Hugo (January 3rd, 2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Ben Kingsley
There aren’t many Scorsese movies I haven’t seen yet, so it’s always nice to dive into one of those rare beasts. There’s some that I’ll wanna rewatch with a new perspective in my more seasoned age, like The Age of Innocence and Kundun. It’s kinda surprising that I hadn’t seen this one though since I was in film school at the time, very much interested in seeing Oscar nominated movies before the Oscars, and it’s fucking Scorsese. Maybe it was the kids movie aspect of it that put me off, maybe it was Sacha Baron Cohen doing Peter Sellers, or maybe it was the 3D aspect to it. Whatever it was that kept my stupid ass away from this movie kept me away from a damn charming movie that wasn’t exactly marketed too well. Not that the movie becomes a slasher movie or anything, but they don’t really sell what the movie is about. Mainly it’s a movie about broken people helping to heal each other, but there’s a love of cinema that is textual. Right on the surface of the movie, it becomes about film preservation and it does so by using a real life figure. Hugo (Butterfield) is a kid orphaned when his father dies in a fire. Sent to live with his drunk Uncle in a train station fixing clocks, Hugo is on his own when the uncle goes missing. So he fixes the clocks in secret and hides away inside the walls of the station, trying to keep away from the station Inspector (Cohen). Hugo’s accidental intersection with Ben Georges (Kingsley) kickstarts the entire journey of a bunch of people, all broken on different levels, learning to help to fix each other. It’s a really beautiful little movie, filled with a great cast and a really unique look for a Scorsese movie. Very effects heavy, it has a dreamlike quality to it. Which works, since its based off a kids book and that Hugo is a kid trapped looking outward at a world he thinks is idealized. The stuff about broken folks fixing each other all works for me. But what makes it special and hits me even more personally than the broken people stuff is the stuff regarding film/film preservation. I’m very much into the preservation of film and keeping the flame going of cinema history. And the way they make the point here is very poignant. The most down to earth, relatably human stuff he’s done in a good long time. It was a damn shame it took me so long to see this movie but I’m glad I did. And y’all should see it too when you get the chance.
Jodorowsky’s Dune (January 5th, 2016)
Director: Frank Pavich
Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, Nicholas Winding Refn, and Richard Stanley
A little ways back (a week), I watched the documentary about the failed Tim Burton Superman movie. It was an interesting look at a movie that never was, and by all accounts shouldn’t have been. It was a movie that was in the comic movie consciousness as a sort of cautionary tale. So this week, I look at another documentary from 2015 about the doomed history of an iconic never made movie. That would be an adaptation of the acclaimed sci fi novel Dune, to be spearheaded by iconoclastic director Alejandro Jodorowsky. This is a similar kind of movie, in that it’s an in depth look at the behind the scenes process of the movie and how deep they got into it. Art and script and special effects and even casting. But the difference between the two is how this movie reverberated through cinema history. Unlike Superman Lives, this one has been a mega influence in other movies. Watching this doc, an argument could be made that it’s the most influential movie ever and it wasn’t even made. The wrap up of this movie, showing how all sorts of movies that came after it’s death is astounding. Alien, Blade Runner, and Star Wars may not have been made or been the same if it wasn’t for this movie. Alien most definitely, since HR Giger and Dan O’Bannon went from Dune to that. Which then means Blade Runner probably wouldn’t have been made. Star Wars might have been made, but seeing the stuff Lucas took from it is funny. What else sets this apart from the Superman movie is that the men behind it’s attitudes to the projects. Jon Peters was kinda the main man behind the movie, while Tim Burton came on late in the game and started to shift it to his style because he can’t do anything else. And it looks like Burton didn’t really care for the Superman mythos, and was just trying to make a Burton movie with a Superman coat of paint. Jodorowsky though is like a mad man trying to make the movie, a man on a mission. He speaks of it like a prophet and that it will change the world, a messiah of sorts. His energy is infectious. It makes you ignore that feeling in the back of your mind that the movie may not have been able to be made in 1974/5, at least at the ambitious scale he wanted it to be. Jodorowsky is like watching a cult leader round up some cattle to make his own demented vision. Similar to Superman though is that the movie may have been too big and weird to work in the end, some hard sci fi shit. Especially since it would have been the first big scale movie of this kind, beating Star Wars by 3 years. And yet the movie makes you sort of glad it didn’t get made, since cinema was changed anyway. In the end, you realize that creativity is the only thing that’s important and it can reverberate throughout time.
The Mule (January 7th, 2016)
Directors: Angus Samson and Tony Mahony
Starring: Angus Samson, Leigh Whannell, Hugo Weaving, and John Noble
Gotta love it when a movie comes out of nowhere to tell a story you just never thought you’d see on screen. This movie isn’t the most original movie in the world mind you. Basically, it boils down to a guy getting roped into a crime and having to use his wits to get out of the trouble. But where it separates itself is the details of the story and the crux of the trouble our main guy (Samson) gets into. For he is, as the title tells us, is a drug mule. Not career wise, but doing it for a friend and for a little excitement in his life. He has his doubts but gets in too deep, getting picked up at the airport under suspicion of being a mule. And in his good natured, sort of naive way he has a plan to get out of trouble. You see, they can’t tell what he has in his stomach from an x ray and can’t force him in any way to shit. So, he’s gonna wait them out. No shitting until they have to legally let him go. The majority of the movie is us watching a man try, in pain, to not shit. And while this isn’t some dour grimdark fest, it’s done in earnest. The dude is in pain and his life is in danger physically and legally. Not to mention the drug dealers his friend (Whannell) got him involved with, are looking to kill him for the fuck up. So while there is some humor involving shitting, it’s a straight crime drama. And with enough little details to Australia that it feels unique. The cast is all superb. The writing is really good, with Whannell doing double duty as writer/actor. Samson does good work in front of and behind the camera, using his big stature to play a sheltered little goober who has to fight for his life. And the balancing act there is of the serious shit going down with the inherent absurd humor to it all is a difficult one to pull off, yet he does so good on him. Also gotta give a shoutout to Weaving, gleefully playing a top notch asshole of a cop with a little more going on than simple shit heelery. It may be a little too weird for some or a little too gross, but I feel like this is a well crafted crime flick that can play well with an audience.
Calvary (January 9th, 2016)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, and Aiden Gillen
Movies that deal with faith are usually horribly cynical or obnoxiously selling their faith. But when one of the McDonagh boys decides to tackle the topic of faith in one of their movies, you know it’s gonna be outside of the binary options of cynical/faithful. This is a movie that shows us a man of faith and how faithful he is, even in the face of a barrage of miserable and poisonous people. In a way, this is a movie about this priest (Gleson) having his faith tested. But he never really wavers in his faith, just wavers in his faith in the people in his flock. And his flock is full of some next level shitty people, all of whom seemingly want to destroy him for having faith. The beginning of his trials all starts with a man, unknown to us but known to him, telling him he will die in a weeks time for the sins of a dead pedophile priest. So it’s a week of this priest dealing with his faith and his fate. Life and death. There’s some darkness in there and a cynicism to the parishioners. But overall, it’s a movie about a man fighting against the wind and having true faith. Not forcing it down peoples throats, not being holier than thou. Hell, homeboy gets wasted and gets in a bar brawl. It’s got a wild tone too, in that it’s a poetic movie with some heart and a somber tone, but it’s also very funny with some chewy dialogue. This is a vehicle for Gleeson, every scene with him as the focus and he kills it. Very possibly the best thing he’s ever done. It’s a human performance, a man who looks at the world moving away from him but still sticking to his guns. Sadness but determination with a twinge of dismay. Everyone is really good, except for Aiden Gillen because he cannot give a performance without a ridiculous accent. It could very well be his own accent, but he just hams up the dialogue so much that it feels fake. The writing’s fantastic, the directing is low key but on point. It’s a very good, beautiful little movie. In it’s own way, the movie takes a dark way to show that the priest is the one who is right and all these hateful people in his parish are horrible people. But also, he’s one in a million. I feel like this movie will stick with me and grow over time.