Sunday, February 14, 2016

What I Watched in January

Caught THE REVENANT last month and was very impressed. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu proves that he is a master of visual storytelling and incredibly clever at building shock moments, suspense sequences and visceral images. His fluid camera style takes the viewer into his tales in a way that few other filmmakers working today would imagine. Like his fellow Mexican director Alfonso (GRAVITY) Cuarón he has perfected a way of smoothly blending a God's Eye point of view camera practice seamlessly with very competent CGI work to craft multiple stretches of this film that never leaves the lead character out of our sight. This stylistic choice adds to the tension we feel watching because we never have to readjust our POV and so we become more and more anxious when the violence continues as a uninterrupted act. It smartly works on us as film watchers because, as people accustomed to the seeing faked acts of violence every day in our entertainment, we automatically relax slightly when an edit happens onscreen. It's this short moment of disconnect that allows us to disengage enough to keep the image just that - an image. By not giving us that almost subliminal break from the action Iñárritu pushes his audience into higher and higher levels of unease until it is finally released by a natural break in the violence that is structured by the physical reality he has built. By keeping one long unbroken shot for the length of a fight, attack or chase he forces his audience to almost participate in the action even if that participation is only manifested by gripping the armrests of your chair or holding your breathe for an unnaturally long time. His is a brilliant craftsman of this type of scene and has clearly learned just how boring they might be if he edited repeatedly in these moments. You only need to examine the fast editing technique of most other action directors to see how easy it can be to become detached from what is happening until you feel nothing about what you're watching. Iñárritu wants you to care about the characters he is showing you and that makes him a formidable creator of movies.

Oh! And the performances in THE REVENANT are fantastic along with the amazing visuals. Filming on location in winter and having the actors get cold & dirty makes for an arresting experience that feels like travelling back in time. Of course, now I want to see the first film to bring this tale to the big screen MAN IN THE WILDERNESS (1971) which stars Richard Harris, John Huston and even has a small role for James Doohan. Yeah, gotta see this one soon. 


CROOKED HOUSE (2008) - 8 (Mark Gatiss penned ghost story anthology)
THE SISTERHOOD (1988)- 5 (not bad low-budget post apocalyptic adventure)
M (1951) - 8 (very well done remake of Lang's classic)
BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM (2014) - 8 (well done animated Suicide Squad story)
MUCHA SANGRE (2002)- 4 (Spanish zombie/alien comedy)
EQUALIZER 2000 (1987)- 5 (fun post apocalyptic action film)
BONE TOMAHAWK (2015)- 9 (excellent western)
THE PROPOSITION (2005) - 8 (Australian Western)
JESSABELLE (2014) - 7 (very good ghost story)
THE BAT (1959) - 6 (Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead make a mystery)
WE'RE NO ANGELS (1955)- 9 (excellent sort-of Christmas tale)
SODOM AND GOMORRHA (1922) - 6 (silent epic from Curtiz)
12 TO THE MOON (1960) - 3 (silly, cheesy and dumb SF)
CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980)-  6 (rewatch)
MIDNIGHT SHADOW (1939) - 3 (terrible but fascinating all black cast film)
UNFRIENDED (2014) - 8 (very well done)
THE TERRORNAUTS (1967) - 4 (bad but very earnest and fun British SF)
A FORCE OF ONE (1979) - 6 (early Chuck Norris actioner)
EL ESPECTRE DEL TERROR (1973) -4 (sub-par Spanish giallo)
OCTOPUSSY (1983) - 7 (rewatch)
THE REVENANT (2015) -9
MR. HOLMES (2015) - 8 (fantastic tale of an aging Sherlock)
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (The Rouge Cut) - 9 (longer is even batter)
X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (2008) - 7 (way better than I expected)


Nick Rentz said...

I checked out the trailer for Man in the Wilderness and it looks pretty cool. Octopussy is a bond film I enjoyed more when I was younger, it's fun though. Still find it silly that they dubbed in the Tarzan yell! My apprentice at work watched Bone Tomahawk at my incidence and really enjoyed. What do you think are the most violent westerns?

Rod Barnett said...

Most violent westerns? Interesting- THE WILd BUNCH is an obvious one. Fulci's FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE is pretty gruesome. CUT THROATS NINE is dark and violently disturbing. The original DJANGO is pretty rough as KEOMA.

Nick Rentz said...

I asked my apprentice the same question, but he's barely seen any westerns. I showed him the trailer for Cut Throats Nine. I would have to add Django Kill... If You Live Shoot, Blazing Saddles and Mannaja. High Plains Drifter is pretty dark.