After reading a blog post by an L.A. Weekly writer on the worst hipster movies of all time, my first thought was I wish someone would punch that guy in the back of the head. It was a childish reaction. Largely based on “HE HATES A LOT OF THE MOVIES I LIKE, BRARARARARAR!” logic, there was also some basic confusion in there. Shaun of the Dead is a hipster movie? Where’s V for Vendetta, the definitive slacktivist call to clammy, meaty arms? For a good five minutes, I was righteous in my self-assured agitation with this shimmering jackass.
How dare he say such ignorant, smug things about some of the movies I love? I was annoyed, but I was confident that I was right, and he was wrong. I read his assortment of thoughts, the sort of piece where you can almost hear the kind of erection that only really good writers get, when they know they’re brilliance is so blinding, they can barely see the keyboard. I felt very pleased with myself. Clearly, this smelly little mutant didn’t know what he was talking about.
I didn’t go into why I read the stupid post in the first place. Sometimes, we just want to read things that are going to strengthen the conviction of existing opinions. And then there are times when we honestly want to give an opposing perspective an opportunity to reason with us. Food for thought is naturally beneficial, and that certainly applies to film. Obviously, I was in the first of those two categories.
I stayed good and pissy about it for a few minutes, and then I just let it go, and went on with my day. It’s not the kind of thing that’s worth holding on to. I already take far too many stupid things far too seriously as it is. If someone wants to condemn films that were clearly not meant for them in the first place, that’s their way to burn through a Saturday night. I left the matter on that thought, and I haven’t really considered it since.
And I certainly didn’t waste my time leaving a comment. But a lot of people did. I checked. A lot of things can make you believe that catastrophic climate change leading us into a slightly less fun version of The Day After Tomorrow maybe won’t be such a bad thing after all. The comments section for almost any news story or article can get you into that kind of optimism with ease. What I read in connection to the L.A. Weekly blog post wasn’t bad enough to make me dream of a white nuclear holocaust, but it depressed me all the same.
Not because a majority agreed with him. In fact, most of the comments viciously and petulantly argued with the original post. People were mad. People were upset. The slights against their favorite movies were taken as slights against their very souls. I get that. I empathize. Movies reveal a great deal about who we are as people. No one really wants to be compared to a group of people who supposedly burn themselves on coffee, because they want to drink it before it becomes cool (thanks to Connor Ricard for the kind of joke that makes me want to eat a wooden spoon). No one wants to wonder if they have been wasting their lives on shallow, shitty movies.
Trust me, you haven’t been. And leaving a comment on some news story or article, or getting into an argument with a person you’ve never met before in your life, is not going to change that fact. For god’s sakes, pick your battles. Save the flame wars for an epic cause that’s actually worthy of your disgust and disbelief. When it comes to something like whether or not a faceless hack likes the same things you do, just let it go. Read those types of articles, but don’t take them too seriously. If you want to defend the movie that badly, then watch it, remember why you love it. Tell someone who values your opinion about this great film that they ought to try out.
Discussing film is essential. Disagreements on the merits of a director, whether or not a certain trope is problematic, or whether or not awards mean a damn thing can be great, meaningful conversations. But in those situations in which polite, engaging discourse is impossible, maybe, just maybe, it might be a better idea to find something else to do with your time.
I recommend Subway Surfers. I swear to god, that game is like crack, wrapped in a ball of bacon, wrapped in another ball of crack.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): A+
One of the great successes of the astonishingly good, fast-paced, compulsory Guardians of the Galaxy is in the way it proves just how diverse the Marvel Cinematic Universe really is. Strictly in terms of storytelling, it would seem that virtually anything can be done. This latest entry in the MCU is proof positive of that fact.
Drawing from a comic book that was largely unknown to those who don’t keep up with the source material related to these films, Guardians of the Galaxy emphasizes ideal summer entertainment. A phenomenal ensemble cast (it is absolutely impossible to choose from amongst such names as Chris Pratt, Benicio Del Toro, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, or anyone else who shows up) takes a semi-obscure Marvel comic, and turns it into the best MCU film since the first Avengers. Everything you could ever want in a comic book adaptation or summer spectacular is here.
The movie scales considerable ambition when trying to jam as much action, humor, chemistry, weirdness, and intensity as it possibly can. None of the elements that make up the best popcorn flicks of all time is sacrificed here. There is truly something for everyone, and there is even something of a strong emotional center to this film and its characters.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the next MCU heavyweight coming down the line. However, it’s going to have work awfully hard to even brush against the bar set by Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014): C-
Watching The Angriest Man in Brooklyn in the wake of Robin Williams’ death is no easy task. The moments in which his largely unlikable character reveals the depths of his loneliness, rage, and sadness are now subject to unreasonable interpretation. Separating the pain Williams’ character is experiencing from the pain he presumably felt before taking his own life is going to be intensely difficult.
Nonetheless, it’s important to try to judge the film on its own merits. With that in mind, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is a considerable disappointment. So much potential exists in this cast, and in the story of an obnoxious man (Williams) who is told he only has ninety minutes left to live by a worn-out, tired, drug addicted doctor (Mila Kunis), that it seems like a can’t-lose kind of situation for everyone. Certainly, Phil Alden Robinson has directed good films before, such as Field of Dreams and Sneakers.
Unfortunately, a terrible script gives the actors little to do except make the best of what they have. And lord knows they try, especially Mellissa Leo and Peter Dinkladge, but nothing really saves The Angriest Man in Brooklyn from regrettable mediocrity. The fact that there are good moments in the film (particularly in one scene involving the still-incredible James Earl Jones), and the fact that both Williams and Kunis display flickers of brilliance is perhaps the most angering thing about The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.
Anything lower than a C- doesn’t seem quite right, in terms of how to score something like this. However, keep in mind that it gets that rating by the skin of its teeth. I’m still wondering if a D+ is perhaps more accurate.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014): D-
How long is too long to wait to make a follow-up? It’s been a full nine years since Robert Rodriquez teamed up with Frank Miller to bring Miller’s twisted neo-noir vision to life. The first Sin City is still one of the finest comic book movies ever made. It created a truly singular cinematic experience, and it hinted at the comeback that Mickey Rourke was about to embark on.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has all the ingredients in place for a successful continuation. The same writers and directors are there. Much of the original cast is back (Rourke’s latest turn as Marv is one of the film’s few bright spots). Exceptional actors join the film’s dark universe as new characters. When you keep all of this in mind, it’s hard not to feel extremely cheated by how intensely joyless and tedious A Dame to Kill For ultimately is.
Did Rodriquez and Miller simply wait too long? It’s possible, given how most of this movie feels forced. Dialog that should ring familiar in the best way possible sounds forced and bored. New characters prove to offer very little. Most of them aren’t even very likable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt should be a great fit for a movie like this, but in the end, his story is a giant, bland waste of time. Eva Green can play the kind of crazy that would make her a natural for something like this, but the level of unintentional comedy she reaches and maintains dooms her scenes to failure.
Almost nothing in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is fun. When a movie feels like an obligation, that’s going to become clear to the audience very early on. A Dame to Kill For doesn’t really want to be here, and it doesn’t even seem to know why we’re there either. It’s a bomb on every possible level, and it’s easily one of the worst sequels I’ve ever seen.
Until the End of the World (1991): A-
A 280-minute road movie from Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas) sounds a parody of art house cinema pretension. However, and this depends on your point of view about such things, it really doesn’t come across as such.
Yes, there are doses of social commentary that occasionally gets tiresome, and parody that’s a little too conscious of itself for the film’s own good, but most of Until the End of the World works. As it takes its love triangle involving two men (William Hurt and Sam Neil) and a woman (Solveig Dommartin) all over the globe, Until the End of the World proves itself to be full of enduring charm. The wit and humor are surprisingly endearing, almost from the beginning, and strong chemistry between Dommartin, Neil, and Hurt provides much of the rest of the film’s appeal. Until the End of the World works because it maintains engaging characters throughout a variety of creative backdrops and locales.
The soundtrack, which features contributions from such artists as U2, R.E.M., T-Bone Burnett Patti Smith, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and several others, is also of note. Wenders approached all of the artists to create songs based around the kind of music they felt they would likely be recording in 1999, the year the film takes place. In that vein, the music of Until the End of the World functions as a character unto itself. It establishes the many moods the film endeavors to achieve, and it lends something essential to the visuals and striking dialog.
Unfortunately, getting ahold of this film may prove to be a little difficult. Beyond the shorter cut that’s available to North American consumers on Amazon Instant Watch, you’re going to have to hunt down the German or Italian DVD editions. Both offer Wenders’ directors cut, and come loaded with more extras than you could ever imagine wanting. You can also always opt to go the torrent route, if you don’t have any moral objections to the idea.
However you go about seeing this movie, it’s worth the trouble. While perhaps not the “definitive road movie” Wenders wanted it to be, it is one of the best of its kind.
On the Waterfront (1954): A+
Even people who have never even heard of Elia Kazan’s flawless classic know Marlon Brando’s most famous line in the film. “I coulda been a contender” continues to be in the vernacular to this day, but there are so many other things about On the Waterfront that are worth enjoying.
Kazan was a master at crafting uncompromising character-driven dramas that took place in destinations that somehow looked artificial and natural at the same time. Taking advantage of Budd Schulberg’s Oscar-winning screenplay, Kazan gives us the kind of Marlon Brando performance people talk about, when they talk about the extraordinary depth and humanity he brought to his best works.
As a man who has to decide if he wants to bring down a local mob boss, Brando is peerless. Although the next several decades would prove to be increasingly unkind, in terms of speculation on his private life, and critical assessments of his later roles, Brando does indeed deserve immortality here. His intensity captivates from the very beginning. It is only enhanced further by the remarkable supporting cast of Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, and Eva Marie Saint.
The aura surrounding this movie, the notion some have that everything about it is absolutely perfect, shouldn’t intimidate you. Simply go into the movie as people did in 1954, with an open mind that’s as free of presumptions as humanly possible. You’ll likely come away with an understanding of what the film’s many fans are talking about.