My Month in Film: February 2015

I have shaken off the winter blahs and put myself back on schedule, yay! Wrote a lot of full-length content, which means this is one of the skimpiest Month in Film entries in a while.

On the flip-side of that, Quick Cuts is going to take an extended break. Don’t know how long, but right now I can’t work up the enthusiasm for the feature.

Okay, let’s get with the movies.

This month’s content

New or recent releases

For Cinema Axis

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Other movies I watched this month include…

A scene from THE SOURCE FAMILY.

The Source Family (Maria Demopoulos & Jodi Wille, 2012)

For some reason I’m really, really fascinated with the Sixties, hippies, and communes right now, and the Source Family was one of the big ones. Founded by Jim “Father Yod” Baker, one of the pioneers of the health-food trend, the Source Family was notable for having their own restaurant and their own psychedelic rock band.

This documentary goes a great job of putting you right in the thick of the era and what, exactly, was so attractive about the situation…besides the drugs, the sex and the music. The “Father Yod” title isn’t ironic. An ex-Marine and WWII vet, Baker was part of the generation that preceded his charges’, and yet he so clearly “got” them; he was the perfect surrogate father.

Eventually, of course, he went a bit too far, decided he was God, changed his doctrine to better suit his libido, and died in 1975. But it was probably fun while it lasted.

Mila Kunis stars in JUPITER ASCENDING.

Jupiter Ascending (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 2015)

I want to like Jupiter Ascending. I really, really want to like it. The Wachowskis are visionaries, I don’t think there’s any denying that, and they have crammed their film so full of ideas and concepts and potential excitement that at any moment it threatens to burst and spray essence of Wachowski all over the room. They actually put some thought into this thing. I respect that.

The problem is that there’s one crucial element they didn’t put any thought into: when to fucking stop. This is three years’ worth of comic-book continuity, easily, stuffed into two hours. Very few things seem to connect to other things in any sort of important way. Same thing with the cast. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum have no chemistry with each other. Sean Bean seems like he’d rather be at home, waiting to be called in for a Silent Hill sequel. Tuppence Middleton asks, “If I show the audience my butt, can I get out of here quicker?”

At least Eddie Redmayne knows what’s going on. He gets that this is his generation’s answer to Flash Gordon, and he’s determined to be its Brian Blessed. That doesn’t mean he’s actually any good, but at least he’s watchable, which is more than you can say for anybody else.

So, yeah, lots to criticize here. And yet I’d be lying if I said that the film wasn’t frequently amusing. (Consistently amusing? No way.) I mean, yes, much of the time you’re laughing at the film, not with it. If we must have big-budget fiascos, this is the kind we need. At least the Wachowskis are trying, which is more than you can say about Michael Bay and his Transformers franchise, whose only goal is to bludgeon the audience into complacency and pick its pockets while it’s unconscious.Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke

Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)

Or as I’ve taken to calling it, Richard Linklater Presents: Nothing Happens for Nearly Three Hours.

Look, I’m not going to deny that Linklater has achieved something remarkable here. It’s a film that covers twelve years of a young man’s life, and instead of making it in the conventional manner–casting different actors for different ages, heavy makeup for the adults, and so forth–he kept the cast, threw out the makeup and spent twelve years making the movie.

Which of course has its own quirks: check out Lorelei Linklater’s robotic delivery early in the film (such as the we’re-not-moving scene; has any six-year-old girl ever talked like that?) or Ellar Coltrane’s general vibe of I’d-rather-be-anywhere-but-here-making-this-film over the last hour.

I’d be able to get past those quirks if there was anything resembling a plot here, but instead, we get various Scenes from a Life. The verisimilitude can’t be beat, except for one slight problem: I didn’t care. This is probably shallow of me, but I go to movies to feel strong emotions and be told stories about interesting people who do extraordinary things in places I haven’t seen before. Under the Skin gave me great visuals and thought-provoking ideas; Blue Ruin gave me a creeping feeling of dread; The Lego Movie excited and thrilled and entertained me.

In contrast, Boyhood is a bunch of people acting out ordinary scenes from an average childhood. I already had a childhood and an adolescence; I don’t need to spend five bucks and one hundred and sixty minutes to watch better-looking people re-enact things that either did happen or could have happened during those years. I admire and respect Linklater for having done this, but as an experience, I found it to be a trip to Snoozeville U.S.A. YMMV.

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Coming in March: Still planning to do an all-Retro Review month. Most of the films I’ll do I spoiled in last month’s entry.

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