What did I watch this week? Some great and not so great things!
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies by Peter Jackson
- The Double by Richard Ayoada
- It’s Such A Beautiful Day by Don Hertzfeldt
- The One I Love by Charlie McDowell
- Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? by Michel Gondry
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
This movie is hilarious. It’s probably better than the first two in this hapless and unfortunate trilogy, but it’s certainly not good. Worth the two and a half hours? Not really, but if you’re this far into watching the trilogy, you may as well see it. Probably not till you can watch it for free online or if a friend rents it or something,
But let’s talk about some of the problems. Like how the film begins with Smaug dying, which is only a spoiler if you consider a novel this old being spoilable. But Smaug dies nearly right away, which throws away all the tension and build up of two years of hype. The Desolation of Smaug introduces us to Smaug then lets us spend some time getting to know him, which is the best part of that particular movie. And then it cuts off! And we wait another year, and then Smaug’s gone within ten minutes. So all the build up and tension and anticipation feels anticlimactic and pointless because it’s so far removed from what built the tension.
But then there are the funny things, like how the dwarves spend ten minutes putting on badass dwarf armor and then enter the battle without any of it. Or when the dwarves randomly acquire giant rams to climb a cliff. Or when the white orc jumps out of the river, defying physics. And that last one wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that every single character has the random ability to defy physics whenever they want. Like, this would fit if just a few characters could do such things. Like elves and orcs, but when everyone can do whatever they want with the laws of nature, it becomes ridiculous. Also, the geography and structure of the battlefield makes absolutely no sense.
But, yeah, it’s just a silly movie. Not a lot to say, really, but it’s sort of awesomely bad in a way that you can only get after suffering through six hours of these movies.
Ayoada’s follow up to Submarine, which was all kinds of awesome. This is a different turn. There’s still humor and it’s understated, but it’s much darker here. Literally, this is a dark film, especially with regard to lighting.
Everyone is front lit in dark rooms, which adds an oppressive atmosphere to the film and this place, this endless bureaucratic maze. It reminds me of Kafka, yeah, but also Kurosawa’s Ikiru, in certain ways. It’s less life affirming than that masterpiece, but it shares the absurdity of an intensely bureaucratic system.
Based on Dostoevsky’s novella, it’s required to grapple with darkness, like humiliation and suicide and hopelessness and impossible love.
It’s a difficult movie that makes you feel a lot of things, and it’s very different from the rest of Ayoada’s work that I’ve encountered, but it’s also brilliantly done. The cinematography, the acting, the overall direction–it’s all so perfect here and works to highlight what needs highlighting.
Definitely check this one out.
This is an interesting animated film that’s very different from the ones I watched last week. Where those relied on the animation to give us the story and uses very little dialogue, this one relies entirely on narration and mostly uses the animation to highlight the narration.
I’m not much of a fan.
This is a smart film that’s both funny and heartfelt, but it’s also very talky. The story is nice enough and interesting enough, but I’m just not big on real chatty films, especially when this feels so much more like a spoken word piece with quick and simple sketches to give it a bit more shape. It’s not really a film, in that regard.
So, while it’s good enough, it’s not the kind of thing I’ll be revisiting.
That being said, I think a lot of people really would dig this. It’s personal and thoughtful and discusses a lot of interesting themes, such as disease, memory, family, love, and on and on.
I’m a huge fan of Michel Gondry and Noam Chomsky, so this seemed like the perfect thing for me.
And it sort of it, but it sort of isn’t.
Let me explain.
This documentary is more about Noam Chomsky the linguist, rather than Noam Chomsky the political thinker and philosopher, which is the less interesting version of him. It’s also the one that’s more often incorrect. His theories about language development were certainly groundbreaking and literally changed the shape of linguistics and psychology, but those theories don’t hold up well with advances in the field, especially with neuroscience making new discoveries. He discusses his theory here, and while it’s convincing and sounds great, it’s simply not as correct as what’s actually happening with language development.
Anyrate, this is still an interesting documentary. It digs a bit into his life, too, which is something I know little about. He discusses his family, his childhood, his parents, and his late wife. All of these moments are interesting and insightful, but they’re still not really covering the parts of Chomsky that I enjoy.
The biggest draw back, I think, is that Gondry keeps putting himself near the front of the lens. In many ways, this is about his relationship to Chomsky’s work and life, and less about Chomsky’s work.
I mean, it’s about both, but it would be better for it to be one or the other, especially since, I imagine, most people coming across this documentary are more interested in Chomsky than they are Gondry.
So in some ways it feels almost disingenuous and misleading.
That being said, I still enjoyed this a lot. I dig the animation and I dig Chomsky and Gondry in general, but if you’re not sold on all three things from the first ten minutes, you may as well skip this. Especially if you’re looking to get deeper into Chomsky or if you’re looking for something more obviously Gondry.
But, yeah, check it out, but go there knowing it probably isn’t what you think it is.
If you want to know more about Chomsky, a lot of his lectures and interviews are available on Youtube.
My favorite film of the week and one that’s very difficult to talk about without giving its perfection away.
But this is science fiction in the most interesting way imaginable. The direction, acting, narrative, and concepts are so brilliant.
On the surface, this is the story about a husband and wife whose relationship is falling apart. They go to a psychologist to try to fix their problems, and he suggests they go on a weekend away. Every other couple that’s gone there has come back feeling renewed, as Ted Danson says.
And this is where this comedy drama takes some very interesting twists and turns. It’s never really what you think it is but everything is so perfect. I could watch it a hundred times, probably.
And I so desperately want to discuss the concepts working here, but to do so would give away some of the most fun parts of the film, and to discuss the plot in anything but broadstrokes is to give away that same fun.
It makes it difficult to talk about at all!
All I can say is that you need to see this, especially if you’re into science fiction, love stories, and big ideas without easy resolutions. I mean, this film does so many things so well that I can’t help but shower it with praise.
So go see it. It’s only ninety minutes.