Thursday, October 27, 2011
Found footage movies are nothing new. The buzz behind The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield has given way to two or three such movies every year, mostly of the horror genre. Its conventions best utilize the first person camera narratives. With more of these movies, the quality has begun to even out. For every success, there's a dip. Most recently, Apollo 18 came and went. Quarantine ended up right about the middle of the newly found spectrum. For a real time movie, it spends an unusual amount of time developing its characters. That doesn't keep the filmmakers from throwing the same characters to the lions without blinking. Yes, this is a horror film through and through. It's a bloody, scary movie with the obvious trajectory towards a bloody, scary end. It's a B-movie made with the A-list in mind. The ensemble play their parts well. No one phones it in. There's not much to what they have to do, but I thought they did it exceptionally well. The whole movie is a bit ridiculous, but the filmmakers and performers play it straight. The audience benefits. A major scare, but a minor movie. I wonder how a staged performance would play out...
Sofia Coppola has my loyalty. I find her to be an interesting filmmaker. She has a proven track record. I loved Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, and really enjoyed The Virgin Suicides. From here on out, when she makes a movie, I want to see it. Somewhere isn't what I expected. It's a VERY atmospheric character-driven movie, which is to apologetically say very little happens. I can be on board for that, but I needed more than what was given. Stephen Dorff is not my favorite actor. Truth be told, I can't find a single redeeming performance in his filmography. He should be perfect in the part of a B-list actor who falls asleep to pole dancing ever other night or so. He kind of is. I can't think of an actor who'd play the part better. The problem is, he doesn't have much to play. He has a few choice scenes where he gets to ACT, and he plays them fine. I wanted more. I wanted Coppola to give him more to do, more to say, and more to be. If the story of an long-absent parent whose new quality time with their child leads them to reexamine their life sounds familiar, you'd be right. Elle Fanning, so full of life and vigor in Super 8, is quiet, sweet and dull as the returning child. Coppola doesn't play it conventional. She's more interested in how the quiet in a noisy scene can convey a character's loneliness or emptiness without hitting you over the head. I want to be rewarded for noticing. I want my attention to be worth something in Somewhere. Instead, Coppola is inching closer to the sparse atmospheric movies of another indie-auteur, Gus Van Sant (Elephant, Last Days, Gerry). I don't like it.
The Ides of March won't change your mind about politics or offer new insights into the morality of politics. I don't think it tries. Writer-director George Clooney is too concerned with delivering complex characters to care how you feel about them. Ryan Gosling is the lead and is in just about every scene, owning each one along the way. Rather than go with his recently maligned method acting or the minimalist performance he delivered in Drive, he plays his Stephen Myers as a charismatic lightning rod. Even when the plot knocks Myers down a peg, Gosling plays him upright, always pushing his feet forward. My only criticism, one that lowered the movie's impact, was the ending. I can't claim to be an glass-half-full type of person, but after the journey the characters soldiered through, I wanted more leeway. I wish Clooney had let us make up our minds rather than paint Myers into a corner. It might be nitpicking, but the question I've been asking since walking out of the theater is what is more interesting, The Godfather route or something more ambiguous? Is there a right answer? Maybe I'm just mad Clooney and Gosling got me to like their leading man before his ambitions got the best of him.