If you hate summer as much as I do, then you bunker down in front of an air conditioner on the weekends and gobble up movies. This weekend was a great example of that. The selections for the weekend included the most recent film from one of my favorite directors, an introduction to a Dogme 95 director, more top-shelf fare from the 90s, and a French film for Bastille Day. This is the movie weekend that was.
Pacific Rim (2013)
A movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots (or… people psychically linked to robots) is every bit as fun as you would expect, especially if you’re as big a fan of the director- Guillermo del Toro- as I am. Earlier this week on Twitter, I saw someone compare Pacific Rim to a Tarantino film in the sense that del Toro had turned a patchwork of all of his influences into one movie, and I found that assessment to be spot-on. That list would include, obviously, Gojira (1954), the Star Wars trilogy (if only briefly), King Kong (1933), and pick almost any sci-fi film from about 1955 to 1980. While it’s hardly anything deep, Guillermo del Toro accomplished everything he set out to accomplish. Dig deeper into a movie like that at your own peril.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Spring Breakers (2013)
Spring Breakers served as my introduction to the wacky world of Harmony Korine, and I have no clue what to make of it. I can’t say I was a fan of the style, which seemed like a lot of directorial masturbation. But I also appreciate that it’s unique- TOTALLY unique, sort of a candy coated version of some of the ugliest, most vapid parts of American culture filtered through an auteur’s lens. To be blunt, I know there was a message here but I really have no idea if it was about the glorification of the kind of life presented in the film, or satire of it (and I may be stupid for not knowing which). My opinion of Spring Breakers really varies depending on directorial intent.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
There’s really only one reason that I watched Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger– the work of Ray Harryhausen. I’ve now seen four films featuring Harryhausen’s work this year, and a few more than that before this year. What I’m learning is that Harryhausen’s work was unfailingly exemplary, but it often came in mediocre or even bad films. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is an almost perfect example of that, as it would’ve been so much worse without Harryhausen’s stop-motion magic. Basically, Ray Harryhausen was the Ernie Banks of movies.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1972)
A lot of watching Truffaut is all about technique and style and auteurism, but sometimes- a LOT of the time- Truffaut tells a great story. While Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me still has plenty of Truffautiness to it, stylistically, it’s great because it’s so perfectly human. The characters are warm, real flesh and blood, even if they’re part of a very cynical, cold worldview. For all of the talk of Truffaut as an auteur, he never once sacrificed his characters or his story to prove some point or stroke his ego. And I love that about the guy. It’s what makes him stand out. Moreover, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me is surprisingly funny, which really caught me off-guard. In fact, films like this, The Bride Wore Black (1968), The Wild Child (1970) and The Green Room (1978) have officially proven to me that Truffaut had a lot of range. He’s not typically given credit for that. Such a Gorgeous Kid is really a very good film.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
30 for 30: Guru of Go (2010)
It’s strange that I haven’t mentioned ESPN’s 30 for 30 series at TDYLF, because I’ve seen quite a few of them since March. For a TV-produced documentary series, it’s really very solid. I’ve seen 17 of them and there hasn’t been a bad one in the bunch, particularly if you’re a sports fan. Guru of Go focuses on basketball coach Paul Westhead, whose teams are known for their frenetic offensive pace and apathy about playing defense. As a result, his teams are notorious for both scoring and giving up record amounts of points. What makes this documentary go is that it focuses on Westhead’s 1989-1990 Loyola Marymount team, spearheaded by two best friends from Philadelphia- Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. On the brink of reaching the NBA (and on the brink of the NCAA tournament), Gathers collapsed and died during a game. Kimble and the rest of the squad then dedicated themselves to Gathers’ memory by crafting one of the most memorable runs in tournament history. Like many of these 30 for 30 episodes, it tugs at the heartstrings. If you’re a sports fan at all, and especially if you remember LMU’s tournament run, I suggest giving Guru of Go a watch.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
One word instantly comes to mind in describing Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter– haunting. And, I guess by proxy, haunted, as the whole community in the film and the lawyer (Ian Holm) can’t seem to relinquish their ghosts. It’s slow, quiet, and subtly heartbreaking. Egoyan’s film is pure, clean economy. What strikes me most is the emotional arc so many of the characters have in dealing with their respective take on the same tragedy. Apparently, some circles claim that this is the best Canadian film ever made. I don’t know enough about Canadian cinema to justify that claim but I can say that I’m not surprised that it earns such high praise.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars