Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Faves of 2005: Theatrical (continued)

Ohhh, Abramoff. Uhhhhhh, Bush; it's going to be a landmark 'lame duck' experience, in't it?

A real heartbreaker, though, the fate of those unfortunate miners, and the latest deaths in the Middle East -- what a way to start a New Year.

Thus, the timing is miserable, but forgive me as I drift back to another installment on my theatrical cinema faves of 2005. May this reading lighten your day a bit, or at least provide some diversion. In no particular order (though I've once again alphabetized this selection, too):

* CRASH: Along with Eastwood's MILLION DOLLAR BABY and Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD, the most satisfying cinematic storytelling experience of 2005. Emulating the character-driven tapestry narrative weave of everything from Robert Altman's best films to Boogie Nights and Magnolia, CRASH slithers between the lives of apparently unrelated Los Angeles denizens -- from an adrift immigrant store owner and his daughter to a locksmith and his daughter; from cops on all ends of the spectrum to the citizens they fatefully cross paths with; recently-robbed rich & unhappy spouses to two black compadres on a car-jacking spree; etc. -- and traces the tentative umbilical cords between them all. In hindsight, the arguably schematic script shouldn't perculate as urgently as it does, but the damned movie worked in spades during both viewings. At one point, it literally took my breath away -- and that's more than one expects of any movie. Great cast, stunning performances (particularly from Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard), well worth seeking out.

* GRIZZLY MAN: Another 'found footage' gem from Werner Herzog, the necessary antidote to March of the Penguins anthropomorphized 'feel good' brand of documentary. Egocentric amateur naturalist Tim Treadwell fancied himself the ally and 'friend' of the Alaskan grizzly bears he passionately cohabitated with every year, and Herzog explores and dissects his 'back to nature' fantasy gone wrong. This compression of Treadwell's own self-narrated 'home videos' charts the arc of his curious breed of misanthropy and misplaced devotion, culminating in tragedy (sparked, it turns out, by an altercation with an airline employee that drove Treadwell and his unfortunate female partner back to the 'Grizzly Maze' fatally past its 'safety date'). Echoing his rant about the nature of the jungle in Burden of Dreams, Herzog's articulation of the true face of nature as Treadwell's camera malingers on the bear that most likely killed him is among the most pointed moments in Herzog's works. A brilliant film, necessary viewing. (BTW, this was another experience elevated by the active, in-person participation of Herzog himself, another rarified father-son sojourn savored by Dan and I in 2005.)

* INSIDE DEEP THROAT: Intricate, insightful, and seemingly effortlessly entertaining overview of the life & times of the breakthrough porn opus Deep Throat manages to cover not only the fortunes and misfortunes of the film and its participants, but of that entire period of early 1970s America. As such, the coolest time-capsule in ages, and I can attest as one who lived then that everything herein rings truer than any other film on the period. Be sure to see the unrated or 'NC-17' version: whether you've seen Deep Throat before or not, it's necessary to see the setpiece that set so many cultural wars ablaze in '72-'77 -- and it's still a jaw-dropper (pun intended).

* KING KONG: What, you need more from me on this? If you didn't enjoy it, ah well, c'est la vie. I loved it, I've been to see it three times, I can't wait to see it again.

* SIN CITY: I don't toke up before going to movies anymore (hell, I don't toke at all anymore). Thus, when a movie sparks a cinematic contact high, I am pleasantly surprised. Sin City got me flying from its opening scene, and the high only got better as the film unreeled; I loved every second of it, its most extreme images are indelibly burned into my mind. Energized, high-octane, relentlessly drunk on its own characters, and in love with its alternative universe, Sin City rocked, particularly on the big screen (nice having the DVD, but it's like a souvenir of the real McCoy). Kudos to Frank Miller for seeing his art & stories through to the big screen with style -- one of the few American cartoonists in history to ever savor that high -- and kudos to Robert Rodriguez for seducing Frank down that path, bucking the Director's Guild for seeing to it Frank maintained his co-director credit, and for making this flick a reality. This put me so much in the head of the drive-in movie heyday of the 1970s (particularly evocative, in its way, of my fave Mario Bava films) that I immediately jumped at the opportunity to see Sin City again when it opened at the local drive-in: at last, the perfect 21st Century drive-in movie! It was nirvana.

More tomorrow!

BTW, quick, nip and bip over to Tim Lucas's
  • Video Watchblog
  • pronto for Tim's marvelous post on the brand-new revised edition of John Canemaker's essential WINSOR McCAY - HIS LIFE AND ART, which I've been meaning to write up myself for some weeks now. Tim's views (in his second of two January 2nd posts) are detailed (as you'd expect) and precisely mirror my own on this matter, as I also had compared the two editions. In any case, check out Tim's review, and I'll add that Canemaker's book is an essential addition to any and all comics, art or animation libraries. Highest recommendation!

    (While you're there, also scan down to Tim's thourough analysis of the KING KONG PRODUCTION DIARIES DVD set, with which I'm also in absolute accord with his views.)

    Ok, as I say, more tomorrow...