[crossposted from www.bobcolby.com/blog
So here was the situation. I had the house to myself for just over two weeks, with no need to negotiate viewing times on the big livingroom TV. I was also freshly unemployed, and eager to extract the maximum value from every penny that leaves my pocket (in this case, my share of the household Netflix fee). I also had the ability to keep all three discs on our monthly plan in continual rotation (which meant I could watch up to six discs a week). So that’s exactly what I did.
None of what follows should be considered anything remotely approaching a review, just a few thoughts that occurred while watching.IN THE LOOP
– I’ll just repeat my FaceBook status update verbatim, where I described it as ”a very dark political farce in the tradition of DR. STRANGELOVE and WAG THE DOG. If you like acidic British wit, this one’s for you – there may have been 2 or 3 lines in the entire hour and 46 minutes that did not draw blood, but I wouldn’t swear by that”.THE HURT LOCKER
- This was not an intentional segue from the previous film, but it occurred to me while watching that this is a film about the kind of ultimate result that can arise out of the process seen in IN THE LOOP. The film deserves all the praise it’s gotten, and I imagine that it’s a compelling experience whether or not you think this particular mission was a good idea.MOON
– Rock star progeny never seem to measure up to their parents, so it was probably a good move for Duncan Jones (the former Zowie Bowie) to go into a different line of creative work. That said, he definitely seems to have inherited his dad’s interest in science-fictional themes. I liked the fact that this film recalled late 60s-early 70s SF in its emphasis on concept and mood over action (I also liked seeing some non-CGI effects for a change, wasn’t sure anyone even knew how to build models anymore).ROME OPEN CITY
- I’ve been running into references to “Italian Neo-Realism” for decades now, so I thought that this would be a good time to educate myself via Roberto Rosselini’s “war trilogy”, shot at the end of WWII. This first one (dealing with Rome shortly before the liberation from German occupiers) was an early (if you don’t count all those little experimenters who flourished before the rise of the big studios) example of DIY filmmaking, made with any scraps of film stock they could find. By necessity, they had to shoot many scenes in actual locations and use non-professionals, thus giving it a feel of authenticity that was revolutionary at the time.UP IN THE AIR
- What does it say about me that I find myself identifying (well, just slightly) with Ryan’s Bingham’s “How Much Does Your Backpack Weigh” presentation? I know Ryan (played by George Clooney) isn’t supposed to be a sympathetic character until he rejects the unencumbered, disconnected lifestyle his presentation advocates, but perhaps I’m influenced by the fact that I often feel bolted in place by the sheer bulk of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the decades, and the enormous effort that would be involved in getting down to just what I really need and use (which also might make it possible to move to a cheaper part of the country – say Austin, TX – if the need arises, which it very well might). I’m not a case for “Hoarders”, but there are days when I fee a certain kinship.PAISAN
– This is the second of Rosellini’s war trilogy, which follows the Allied advance up the boot of Italy. In one case, the Germans were so recently gone that passengers on a passing streetcar thought the scene of Germans abducting a resistance leader was real and attempted to intervene (you can see the streetcar going by in the scene). If there’s one flaw in this film, it’s that it conveniently glosses over the fact that Italy had only dumped Il Duce when the Allies were at the door. You do get to see more of war’s real devastation than in the first installment (but much more was to come, as you’ll see in the entry after next).NEW YORK DOLL
– Arthur Kane’s quiet life working in a Mormon library is suddenly disrupted by the unexpected return of a piece of his past – the New York Dolls, who helped to lay the musical groundwork for punk (and whose visual style affected just about all of rock from that point on). Seeing him reclaim this part of his life was very touching, even though it turned out to be the last chapter in his story.GERMANY YEAR ZERO
- The Neo-Realist style was perhaps the only appropriate style for the finale Rossellini’s war trilogy. The impact generated by just setting characters loose in Berlin as it was soon after the war is hard to convey if you haven’t seen it. How did people possibly live in the middle of so much rubble?THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON
- The tormented artist has been a romantic figure ever since, well, ever since the Romantic movement started in the late 1700s. An easier position to hold when you’re not dealing with the day-to-day realities involved. Luckily for Daniel Johnston, a lot of talented people were able to see past his spectacular dysfunction and rawer-than-raw performance style to the songs underneath it all.THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
– I’ve been a Forrest Whitaker fan since he played Charlie Parker in BIRD, and my perception has always been that he brings a great sense of gentle calm to his portrayals. Maybe I’ve been missing the exceptions, since this portayal of Idi Amin was a pretty spectacular change of pace, one that clearly earned that Oscar.THE QUEEN
– Another unintentional segue. Essentially, this is a movie about the kind of moment we all dread, the moment when we realize that we’re living in a different world than the one we thought we were in. Adjusting to the world as it actually is is never easy, and in this case Britain could be a republic today had the Royals declined to make the effort.JOHN WATERS DVD SCRAPBOOK
(listed by Netflix as “John Waters Collection: Extras”
) – This companion disc to an old Waters boxed set has more than five hours of material on it – lots of mini-docs, interviews, old photos and such. I couldn’t get through it all, partly because of one of the worst-designed user interfaces ever. I still enjoyed it, especially “Love Letter to Edie” – what a life that Egg Lady led!AS TEARS GO BY
- Up till now, my knowledge of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wei was limited to Fallen Angels, but I’ve wanted to see more for a long time, so I figured a good way to end this marathon would be to go back to the beginning of his directing career and work forward later. I did this despite the fact that this first feature of his isn’t exactly considered a masterpiece, but I’m curious about where people came from and how they developed their style. As advertised, this one is a fairly-conventional crime flick, but with just a few touches of his later visual style here and there. Still pretty enjoyable.
I’ll have to do that again some time.