This is my first post of the year and I am already a little behind on what I intended to post. This year, starting December 31st, 2015, I plan on posting every movie I watch, regardless of if I have seen it before and post a few thoughts I had while viewing each one. My very first batch of eight films to start this year are:
The Shining (1980)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Jurassic World (2015)
Hateful Eight (2015)
Star Trek (2009)
Top Five (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
I hadn't seen Roshomon since high school or college but this was a very fun viewing. I was so impressed this viewing by the cinematography of the film. I was struck by the impressive deep focus in the interrogation scenes where we see other witnesses sitting the in the background listening to testimoney as well as the impressive uses of the sky. There was one scene that stood out where the sun is just out of frame to the top and its long reflection is cast on a body of water in the background. This movie inspired me to revist other classics in my personal library of DVD's and blu-rays to enjoy them.
This is an exercise I did a few years ago in law school because of another Christmas gift of an Afred Hitchcock box set. That year I would pull another movie from the box set each night and watch the extras after each movie ended. I knew I liked some of the Hitchcock films I had seen before but that blu-ray set was especially engrossing and was quite a treat to go back in time with those films. Those Hitchcock films do have a sense of being shot in another time, as entertaining as they are, but Roshomon on this viewing seemed like a new film and had me hoping more directors will play with with making current films in black and white.
Around seven years ago I lived in my first apartment without a roommate in New Britain, Connecticut and I had a good friend, Justin, who lived just a block away. We would meet up often to be movie nerds and on one cold winter day we watched The Shining just because it was cold out. I believe that is another DVD I got for Christmas in a box set, and that year it was a Kubrick box set (that, although it had some great movies, I always thought was incomplete leaving out Dr. Strangelove and Paths of Glory). Moving to Minnesota this year, this is my first extremely cold winter since before I lived in Phoenix so it was only fitting to have a viewing of The Shining. It was as beautiful a movie as ever. I'm not very interested in horror movies but The Shining is a great movie on its own. It's fun to rewatch after seeing the documentary about the different oddball theories of the film, Room 237, as it points out some very interesting details about the movie, even if the conclusions are often the ramblings of obcessive people who could use to take up knitting or some other mindless hobby.
I decided to throw in Citizen Kane after watching two classics the day before. It was an enjoyable viewing but I came to realize that I liked the cinematography of Roshomon just a bit more. I'm sure Orson Welles would not object to that appraisal... on second though, he was a man who was very full of himself so he probably would object. It also got me thinking about The Magnificent Ambersons. That film, it's original cut by Orson Welles is supposedly one of the greatest films ever, however the studio required more than an hour of footage was cut from the film. It is considered one of the great lost films in history but Welles' legacy remained intact for having a great run of amazing films he directed. That got me thinking about directors that consistently made great films throughout their careers especially after enjoying box sets of Kubrick and Hitchcock films. At the time, I had trouble remembering directors that have had such a track record but two that later came to mind are Tarantino and amazingly Matthew Vaughn, a director's name who doesn't often roll off the toungues of movie goers but he has a track record of all entertaining films and no down movies.
I was going to watch Vertigo after Citizen Kane but after a few minutes I found I needed to have a movie on with more modern pacing and Jurasic World is exactly that. The first time I saw this film I was pleasantly surprised. The last time I saw Jurasic Park I had the feeling that it did not hold up all that well on a story level and the children were too grating, so my expectations were low for Jurasic World. On a second viewing this film is still fun and some of the problems critics had with it stood out a little more like the woman running around in high heels the whole movie critique stood out but it is a fun action movie.
I was very glad there weren't many revealing trailers for this film. I felt the same way about The Force Awakens enjoying the experience of surprise. I thought it was one of my favorite Tarantino films and it seemed to have some of my favorite character development and social commentary.
I rewatched the commentary of the JJ Abrams film to get a little taste of the new Star Wars film again and it was entertaining to hear him refering to scenes in a Star Wars sense. He was not very subtly auditioning to film Star Wars through his direction of Star Trek and I think he succeeded for both science fiction franchises.
I was happy to see this in Amazon Prime and found it to be very entertaining and a great comedy film. I liked that it seemed to express a sense of walking through the streets of New York that seemed to make the city look like the massive film set that it can seem like in real life. I liked that Chris Rock seemed to portray some kind of mix of other former SNL stars like Eddie Murphy or Bill Murray who made changes in their careers from stand up to silly comedy films to serious films while abanding stand up. I would say that both Murphy and Murray veered so far from the areas of comedy that they started out in that they no longer are funny even though comedians they have impacted dream they will both go back to having fun being funny rather than cashing paychecks or doing performance art.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man is a film I kind of enjoy but also like in the context of seeing a whole bunch of Marvel movies in succession. I like to fit this one just after I see the first Avengers movie while imagining that all of the cranes Spider-Man uses at the end of the film to swing to the Oscorp tower are there to rebuild NYC after the attempted alien invasion. It's a little bit of an awkward teenage movie at times, although I do think it is one of the best Spider-Man movies. Spider-Man always was one of my favorite comic book heroes growing up so it is always fun to see the character on screen, although I grew up liking the more grown up version of Peter Parker.