Saturday, November 10, 2007

Old Movies Revisited

Donnie Darko

OK, Donnie Darko is not that old, but I’ve never seen it on the big screen. This was the perfect example of being able to see a film in a completely new light because of the viewing circumstances. I’ve seen this movie countless times – the first time was memorable because I was in the hospital, and watched a VHS copy by myself late at night on the tiny crappy TV in my room. Needless to say, watching it on the big screen at the Music Box was a much better situation, even though the seats there are ungodly uncomfortable.
Obviously I realized that seeing movies on the big screen is more ideal than seeing them on DVD before this viewing, especially if the cinematography is artful in any way. This is one of the first times that I saw a movie I really love in the cinema after only seeing it on DVD, which was really striking. The movie screen is really like a window into a completely different world. Sorry if that sounds gay, but it’s true.
My question is, are there any movies you guys have not had a chance to see on the big screen yet but would love to? It’s difficult because so many older films pop up in odd places in Chicago – at midnight screenings (like this one), at the cinemas that show art films, or in re-releases (see Blade Runner next!) One movie that comes to mind immediately for me is American Psycho – a movie I’ve probably seen 50 times, but never in the theater. And I would really love the chance to see Solaris on the big screen again (the Clooney/Soderbergh one), even though I did see it in the theater once.
All this aside, the version of Donnie Darko we saw was the director’s cut, and I didn’t like it as much as the original theatrical version. Sure, I’m prejudiced because I’ve seen the first version so many times. But I thought the scenes and overlays the director added later really just cluttered the storyline, which was already sufficiently convoluted.


I saw this movie on VHS back when I was in college, and must have been completely wasted because I remembered approximately 5 minutes of it. This is the final and ultimate director’s cut (no voiceover, no miscommunications, no Hollywood misconceptions). I loved it. Sometimes the old-school special effects are impressively amazing – this movie is from 1982, when I was 6 years old, and somehow they used their crude technology of the times to create a cityscape that vividly conjures up an imaginary place and time better than any recent movies seem to manage. I really believe that CGI has its place in moviemaking, and people are overusing it. No, I’m not super-excited to see Beowulf, which looks like a video game to me. The sets of Blade Runner have an immediacy which most directors can only achieve in their wildest dreams. Plus, how creepy and macabre is Sebastian’s apartment, full of rejected and mutated genetic experiments gone wrong? I didn’t remember that part of the movie at all, which reinforces my suspicion that I must have been really quite altered at the time of my first viewing.

Catching Up With More Movies


This movie was so-so. It’s a typical Hollywood movie in that it’s boiled down to the simplest, most black-and-white scenarios (all while supposedly dealing with morally ambiguous material). I’m sure the filmmakers thought they were making a complex, thought-provoking movie, but it’s kind of the opposite. A lot of critics complained about the love story between two incidental characters distracting from the main story, but I actually liked that part of the movie more than the main one. At least it had more of a sense of time and place than the scenes with Reese Witherspoon wandering around Washington D.C. and dramatically flipping out at various politicians.

The Kingdom

Argh, more time in the Middle East. Watching these movies back-to-back made me extremely tired of the desert. I can’t even begin to imagine how the people stationed there must feel… or the people who call that part of the world their home. It’s just very foreign to me.
Anyway this movie was entertaining, in a Hollywood blow ‘em up way. It’s worth watching for Jason Bateman’s wise-ass character. He’s somehow inherently charming, even when his characters are kind of losers. Here’s another good example of a movie that posits an anti-war message to pacifists, but would be seen as a pro-war movie by warmongers.

Dan In Real Life

At the end of our three-movie day, it was nice to see something that was a little more personal and light, even though the main characters are tortured and depressed in their own ways. This film was really quite funny and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a pleasant diversion, or just to counterbalance too many movies about war and torture.

Michael Clayton

I loved this movie! I read a lot of reviews describing it as overly portentious and kind of boring, but I disagree completely. It’s the kind of subtle, slow-placed thriller that I just love. Which means that most people will probably not like it. The worst part is being forced to stare at George Clooney’s ugly mug for two hours. When will Hollywood wake up and start putting attractive people in movies for once?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mop of Ginger, Live in Concert

We went to see Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova (b.k.a. those dandy musicians from the movie ONCE) at the Crystal Ballroom last night. They are awesome, and they performed awesomely, but my enjoyment of the concert was completely and utterly eclipsed by the shitty-ass venue. Imagine a giant gymnasium (that happens to have fancy chandeliers hanging from the rafters) packed to max (standing room only) capacity. Now imagine a teeny weeny 1' elevated stage in the most arbitrary corner of said gymnasium. I was standing completely upright for 3 hours amidst a sea of perfumey, horny and/or rude people, and couldn't see shit. It sucked, man. Some tall, bulky dude tried finagling himself into the EXACT space that I was inhabiting and then got all indignant when I elbowed him in the back. He played it off like he was just trying to go throw his cup away. Yeah, whatev, taint-face. Finally when my knees and lower back (and the little voices in my head telling me to bludgeon the PDA-happy couple next to me) couldn't take it any longer, we left. Leaving early turned out to be really fucking difficult because we couldn't seem to extricate ourselves from the crowd. It was borderless. You know how when you fly over a gigantic metropolis like Mexico City or Tokyo or (I imagine) Los Angeles, the development just seems to stretch on forever, as far as your eye can see? That's what this crowd felt like. Oh man did it suck! What a shame, too, because Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova rock. I feel like I might be an abnormally intolerant and/or misanthropic person because I had such a miserable time. Does anyone else have a concert horror story to share? Regardless, I will never go back to the Crystal Ballroom again. Ever. Unless Michael Jackson or Bowie play there.