Did you know that Sweden only just got Netflix this week? If you didn’t, you do now. I signed up for its trial period and made some tweets about my experience with the service. Joel Burman, the guy in charge of The Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB), saw this and asked me to write a review of Netflix for the LAMB site. Which I did. You can find the post here. For Swedes, it might be helpful if you’re on the fence about signing up. For Americans, it might be eye-opening to see the differences between Netflix in the US and in Sweden. For others… I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find it interesting.
Monthly Archives: October 2012
Before my recent apartment move, I had limited space for my movie collection. As my number of DVDs and Blu-Rays increased, the stacks on the shelves grew higher and higher. Soon enough, I couldn’t fit any new purchases on there. I came up with a system: whenever I watched a new film that needed to go on a shelf, I would pick out one film that I wanted to rewatch and put it in a pile near my TV. Every now and then, I’d rewatch one from that pile, and then send it back to the shelf and pick out a new rewatch candidate. As you can probably figure out, this didn’t really solve any of my storage issues; it was mainly a justification to let my collection spill out from the shelves. “Oh, those films are piled on the floor by the TV just because I intend to rewatch them soon.” My new living quarters have given me more room and shelf space, but I still keep a section reserved for films I intend to revisit soon enough. At the moment, it’s inhabited by Children of Men, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Into the Wild, and others.
Everyone has their own opinion on the subject of rewatching films. Some enjoy discovering new things in films they like, trying to understand what others see in a movie that left themselves indiffierent, or just taking a trip down memory lane to an old favorite. Others rarely bother, feeling that experiencing something new and uncharted is a better investment of their time. I belong to the former camp. I love rewatching films.
I came across a passage last night while reading David Gilmour‘s autobiographical book “The Film Club”. It said that the second time we see a movie is the first time we truly see it. On the first go, we tend to focus more on the story and engross ourselves in the narrative. What’s happening? What’s going to happen next? Will the boy get the girl? Will the hero triumph? What’s in the box? We seek the answers to these questions, so that’s where our attention lies.
Once we’ve already seen the film and know the answers, we are free to think about everything else in the movie: the performances, the cinematography, the themes, etcetera. These things are of course very possible to take in on the initial viewing too, but there’s more room for them when knowing how the story goes.
An example I often use when talking about rewatching films is the Coens. With their off-beat kind of humor and genre-blending stories, their films always grow more enjoyable and impressive on rewatches. I wrote a review for No Country for Old Men some time ago where I managed to delve deeper into the movie than when I first saw it some years ago. (Looking at that review now, I apparently wrote in essence the very same things I’ve talked about so far in this blog post. Oops.) The past week, I’ve revisited both their debut film Blood Simple and Barton Fink, and while the latter only barely follows the rule – the climax and ending are just as maddening as always – Blood Simple definitely improved for me. That one has a story that’s simultaneously straight-forward and twisting, and the atmosphere is palpable.
There are other examples too of movies improving when plot isn’t what you’re spending most attention on. A History of Violence is a good one. Trainspotting, too. And Repulsion! I found that one terrifying the first time I saw it, but “only” gave it a score of 4/5 as I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. A second watch down the road – while closely scrutinizing it for the purpose of a blog post – allowed me to take in the thematic stuff along with the scariness, as well as letting me admire the beautiful black & white images. Nowadays, I’d call Repulsion a strong contender for being my favorite horror film ever.
There are different ways for rewatches to improve a movie, though. Sometimes knowing how the story plays out can make a film better because we can appreciate just how the story builds to its conclusion, rather than allowing us to think about non-story stuff. For instance, take Fight Club. I remember seeing it back in the day without knowing anything about it, and was taken completely by surprise by the twist ending. Watching it nowadays, I keep finding new things that cleverly hint at the reveal, to the point where I wonder how I ever couldn’t have seen it coming. It’s highly impressive. That said, Fight Club has lots of other things to make it enjoyable on rewatches as well, such as the filthy sets and the hilarious dialogue.
There’s also the case of your own taste evolving the further you grow as a movie lover. This is something I’m very much in touch with, having only gotten into movies a few years ago. The more I see and explore, the more diverse films I find myself appreciating. Lost in Translation is an example I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog already, as it went from “meh, boring” to my current favorite film. The fact that the film doesn’t have much of a conventional narrative might have turned me off somewhat when I was mainly a casual watcher, but once I knew that nothing happened in the film, I could start seeing just how rich it is.
As Bill Murray‘s character says in the movie: “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
This goes for watching films as well.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2010)
A film like this is never going to achieve “greatness” as such. It’s too light, too fluff, too simple, and features its fair share of mental ward clichées. That said, taken for what it is, it’s still very enjoyable. The subject of depression is handled tactfully, and the film treats its characters with respect while still finding the comedy in them. Zach Galifianakis is impressive in his substantial supporting part, showing some unexpected depth in his acting, and he quietly steals the show here. I’m not sure if this film has enough substance to stay in my mind for all that long, but now in its immediate aftermath, I find myself very fond of it.
Dark Shadows (Tim Burton, 2012)
Very, very, very… okay. This is one of those typical Tim Burton films one will no doubt think of the next time one throws around the term “typical Tim Burton film”. I do wonder what my feelings of it had been had I never seen a Burton movie before. As it is, it’s hard not to feel that this is a somewhat lazy effort that brings little new to the table, but at the same time, it’s still a pretty good time. It’s a fun story that offers its share of laughters, so it earns a passing grade. But man, wouldn’t it be cool if Burton tried another Ed Wood or Big Fish or something next time? This tune we know by now.
Men in Black III (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)
Mostly pointless, and not particularly funny.
About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz, 2002)
Having recently read the Nick Hornby novel upon which this film is based, I went into the movie with the following mindset: “Ugh, I’m never reading a book before watching the film again. I’m sure this one will be okay-ish, but I’ll just be annoyed at everything that’s left out or changed. I already know I won’t like it better than the novel.” While that last sentence might hold true, the film About a Boy came damn close. The story has a good flow to it, and the tone and humor of the novel is kept intact. The plot is kept mostly the same, but the climax is brand new and works like a charm, carefully walking that balance between feel-good and overbearing mush. The two lead actors are key. Nicholas Hoult does a better job than most child actors, and Hugh Grant puts in what might be the best performance I’ve seen from him. Rock-solid movie.
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
About time I got around to knocking this one off my List of Shame. It’s always a tad awkward to watch one of these films that have been heavily canonized as one of the all-time greats. It’s hard not to end up going “Yeah, this was very good, but it wasn’t that great.” I did really like this one. It’s a fascinating look at the rise and fall of a gangster, and it’s the fall in particular that really grabbed me. What was most surprising was how fast the minutes went by. It certainly didn’t feel as long as it was. So yeah. This was very good. But… it wasn’t that great.
The Spanish Prisoner (David Mamet, 1997)
A thriller that starts out feeling very Mamet, but as it moves along it becomes quite Hitchcock, to the point where it seems remarkable that it was made as recently as 1997. The movie is clever and has twists and turns a-plenty, and is thus the kind of film that seems destined for a future rewatch filled with “Oh I see what you did there!” reactions from me. Very fun.
Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010)
I appreciate the concept of a monster movie where the action and monsters are kept to a minimum and mostly as an off-screen threat, thus putting the focus on the human characters and ther interactions with one another. However, for this to fully work, the characters have to be somewhat interesting. The ones in Monsters aren’t, really. This causes some lulls where the film gets close to losing my attention. Still, it’s not too bad, and the climax is very well-handled.
Watching the Detectives (Paul Soter, 2007)
A romantic comedy about a film fanatic (Cillian Murphy) whose life is shaken up by a care-free prankster (Lucy Liu). With the viewpoint character being into movies, there’s a fair amount of film referencing going on, which is always fun. It’s arguably the strongest point in the movie’s favor. The plot is fairly standard romcom stuff. I would wager that how much one enjoys this film is largely related to how one responds to Liu’s character. I feel that she goes a bit too far in her antics to be entirely likeable. Another issue is the ending, which arrives a bit too soon and leaves you without any real conclusion. Fortunately, the two leads have good enough chemistry with one another to make this a decent watch, though perhaps not an all that memorable one.
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
A beautifully shot film that tells a sweet, if light, story. I liked this one, but for each film of his I see, my suspicion that I’ll never fall head over heels in love with Wes Anderson’s work grows ever stronger.