Iro's One Movie a Day Thread

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I'm with MV and yourself with The Kid. I've said many times, it's the only Chaplin film I've seen which I thought was worth anywhere near the praise and reverence his films get. Like you two, it's the heart of the film which works for me, not the comedy.

I've not seen either of the SotL cash ins. I don't see any reason to do so. Hannibal was a terrible book and I have Manhunter on my 100. I'm not much of a fan of Ridley (always preferred Tony) and I thought Hopkins Hannibal was OTT and hammy when it won an Oscar, let alone after he'd not bothered for 10 years.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

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I've recently come to the conclusion that both Scott brothers are hacks, but as far as hack directors go they're not all that bad. I'll still take a Ridley film over a Tony film any day, though.
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

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#227 - Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton, 2001

An astronaut crash-lands on a strange planet where apes have evolved to form their own civilisation that treats humans like slaves.

I can understand why Planet of the Apes would theoretically get a remake. It's a good high concept that has a strong capacity for socio-political allegory while also providing a superficially compelling narrative and great makeup effects. Of course, most of this gets thrown out (save perhaps the makeup effects) in favour of taking a lot of the most recognisable elements and trying to build a whole new story involving them. After a lengthy prologue involving a space station full of humans (including Mark Wahlberg playing the film's charmlessly stony astronaut protagonist who has a soft spot for his chimp astronaut friend), we are introduced to the titular planet when the chimp's ship disappears into a space-time anomaly and Wahlberg chases after him. From there, he soon notices that the planet is ruled by apes while the humans are all wild and incapable of...

Wait, they can talk?

Yeah, the fact that the conflict that drove the whole second act of the original film has been completely and illogically handwaved by this movie was probably the main sign that this was probably not going to be the most ideal way to try to remake it. Taking a handful of decent enough actors, caking them in ape make-up, and then letting them loose against a bunch of poorly acted human characters isn't going to make up for the fact that the film can't even seem to get its tone right. I know the original was sort of campy due to its being a sci-fi film from the 1960s, but here Burton and co. go overboard with building a load of mirthless gags into its world-building. Aside from a handful of painfully obvious references to the original film, the world-building leans towards the painfully comedic and simple - the orangutan-based apes are wacky white-collar types, the gorilla-based ones are warriors, while the chimpanzee-based ones seem to be the highest class. There are good and bad characters on all sides, but that doesn't seem to mean much as the film drags out Wahlberg and co.'s escape and the inevitable conflict with Tim Roth's villainous ape general. Also, there's a confused sort of love triangle between Wahlberg, a human woman (Estella Warren) and a female ape (Helena Bonham Carter) who is sympathetic to humans. That's not well-developed enough to care about, anyway.

In terms of creating sci-fi spectacle, Burton does attempt to provide a flashier update of the source material using modern technology but in doing so creates something that's ironically a much inferior-looking product. Apes here are capable of jumping great heights and distances but the wire-work is unsophisticated enough that the constant jumping never looks convincing. The quality of the ape makeup courtesy of the legendary Rick Baker may be a point in the film's favour, but it's still used to ludicrous effects. Throw in the fact that the whole thing devolves into an incredibly clichéd battle climax and that this film's attempt to provide its own spin on the original film's iconic twist ending and this just ends up being one of the best examples of how not to do a remake.

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#228 - The Truman Show
Peter Weir, 1998

A man living in an idyllic small town gradually to discover the truth behind his perfect life - that he is actually the unwitting star of a world-famous TV series.

I'm highlighting this film in red even though I don't quite feel like I've seen the whole thing all the way through, even though I already ticked it off in the MoFo Lists. In any case, I've definitely seen it 100% start to finish now. Anyway, The Truman Show is a generally great film that still holds up even now. I do wonder how the film might have played out if it had hidden its twist better rather than make it the main selling point, though it'd still be pretty easy to figure out what was going on anyway. In any case, the film does a great job of building off its proto-reality premise through some elaborate world-building, hidden-camera cinematography and use of flashbacks. Of course, it all falls apart quite a bit once you start asking the right questions about the sheer implausibility of its premise - and asking questions about how the titular show could even exist, let alone last for decades, eventually becomes a big part of the fun - but the film is well-made enough that you're able to let things slide for the sake of the narrative.

As the titular character, Jim Carrey's first stab at a serious role still depends on him being a gormless goofball, but here it's put to good use as his outward cheerfulness hides a weary hopefulness over trying to find a mystery woman (Natascha McElhone) and his emotions take a beating as he is constantly frustrated by his search for both this woman and, by extension, the truth. The bulk of the cast that surrounds Truman are supposed to be shallow one-note characters, though that doesn't preclude them from solid performances (especially Noah Emmerich as Truman's best friend, who does have moments that imply a greater depth that the film really explores). It is only after the film's halfway point that any serious exposition is given to the show's creation, though having the always dependable Ed Harris as the show's creator and director was an inspired choice. A character that could have easily been a boring megalomaniac instead gets a considerable amount of depth both thanks to the script and thanks to Harris's performance, which has the sort of intensity common to his best roles but is also underscored by a surprising level of sensitivity and understandable (if not justifiable) motivations.

The Truman Show doesn't quite have the level of depth to it that would guarantee a higher rating, but as it stands it's still a well-made take on an interesting high concept that still holds up almost twenty years later. Carrey delivers some of his best work as a cheery yet heartbroken protagonist whose journey is a compelling one no matter how many obstacles are thrown in his path (often quite literally). Having great behind-the-scenes talent providing distinctive cinematography, an appropriate soundtrack, a finale that involves lots of special effects but doesn't feel out of place against the heightened reality of the rest of the film, and another striking performance from Harris are certainly high points that flesh out the film nicely.

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#229 - Exit Through the Gift Shop
Banksy, 2010

A documentary about the recent artistic phenomenon of "street art" that centres on Thierry Guetta, an amateur filmmaker who starts following artists from the movement and filming them at work.

It almost feels like a spoiler mentioning that Exit Through the Gift Shop is not actually about notorious street artist Banksy (as was my first impression), but actually about Thierry Guetta, a French-born clothes retailer whose obsession with filming his everyday life through a video camera leads him to become involved with street art after following around his cousin Invader. Banksy, showing himself as a faceless hooded figure with a heavily filtered voice, explains that Guetta's obsession with filming and street art ultimately makes him a more fascinating subject than Bansky and so the relationship between filmmaker and subject is subverted in an intriguing. True to Banksy's word, Guetta is a rather compelling figure to watch, if not necessarily the most sympathetic one - his obsession with following around street artists at the expense of his job and family doesn't exactly endear him, nor does his eventual decision to mortgage his clothes store and start making his own street art under the name "Mr. Brainwash". His obsession with filming also seems especially ridiculous considering that he ultimately ends up storing all his used tapes in his basement without ever watching them, which does make his claims of being a documentarian so as to have an excuse to film street artists seem especially suspect, even if that is the extent of his ulterior motives.

I wonder how much one's own opinion of street art comes into play when watching Exit Through the Gift Shop. On one hand, I appreciate the aesthetics used by the featured artists - examples include Invader's randomly placed mosaics of characters from the video game that is his namesake or Shepard Fairey's iconic "Obey" posters featuring the monochromatic visage of André the Giant. Banksy's own work is skilled on a technical level, but the extremely superficial nature of the sociopolitical satire that informs each image ultimately renders them rather ridiculous (and also Banksy himself by extension). What really makes the artists' work impressive is the length they go to in order to put it out into the general public. There is plenty of footage of artists being arrested by (or running from) police, to say nothing of the very dangerous actions they take to reach the ideal place for their art. The film's most unforgettable sequence might just be the scene where Banksy and Guetta set up a dummy of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at Disneyland, causing serious havoc in the process. The film's own preconception with the merits of street art and film in general come under scrutiny when Guetta's attempt to actually make his documentary ends up being an unwatchable mess, so Banksy decides to make his own film, reasoning that if Guetta can make one then it can't be that hard.

The film's finale, such as it has one, involves Guetta making his own street art under the name "Mr. Brainwash" and eventually putting on his own exhibition, though the preparation is fraught with difficulties such as Guetta being injured and being more preoccupied with publicity than putting on the show. In doing so, Guetta is established as a sort of antithesis to the anonymity-obsessed Banksy - even by the film's frequently appropriation-loving standard, Guetta's art doesn't look especially amazing or incisive on its own (oh, look, pictures of contemporary politicians made to look like Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe portrait, how droll). That is probably the reason why Guetta's show ends up being a massive success (much to Banksy's chagrin). Exit Through the Gift Shop may or may not be a massive prank on audiences as some have speculated, but whether it is or not is almost irrelevant. The film makes for a surprisingly well-made insight into the world of street art as filtered through the eyes of two radically different figures within the movement. Guetta's obsessive handheld camerawork provides the bulk of the film's footage and captures street art's do-it-yourself mentality perfectly. Incidental music by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and matter-of-fact narration by Rhys Ifans suit the film's vibe perfectly and definitely make for an intriguing (if not necessarily reliable) depiction of a major 21st-century art movement.

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#231 - Brief Encounter
David Lean, 1945

A bored housewife meets a married doctor by chance and end up having a romantic affair.

So this is what David Lean was like before he started crafting amazing Technicolor epics. Brief Encounter is a, well, brief film that involves its female protagonist recounting her short-lived affair with a well-to-do doctor that plays out during the short window of time where they are both in the same small town on different reasons each week. Naturally, their attempts to carry this on are complicated by their own feelings and the inopportune attentions of their acquaintances. Of course, the whole "doomed affair" storyline is a tried-and-true one even for 1945, but fortunately the acting, writing, and direction is solid enough to make up for it. The two leads are good at what they do, especially Celia Johnson as the housewife. The supporting cast are serviceable yet nothing special.

Being a film based on a play, it makes sense that Lean's filmmaking doesn't overemphasise visual imagery over acting and narrative, with just enough work involved to stop the film from looking stiff and lifeless. Otherwise, it's pretty standard 1940s drama that's only somewhat elevated by its leads and script. There's solid talent on both sides of the camera, but it doesn't do all that much to draw me in on a personal level. Obviously worth a look if you're after a well-made classic that's on the short side and has just enough of a story to keep your attention, but at the end of the day I found it merely alright rather than amazing. Maybe that's due to the film's rather low-key nature, but maybe that's just how the film is.

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#232 - Platoon
Oliver Stone, 1986

Focuses on a platoon of United States Marines during the Vietnam War.

Coming to Platoon after a number of other Vietnam War did make it seem a little underwhelming. I can understand it not comparing it to the hyperrealistic allegory of Apocalypse Now or the examination of the war's effects on home life for both returning soldiers and their loved ones that was The Deer Hunter, but another film about a squad of relatively fresh soldiers trying their best to survive? Of course I was going to compare it to Full Metal Jacket at first, so that dampened my initial expectations quite a bit. Fortunately, Platoon is good enough in its own right that I definitely respect it as a film and seem to appreciate it more and more with each new viewing.

The film follows, well, a platoon of soldiers as they go through a number of misadventures as part and parcel of being just one unit in the war against the North Vietnamese. Though there is the always-looming threat of enemy soldiers, most of the film's conflict ends up being between the members of the platoon themselves as the wildly different personalities gravitate towards one of two leaders of the platoon. One half of the team sides with drugged-up idealist Elias (Willem Dafoe), while the other half sides with the incredibly harsh Barnes (Tom Berenger), and the pair's constant clashing of ideologies is put to the test during various horrific scenarios. Caught in the middle is Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a new recruit and the film's ostensible protagonist, here providing a shocked perspective into the rest of the film. The rest of the platoon consists of a mixture of characters that, admittedly, I still have a bit of trouble telling apart save for the more recognisable ones such as Forest Whitaker, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, and so forth. I almost have to wonder if not always being able to differentiate between much of the supporting cast is a point in this film's favour or not - of course, not fully comprehending that implies that I have a lesser understanding of the film, but also it doesn't seem all that relevant in the grander scheme of things.

Being rooted in Stone's own experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War, Platoon translates that same perspective to film with considerable aplomb. Off-duty scenes are deliberately slow-paced and give off a sense of boredom without actually being boring, while scenes involving actual combat and violence are tense and fragmented (almost to a fault, as the perhaps intentionally disorienting finale shows). Performances are strong, no matter their relevance to the plot - Sheen gives us an appropriately wounded and multi-layered protagonist, while Berenger and Dafoe both duke it out for the best performance in the film as extreme opposites whose every scene, whether together or apart, is great. The film may overdo its usage of "Adagio for Strings", but it's a powerful piece of music that earns its right to repetition. Basically, it's still a good movie and a Best Picture winner I have no real issue with, and I should probably go and get myself a copy now.

I like both Platoon and The Truman Show, although the latter could have been executed better, but I definitely liked it enough. Exit Through The Gift Shop has always looked interesting and Planet of the Apes is dreadful, so we agree there

I saw about 10 minutes of Brief Encounter on TV before, but turned it off so I could watch it in full in the future, if I remember correctly the lead female/narrator had an annoying voice.

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#233 - Jesus Camp
Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, 2006

A documentary about a children's camp held by Evangelical Christians in Missouri, centring on both the event's organisers and attendees.

I get the feeling that Jesus Camp is supposed to be an objective portrait of the practices of a certain sect of Christianity, but it seems a bit hard for the filmmakers to resist throwing in the occasional musical cue or visual juxtaposition to subtly condemn both the camp and the people who organise and enable it while also showcasing its young attendees as victims of what is apparently tantamount to brainwashing. Subtle, but noticeable. Even so, Jesus Camp is a somewhat unsettling experience regardless of your own religious convictions or lack thereof. Though one could look at adults like Becky Fischer and Ted Haggard (especially the latter, considering the incredibly hypocritical scandal he caused in the years following this film's release) and think of them as laughable caricature-like examples of fundamentalist Christians, they are still countered by the presence of the children, which does suck any potential humour out of the film. There are multiple scenes of children being driven to tears during church gatherings as they are led to make public confessions or speak in tongues. These scenes are always at least a little distressing to watch, but there's more going on with the scenes that actually focus on the children as individuals. The film follows the same handful of nice, idealistic kids who can't exactly be blamed for absorbing some especially dangerous thinking because of their elders (such as believing in young earth creationism or hero-worshipping George W. Bush).

Jesus Camp is a rather provocative film no matter how one views the concept of organised religion, though one could very easily take serious issue with the political convictions that Fischer and co. showcase and encourage through their belief system. Some of the more ludicrous attitudes and behaviours on display may wring some cynical amusement out of certain viewers, but it's far more likely to elicit a number of negative emotions such as sadness or frustration. Unfortunately for the film, by attempting to present a face-value documentary the film doesn't exactly have a lot of depth beyond "look at how messed-up these people are" - the closest it gets is through a series of scenes involving a radio host discussing the topic and eventually having an on-air dialogue with Fischer herself. If you do want a straightforward depiction of life inside a fundamentalist sub-section of America and all the culture shock that that would entail, then look no further. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot to this documentary beyond it being a source of discomfort and fascination.

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#234 - The Tree of Life
Terence Malick, 2011

A film about a young boy growing up in American suburbia during the 1950s.

It says a lot about The Tree of Life that that is the simplest logline I could possibly use to summarise the film's plot, but of course there's a lot more to it than just a basic coming-of-age narrative (though the lack of it is probably due to a need to cut the film down to a reasonable feature length). The Tree of Life is about Jack (Hunter McCracken as a child, Sean Penn as an adult). Though the film seems to alternate between Jack's seemingly typical 1950s childhood and his modern-day existence as an architect, the bulk of the film focuses on the childhood sequences, where Jack lives out a tranquil-looking yet troubled life with his family, including his parents (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain). Though it is a familiar narrative, Terrence Malick takes a story based on his own childhood experiences and uses it as the foundation for another one of his visually striking meditations on what it is to be alive and part of nature. Of course, I understand that Malick's cinematic sensibilities aren't necessarily for everyone and that this film has attracted its fair share of detractors for this very reason, this is definitely the kind of film that works for me.

The bulk of my appreciation can be directly credited to the visuals. The scenes depicting the birth of the universe quite rightly gained recognition thanks to the eye-watering effects work of 2001's Douglas Trumbull - effects work that is appropriately backed up by glorious classical music. The impressive visual style also extends to the cinematography by two-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki, which adds vibrancy to Jack's largely mundane childhood. Not even the rapid editing that frequently cuts the film to ribbons does anything to ruin the look of the film - if anything, if only serves the fragmented nature of the film's narrative and attitude even better. Though I still don't make any claims as to completely understand this film, The Tree of Life is one of those films where understanding it is not completely necessary when it comes to appreciating it. Of course, that might just be because the bulk of the film's dialogue is barely above a whisper and almost obtuse in its quasi-philosophical nature. Despite that, this marks two times that I've seen this film and neither one feels like a waste. I come away from watching this still feeling like I need to give both The Tree of Life and Malick's films in general more attention - this film may not be perfect and I have legitimate gripes (visually fascinating though it is, the central storyline is a little too mundane for its own good and I did frequently wonder how this film would've played out if it had added in more footage of Jack as an adult) but I could definitely see it becoming a major favourite at some point.

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#235 - The Perfect Host
Nick Tomnay, 2010

A bank robber who has been injured and mugged following his most recent job decides to hide by bluffing his way into a rich man's home but the tables are turned when the rich man is not what he seems.

It's probably not a good sign for a movie that its biggest draw involves not just spoiling a major reveal of its plot, but that that major reveal ties in with stunt-casting the film's most well-known actor. David Hyde Pierce is best-known for playing the incredibly fastidious upper-class psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on hit sitcom Frasier, and it is those same qualities that translate into his role here as Warwick, a man who is planning a dinner party at his expensive Los Angeles home around the same time than John (Clayne Crawford), a rather foolish small-time crook on the run after a big score, convinces Warwick to let him into his house and stay there. While John is initially in control, things take a strange turn when Warwick reveals that he is actually an incredibly deranged individual who plans on keeping John hostage throughout his "dinner party" (where all the guests are figments of his imagination). What follows is an unoriginal yet not entirely boring psychological thriller that is carried by Pierce, even though he doesn't do much other than play Niles but with a dangerously delusional edge, which does ultimately come across as gimmicky despite Pierce's ability.

The production values aren't much to speak of and none of the actors manage to match Pierce - Crawford in particular doesn't have the acting chops to make for much of a protagonist (especially when he spends much of his time acting against Pierce), who is constantly short-sighted and messing things up yet we're supposed to believe he's an amazing chess player at one especially convenient point. The plot is so thin that it ends up throwing in a left-field twist around the hour mark and, despite subverting my expectations, still ended up making the last third of the film feel like a major drag compared to the relatively suspenseful middle half-hour of the film. While it is somewhat fun to see Pierce gleefully subvert his most famous role in a recognisable yet twisted context, the novelty wears off very quickly against the background of such a dull excuse for a thriller.

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#236 - All Quiet on the Western Front
Lewis Milestone, 1930

A handful of young Germans are inspired to join the army and fight in World War I, but they are soon disillusioned by the horrors of battle.

All Quiet on the Western Front still holds up extremely well almost ninety years after its release. The battle scenes are frantic and explosive and still rather horrifying in their intensity even by the standards of the 1930s. Despite the big-budget quality of the action happening on-screen, the film still stays extremely true to the anti-war rhetoric of its source novel by focusing on a group of students as they join the army, spurred on by an old teacher filling their heads with notions of bravery and patriotism. Unfortunately for them, what they find waiting for them after signing up ends up being a barrage of brutal events, from incredibly harsh training from a coarse yet cowardly corporal through to actual conflicts that are devoid of any kind of heroism whatsoever. The older soldiers that mentor them are pragmatic about their situation, often in defiance of any superior authority, but are still just as prone to danger as the new meat.

The film does kind of suffer by not giving characters a whole lot of definition beyond some well-known war-story roles - there's the idealistic protagonist who loses hope with each passing minute of screen-time, his heavily grizzled mentor, a nasty drill sergeant type, etc. - but at least they are acted extremely convincingly (enough so that you don't mind that the supposedly German cast of characters don't have accents). The cinematography is sharp and the editing is appropriately frenzied during the incredibly chaotic battle sequences but doesn't get boring during the quieter scenes. As a result, there are plenty of striking sequences - most notably one where its protagonist is forced to spend a whole night in a muddy trench with a dying enemy. It definitely earns its reputation as one of the greatest war films of all-time and should definitely be checked out by anyone with even the slightest interest in classic film.

Watched All Quiet for the last HOF. I was not nearly as enamored as everyone else seems to be. Some movies just feel dated to me and this is one. From the second scene when everyone throws their papers on the air and starts singing patriotic songs I kind of checked out. There are a couple good character moments but not enough to sustain me.

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Weirdly enough, it didn't feel dated to me. Sure, it's got its moments that remind you that you're watching a movie from 1930, but most of the time I was amazed by how good it looked for a film from 1930, especially when it came to the battles.

Watched All Quiet for the last HOF. I was not nearly as enamored as everyone else seems to be. Some movies just feel dated to me and this is one. From the second scene when everyone throws their papers on the air and starts singing patriotic songs I kind of checked out. There are a couple good character moments but not enough to sustain me.
This is pretty much how I felt about it, too.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
sean, how does the scene you mention feel dated? It's part of the point of the novel and sets up the anti-war sentiments of the film. It is dated in that it's a primitive early talkie, but Milestone turns most of his primitivism into powerful film techniques which come across as either extremely visceral or extremely poetic. But I've seen it several times.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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sean, how does the scene you mention feel dated? It's part of the point of the novel and sets up the anti-war sentiments of the film.
It feels like in modern cinema we would get the character exposition through scenes of characters interacting one on one with other characters. The motivations would seem more natural if that makes sense. Here we get a hip hip hooray moment that feels very dated and unnatural. I could never see people, especially of this age, displaying their patriotism in this manner. The scene fulfills its purpose, it gets it point across either way. For me though, its not an interesting way to do so.