Secret Sunshine was a movie I'd wanted to watch for a long time. Not sure why it took me so long. I loved Poetry, despite its hokiness and unadventurous narrative. But I did think Lee Chang-dong displayed an amazing sense of dedication to the gradual breakdown of the mind as his main character slowly lost her memory. Tied in with Korea's male-dominated culture that literally wears down the female mind and abuses its female counterparts, and the idea of losing one's memory begins to become fitting for a women whose grandson raped and killed a young girl she feels a connection with beyond the grave.
So, with my adoration for Poetry intact, Secret Sunshine was slightly disappointing. Most because I was expecting to love love looooooooove this movie, but also because the screenplay feels cut into halves rather than blended together.
Poetry combined its two elements (memory loss and gender politics) gradually, in a way that was able to build upon the main character's poetry class and her everyday observations. Shin-ae's problems do build throughout the movie, but what Chang-dong combines with gender politics in Sunshine is religion, and it's introduced halfway through the film in a moment of crisis.
Now, I don't have a problem with the religion portion of this film. It plays directly into the idea of "secret sunshine," which is meant to convey a false sense of comfort. Shin-ae moves to Miryang (which means "secret sunshine") because her deceased husband always wanted to move back home. Only beyond the grave does Shin-ae seek comfort, denying the men who offer their services and attempt to romance her. Shin-ae wants to be independent and care for her son, yet she considers herself helpless without any sort of spiritual guidance. She claims to be atheist, yet attaches herself as wholeheartedly to her husband as anyone would to God, to the point where she upends her life and moves to a new town.
Honestly, I think the movie just needed to be longer, or Chang-dong needed to introduce the religion portion sooner. The entirety of Shin-ae's arc is tragic as all hell, but the arc in the second half of the film hits the reset button and attempts to go back and build upon an idea that's already under way. The religious arc is the most interesting, and I do believe there should be some exposition before diving in, but Poetry constantly had its elements weaving together, while Sunshine abruptly cuts itself into two parts.
Overall, I still really like this movie. I still think it's great, even with the halved structure and attachment to melodrama.
This is dripping with melodrama, by the way. Not to undercut the degradation of the mind, but I don't particularly care for watching somebody wail, bawl, fall over, scream, shout, faint, and stab herself for two hours. I think there are more interesting ways to convey that level of pain and anguish. But I do think a movie can earn those moments, and Sunshine is tragic enough to work.
Also, the camerawork is every bit as good as Poetry, which is also why I'm forgiving the fundamental flaw of the film and choosing to love its elements. The way people are positioned, such as the fantastic shot-reverse-shot trapping Shin-ae between two men in a prison visiting window, are really great and keep in line with the psychology of the character and the interweaving themes. Lee Chang-dong has become a force to be reckoned with.
Can we call Ordet one of the greatest movies ever made...if the general consensus is that nobody truly understands it? Carl Th. Dreyer was a man not so much consumed by plot, but by ideas, and both Ordet and Gertrud were living proof of that. And films driven by ideas are great! But through narrative those ideas come to fruition, so I just have to ask: why do so many people consider this to be Dreyer's best film/the greatest film ever made?
Oh...sorry, you misunderstood me. I'm not saying Ordet isn't a fantastic film--because it definitely is. And I don't consider myself privileged enough to ordain what is or what isn't the greatest film of all time (although most critics do). I'm just in complete and utter awe when well-established critics who have seen thousands of films are so willing to blow their collective load over a movie many of them actively acknowledge they don't fully understand.
Chris Fujiwara, in his essay for Ordet's Criterion Collection release, wrote:
"That Ordet is a great film, one of the greatest ever made, only a rash or foolish person will deny. But even less than with other great films can we afford to let the category of greatness limit our response, because Ordet demands more from us, and has more to give, than almost any other film.
He then later writes:
"If we naturalize Ordet, if we forget what is so strange about the film, we’ll lose the ability to be awed by the film and its qualities of otherwordliness and ritual."
This is what I'm talking about. The idea that Carl Th. Dreyer is such a goddamn genius (which, granted, he is) that we must simply abandon reason, logic, and plot restrictions and simply "be awed by the film." Perhaps it was too early in Criterion's development to expect much from a guest essay (Ordet is Spine #126), but this useless essay is too directionless and starstruck to even remotely capture what Ordet is truly about. So when Fujiwara claims he has never been able to truly grasp Ordet...I believe him.
Fujiwara does a decent job explaining how Dreyer was a God of mise-en-scène, which isn't really hard to grasp. If any film student wants to capture the art, Dreyer is your man, as he not only constructed beautiful black-and-white sets, but also kept the characters' psyches intact at any and all moments. Take the rarity of eye contact in a Dreyer film (for his Gertrud review, Eric Henderson says "mere eye contact is an event of cosmic significance.") The idea of not seeing eye-to-eye captures the pains of committing to religion, the rivalries associated with opposing religions, and the desire to never truly connect with God and keep him at bay.
The most striking lesson I learned from the general public's perception of Ordet, however, was how I interpreted the ending. For people like Fujiwara who choose to beat off to films instead of analyzing them, I understand the confusion. We're much more likely to explain why such an abrupt tonal shift works in the context of untouchable ideas floating in Dreyer's head instead of reaching in grabbing those ideas.
Throughout the film, the men mourn over Inger's body (both dead and alive), wishing and praying she could come back to life. Johannes preaches to them, claiming she will die (and never come back to life) until they truly believe in God. For now: they just attach themselves to the idea of God, and only use religion as a crutch and an instigator, to the point where it dominates trivialities, such as whom one is allowed to wed. The little girl is excited for her mother to die, claiming that Johannes has promised to bring her back to life. When he reveals he may not be able to bring her back to life because of the family's lack of faith, the girl becomes upset.
"Little girl," he says, "a mother in heaven is much better than a mother on earth."
The child loves her mother unblinkingly, and her immaturity can be understood. But the grown-ups of the film pretty much mimic the girl in their selfishness (seriously, guys: mise-en-scène), thus when Johannes finally rises Inger from her grave, the "conversion" to truly believing in God isn't the sad, sappy ending many believe, but instead a dark and accusatory one. Inger's first question is whether or not her child died during childbirth, to which her husband replies (I'm paraphrasing here), "Yes, he's alive. He's in Heaven, and he's alive." This statement is met with a look of grief from Inger, and in this beautiful shot, we see the contradiction firmly in place for the ending. It doesn't surprise me at all to find out Dreyer was agnostic--agnostics don't have to firmly attach their belief to any one entity, any one god. So when the husband claims he's been converted, it's revealed that 99% (maybe even 100%) of Christians don't form a personal attachment with God, no matter much much they may believe it. Faith can always strengthen, and true, unadulterated faith can only be achieved through witnessing the unthinkable, the unimaginable: a miracle. And if we can all agree that an actual miracle is impossible, then it can be posited that nobody's faith can ever truly reach its peak.
When all of this information came together for me in what is considered one of the greatest, strangest endings in the history of film, I did something that I'm not sure makes me a bad person or not: while everyone else wept and sobbed over Ordet's ending...I just laughed.
World War Z:
I liked this a lot. Especially the theme music. That opening music is so fucking cool.
It felt like a video game to me. I thought each area was cool. I liked how Pitt picked up clues from each place and came up with an idea. The movie isn't just: WE HAVE TO KILL AS MANY AS POSSIBLE. I can't think of another zombie movie that builds up in this way? I Am Legend comes close, but that's a guy testing a whole bunch of things and finally coming up with a potential cure. This is someone observing clues and figuring out a strategy. I think that's way more fascinating.
I like that we go from Family Escape, to Family Dealing With Other People, to Family Mission, to Military Mission, to Military Escorted Escape, to Total Fucking Chaos (on the airplane), to Stealth Mission. This is what a good Resident Evil movie would be like.
If this movie had just been any one of those things, I think it would have bored me.
I like that the film didn't mind slowing down to allow people to show emotion. We had more venue shifts than Pacific Rim. The toll of the zombie pandemic was not mitigated as is the toll of other destructive forces in other movies (looking at Man of Steel, Transformers, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers Dark of the Moon, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc. etc).
I like the end, too. The conflict in the plot was how to fight back. We get a resolution. The movie thus ends with humanity having found a way to tip the scales back in our favor. And I'm happy with that. I like leaving off with the world hanging in the balance, with people ready to take a stand and launch a counter offensive. I think it's an interesting statement on humanity: that things can get shitty for us, but we fucking find a way. And that this is a process.
The movie really is sort of a metaphor for the creative process. You have a problem. How do you solve it? Scientific Method! And relying on abilities you have previously cultivated.
I can 100% guarantee you the only reason the end of this movie isn't awful is because Damon Lindelof wasn't involved. Drew Goddard is way better. Compared the few films Goddard has written with anything Lindelof has done: Goddard's stories have more depth, have emotional resonance, and make logical sense. Lindelof's plots are shitty. Don't even try to say Prometheus is good. If you like Prometheus: great. There's nothing wrong with liking it.
Anyway. Fuck R.I.P.D. Yes, I'm angry at RIPD.
This is one of the best movies I've ever watched. And I hate Brian de Palma.
Or at least hated him.
Now I'm not so sure.
The camera work and cinematography in this film: spectacular. The firework scene! The scene where he discovers his tapes are wiped! The opening! The recording of the car crash! So many great moments.
Pre-Scientology John Travolta is really fucking cool. I think he's cool than this than as V Vega.
I'm not sure how I feel about the plot. At first I was like: THIS IS SUCH A GOOD PLOT. I guess it is sort of cool that Lithgow really is just a deranged serial killer. He says he has a whole plot in place. But I'm pretty sure the dude just really really really really likes killing people. But that's where I have a problem. The movie seems like it'll be the big political thriller and VERY quickly it becomes something much less. Much more simple. I guess it's still good. It's just a less epic plot than I initially thought. I'll get over this.
What I think is best about this movie is how not only is it a solid thriller (I know, I just said I wasn't sure about the plot, but it's still a solid thriller) but it's a solid thriller that's actually making an artistic statement.
The final scene is amazing, to me. Travolta uses his would-be girlfriend's VERY REAL scream for help as the scream for the VERY FAKE scream in the shitty horror movie he's doing sound for. It's the perfect scream. Throughout the film: the scream had been awful, flawed, contrived. Because it was done by girls faking a real scream. Here we have a real scream used in a fictional story. Reality is used to heighten fiction.
Now think about Travolta and his conversation with the assistant to the dead politician. The politician wants Travolta to forget to girl, to pretend he wasn't that, to not say anything about the girl being in the car with the politician. Travolta says that's a lie. That she was there. That he was there. The politician says: think of the family: do you want to ruin the image they have the deceased? What good does it do to let everyone know the guy was with a call girl? Nothing. Travolta initially agrees until the murder is covered up. He's pissed. Sure, it's one thing to not ruin the family image, it's another to let murder go. Here we have people hiding reality with fiction.
And what do we see at the end? Travolta is not in a good spot. He's unhappy. The girl he liked is either dead or not talking with him (in the news report we hear it told she fought off her attacker). Travolta's quest for truth has ruined him.
The end is this awesome moment where we see the impact of reality on fiction and fiction on reality. Each needs each. Fiction is improved by reality. Reality is less terrifying with fiction. The entire movie is built around a plot that demonstrates this ultimate conclusion. Amazing.
This is legitimately one of the worst movies I have ever watched. It's awful. Like, on the same level as Spider-Man 3 awful.
There are just so many things I think are stupid.
First. You call it the Rest In Peace Department: yet only three people from the unit have speaking parts, unless you count the people working in evidence: then there are 5. It's such a NARROW movie. I have the same problem with MIB too. Obviously the movie is not about the department. MIB is about J and K, not about the Men In Black department. Just like RIPD is about Ryan Reynolds's stupid character and not the RIPD. You know what movie had an appropriate title? Ghostbusters. At least the movie focused on the Ghostbusters.
You have an entire department OF THE GREATEST COPS WHO EVER LIVED. We're told that. And when the department is faced with this great calamity: only two people are handling it?
Fuck this movie.
Such wasted potential.
I hate the characters. All of them. I hate the decision to have cops look like a hot woman and an Asian man. I hate the Fat Elvis dude who defies physics. I hate all the action sequences.
The only thing I thought was cool: when Kevin Bacon takes off the bracelet and unleashes such evil the house is ruined.
Kevin Bacon KNOWS Jeff Bridges is trying to stop the stupid golden machine. Instead of killing Jeff Bridges, he toys around with Ryan Reynolds????
I repeat: fuck this movie.
And how does the first bad guy who jumps out the window go from being on the street to then being on the rooftop corner of a building?
Sigh. Fuck this movie.
Arrested Development Season 2:
Season 2 has been weird to me. I'm 13 episodes in. I feel like the show's momentum has come to an enormous halt. Before we had the mystery of the extent of George Senior's crimes. All the pieces and parts are coming together. Now we're just...languishing.
Who has an arc that's going anywhere?
George Senior: isn't going anywhere and they've reverted back to the old gimmick of him finding religion
Michael: no through plot. Plus, he's devolved. His attempts at being a good father felt sincere in the first season, now they feel strained and weird. He went from a semi-normal human to just as flawed as his brothers and sister. His dating life this season makes me cringe.
Buster: had the army thing going, then that died. The hook-hand is going on now, and has led to some interesting jokes and the affair with Lupe, but...nothing groundbreaking.
Gob: He's become the mechanism around which a lot of the plots revolve. Actions he takes or situations he is getting into shape the force of episodes. But he is, like the rest of the characters, not going anywhere. He's not trying to do anything special. The Steve Holt thing could prove interesting.
Lindsay: her momentum died. They haven't given her anything interesting to do this entire season. She barely appears. She had the "no man will sleep with me" arc, which amused me, but was very one-dimensional.
George Michael: Uhg, Anne. I feel like this entire season is sort of an Anne.
With all that said: I'm still laughing. I'm still enjoying episodes. But the show is revealing how crucial affecting status quo is. You either develop or you break it. It's Always Sunny doesn't use a lot of through plots, but they're involved in outlandish plots that reveal more of who the main characters are. Like the D.E.N.N.I.S. System. Or when Sweet Dee was dating a maybe/maybe not retarded person. Or Kitten Mittens.
At least Tobias has had some arc. And Maebe. They're the two most interesting characters at this point.