Monday, February 12, 2007

5 Outstanding Films

Here are a few of the movies I've recently seen and added to my Movie List:

Pan's Labyrinth (2006): Guillermo del Toro, known for Hellboy and Blade II, blended two great stories into one film. He recently did an interview with his two colleagues Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that really opened my eyes to a recent renaissance of Mexican cinema. Pan's Labyrinth deserves its "R" rating, but I think this film wouldn't have been nearly as good with the violent and political content removed. The mood, lighting, and special effects are quite an achievement.

The Bicycle Thief (1948): Vittorio De Sica's famous movie had an ending that blew me away. The film was refreshingly straightforward and great care is taken not to make any of the film's "themes" or "messages" too overpowering. Moreover, they did a fantastic job of fleshing out more than just the main character, giving many of them not only depth, but also motivation for their acts. If you like this film, you'll also like Xiaoshuai Wang's "Beijing Bicycle" (2001).

Jackass Number Two (2006): I haven't laughed this hard since the show was on MTV. Most people are absolutely stunned when I tell them Jackass was one of my favorite TV shows. Jackass occupies a niche of grotesque human comedy, which to me represents the very fabric of the late 1990's (a la "Fight Club"). The stunts are wonderful and each one continues to blur the line between hilarious and disgusting, and everyone watching catches themselves laughing when they shouldn't.

Chungking Express (1994): I've yet to see a film by Kar Wai Wong I haven't liked, and this is no exception. I'm not sure if I liked this more than "In the Mood for Love," but I can say that this is entirely different. Through two storylines, this movie gave me a unique glimpse into a Hong Kong that is elusive, multicultural, and vibrant. The soundtrack is fantastic and, much like "In the Mood for Love," the director repeats a number of songs to create a powerful effect on the viewer.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006): Al Gore's famous documentary / presentation on the global warming crisis. This movie came out at the right time, as it seems that the "environment" generally has finally entered the consciousness of the public at large. That it took this long is a shame. I admired Gore's ability to keep an audience interested on a topic that is not exactly sexy and--as a techie--I thought the quality of the graphics and animations he used were impressive. What bothered me was an approximately 5-6 minute tangent about how Gore lost the contested election to Bush, which seemed utterly out of place in the middle of an otherwise focused discussion of a hot issue.


Anonymous said...

Comparing Fight Club with Jackass? Let's see - one has a lot of insightful commentary about society and the modern working man. The other involves a bunch of jackasses. Hmm . . .

A.H. Rajani said...

you'd be surprised how much of a cultural document jackass actually is. when deconstructed, i think it has just as much commentary about modernity, violence, and comedy.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem with deconstructionism - just b/c you are smart and can read meaning into something doesn't mean that object is worthy of much consideration. I'm sure you've got a good argument about Jackass's significance. But I think that says more about you than it does about those jackasses. That kind of crap should be seen once (or not at all) and then forgotten.

A.H. Rajani said...

Mind you, a lot of people said the same thing about Fight Club, too. they said it was just about glorified violence, but you and I agree, i think, that it was more than just that. And if that's the case, then I have difficulty drawing a line between those objects worthy of much consideration and those not worthy of the same consideration.

I agree that sometimes critical theory and talk of deconstructing texts is very exclusive and makes the people talking feel self-important at the expense of others who are not "in the know." in fact, that's probably the most important reason I decided not to pursue a graduate degree in English.

Your comment brings up a very important question: what's worthy of consideration--that is--what's good and what's crap?

I think the problem with deconstruction is that the person doing the deconstruction usually chooses very elite texts to interpret. For example, most of my professors in undergrad would pick almost impenetrable texts and essays from which to draw meaning; most of the time, this really turned me off because it reinforced the idea that there was a certian canon of "good" texts that were worthy of my consideration, while the rest was really beneath me.

But a few of my professors--the really good ones--showed me that i didn't have to limit myself to 'high' culture and that that virtually everything was worthy of review, even tv sitcoms, comic books, and 'pop' culture. It didn't mean that i had to end up liking this stuff, but that it was worth watching and interpreting. It meant that the "canon" itself disintegrated.

you're right, putting jackass on the list does say a lot about me, but i think it says the opposite of what you might think.

on the one hand, you might think i'm reading too much into a movie that's actually silly, empty, and otherwise forgettable, like the way someone might look at an empty canvas at a museum and act as if its so brilliant.

on the other hand, i think it says that i'm willing to get over myself and watch only those movies that fit my criteria for what is 'good.' i just figure, why not give it a chance and see if i like it?

i agree i'm probably looking at jackass in a different way than most people do, but i think i'm entitled to share that viewpoint because it might make the movie a lot more enjoyable for others.

Chris said...

Re: An Inconvienent Truth, and things often considered too low-brow to have redeemable qualities:

The Drudge Report has pushed global warming more than any other "mainstream" media outlet. NYTimes, LATimes, Washington Post, BBC... None of them play global warming as frequently and as prominently as Matt Drudge.

PS - New record. Took me four verification inputs to post this.

It is obvious that Drudge has two primary biases:
1. Negative press about Democratic officials;
2. Global warming as a global threat.

He kept a series of global warming stories above Anna Nicole when that news was breaking last week. And right now — at 2:34 PST — when the NYTimes and the Post both have top-half, front-page stories about Anna, Drudge has 8 stories about warming and 3 about, as the NYTime's headline calls her, "Not Marilynn."

Anonymous said...

Fight Club guy here again.

A.H., I definitely appreciate your comments about this. I just don't like how deconstructionism has totally abolished the difference between "a work of art" and some accidental crap that happens to strike upon an important concept.

I know it sounds elitist, but there really is something to be said for a product that reflects a lot of learning and reflection and insight. Fight Club couldn't have been made by someone who just likes seeing people fight and is pissed off about whatever. It reflects someone who has thought about the effect of modern work on the carnal desires of malehood.

I find all that very different than just some ignorant jackass who likes to do gross stuff.

I totally respect your right to your opinion, and obviously to your right to watch Jackass II. And again, I think your ability to read social commentary into Jackass is at least very insightful, and maybe admirable. I just think it's taking ideas too far to say that Tom Clancy is as worthy of study as literature or a cultural commentary as Shakespeare.

Anyways, as always, enjoy reading your blog.

A.H. Rajani said...

i don't know if deconstruction removes all distinctions between good and bad. i think it just problematizes both categories and forces us to shake things up when we're least expecting it.

i still think A LOT of movies are absolute crap, not because they are beneath me, but because they really offer nothing in terms of a movie experience. they either have stale jokes, reused plotlines, poor production values, and generally unoriginal or superficial.

take for instance two movies out in the theatres now, eddie murphy's "norbit" or diane keaton's "because i said so." i have absolutely no intention of seeing them--and that is a type of pre-judgment on my part. i'm filtering them out because i do think they're not really worth my time because every critic in the country says both of them are absolutely dreadful.

back to jackass, i agree that the novel/screenplay/movie to fight club does reflect a much more deliberative work. but what you gain in deliberation, you sometimes lack in spontaneity. to me there's something alluring about a bunch of people getting together to just record an idea they have, not necessarily realizing what they're doing. and to have that exact spontaneous moment captured is to create a kind of record of that moment in time. it's probably the same way i look at experimental movies, novels, poetry from the avant garde.

by the way, i really enjoy this back and forth exchange. it's what i really enjoy about this 'blog' craze.