Wednesday, January 02, 2008

No Country for Old Legends

Managed to squeeze in two of my wish list movies (see post below, two down) before the end of the year so here is my new official top ten.

Hot Fuzz
Pirates of the Caribbean 3
Harry Potter 5
I Am Legend
The Simpson's Movie

So Bourne Ultimatum gets bumped down to the honorable mention or 11th spot.

Loved "I Am Legend", as it harkened back to one of my all time favorite movies - Cast Away (the one with Tom Hanks alone on an island.) It's a classic story, losing everything and finding redemption somehow. Plus it had zombies!

Zombies, you say? Why they've been overdone to death. True, but this movie is loosely based on the original 1954 novel "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. A book that was most influential in spawning the "zombie" genre in movies. While this flick deviates substantially from Matheson's story, it is compelling, and ultimately bittersweet stuff. Especially effective are the "Lost" style flashbacks to life before armageddon, showing Smith's doomed family and his efforts to save them. Will Smith again proves why he is a movie star, in the grand tradition of " the every man" such as Gable and Ford. Excellent movie.

The other movie I caught, ultimately stays off this list because it is more of a "film". "No Country for Old Men" is one of the best motion pictures I have seen in years. Like the best of the Cohen brothers work, it transcends and blurs the film/movie line, and also delivers the very best of both genres.

For the first 3/4 of the story, it's a movie. A heart racing suspense and gore filled thriller. But a quiet subtext, delicately introduced in the movie's intro, and threaded throughout, grows and grows until it consumes the last half hour of the film. Climactically, after showing us lots of graphic violence and shocking encounters - the directors masterfully use the art of NOT showing what should be the action centerpiece of the movie, to deliver a powerful emotional punch and pathos, and yes a message.

Like the movie "Unforgiven" (the western with Clint Eastwood that won a ton of academy awards) this movie is ultimately a film in the REAL world of violence. We recoil in our seats at one unshakable (though not violent) image in the last five minutes, and we realize, we have been entertained by something that is both gruesome and banal. Real evil. Not pretty, not sexy, and sometimes inevitable.

Great movie, great film. Disturbing AND enthralling.

A powerful film that will stay with me for a long time. And confirms in my mind that the Cohen brothers, as pretentious as they can be sometimes, are probably the greatest film makers of this generation.

By the way, also caught Superbad and Hairspray on DVD. Loved them both. Hairspray is a GREAT musical, and I love musicals. Pretty much suitable for everyone. Superbad is HIGHLY offensive, and at the same time a wonderful and very moral film. Judd Apatow, the producer on this one - director on other similar raunch-fests, has a real knack for shocking and disgusting us (while of course making us sickos laugh our butts off too) and then sucker-punching us with sweetness and ultimately uplifting and very real feeling bittersweet romance. That's right, he's the master of the gross out chick flick.

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