioneer. Richard Gere is a terrible actor, all the time, but Swank doesn't have to be. This film could have been so much more without the melodrama. I wonder what it is about period pieces that cues actors to tap into their stage voices?
3. Gentleman Broncos: Another film from Jared Hess, the guy responsible for Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite. I had high hopes for this movie, as I enjoyed Hess's past work. However, the awkwardness that makes NL and ND endearing makes Gentlemen Broncos simply uncomfortable. It seems as if American filmmakers have hit on this genre of teen films that relies on the site gag and crude jokes. Teen films have always hit these notes harder than other genres, but it does seem that, recently, they've been responsible for setting the bar for crude language and behavior. I'm no prude, but films like GB go a long way to dashing my hopes for American cinematic culture.
And move to The Good Ones
1. Creation: Focusing on the tense relationship between Darwin and his faithful and religious wife, this film, despite its Rotten Tomatoes rating, presented a complex look at a marriage forced to consider its foundation. Haunted by the death of his child--for which he blames himself--Charles works out his theory of evolution as he also deals with the provenance and resting place of his child's soul. A deeply felt, if not pathos-heavy, film with some insight into the background of a foundational scientific text.
2. Mother: A Korean film, Mother relies heavily on attention to detail and surprise endings. Do-joon is 27, oddly childlike, and lives with his mother. Their relationship relies on both physical intimacy and deep emotional entanglement to develop the backdrop for Do-joon's undoing. We follow as he is accused of the murder of a young woman and as his mother, who is viciously devoted to her son, works behind the scenes to protect her child, who she assumes couldn't commit such a violent act. At times grisly and uncomfortable, Mother holds up for question the bounds of maternal commitment. Never think that you know who killed that girl, because the ending will surprise you.
Before finishing with the Better-Than-Good One
Let the Right One In: I had postponed seeing this Swedish vampire film because it came out amid the Twilight hype. I was OVER vampires. However, in its subtlety and grace, this film crafts a story where the vampircism is backgrounded in favor of the human (and otherwise) relationships as they develop. With rich yet stark cinematography, Let the Right One In returns the genre to its roots: it subverts gore and sexuality to highlight visceral need and fulfillment (including psychological need in the face of loneliness, and who hasn't experienced that?). The trope of the unaged child is well rendered, and what blood there is, is presented with style.
Sadly, I've watched only one Better-Than-Good film recently. I have high hopes for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. (It's sitting on my kitchen table.)