My Month in Film: April 2015

Another busy month. In addition to a full slate of eight reviews here at the Gallery, I also covered the Sci-Fi Spectacular and contributed four write-ups to Cinema Axis’s coverage of the 2015 Hot Docs documentary film festival. Maybe I should just have my keyboard surgically attached to my fingers.

May is one of my traditionally busy months my actual job and therefore content next month might be a bit light. Or maybe not. I do plan to finally continue with Doctor Who reviews, starting with “The Time of the Doctor” and continuing on through series 8 and finishing off with “Last Christmas.” Not entirely sure when (or even if, honestly) I’ll start running those.

Also, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve reposted the two Marble Hornets reviews I originally wrote for Forced Viewing. My Blu-Ray copy of Marble Hornets: The Complete Series arrived about a month ago, so a review of the third season will appear sometime in the future.

Finally, a shameless plug for another site…my old friend Robin Franson Pruter, who also wrote for Forced Viewing, has her own site now, Pop Culture Reverie, with a focus on “teen movies, forgotten classics, and random preoccupations.” Go check it out, if you’re so inclined.

This month’s content

Reviews of current or recent releases

Reposted older reviews

Events

For Cinema Axis

Podcast appearances

*     *     *

Other movies I watched this month include…

A scene from FOXCATCHER.

Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)

I’ve had a vague sort of interest in the John E. du Pont/Dave Schultz murder case for a while–interested enough to pay attention when an item came up in the news, but not interested enough to do any real research–so I was really looking forward to this one.

It’s pretty good, particularly the performances by Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. I do have to admit I was a bit disappointed, though–the movie’s not so much about du Pont as the Foxcatcher wrestling training program. Now, obviously Foxcatcher was du Pont’s baby and, control freak that he was, there was never any way it wasn’t going to totally reflect his psyche. And all that tied into his eventual murder of Schultz.

But the dark side of du Pont’s personality doesn’t really come to the fore until the latter half of the film. What you get at the beginning is a lot of Tatum, Ruffalo and eventually Carrell bounding around in singlets. There’s a lot of gripping drama there, as well, but from a personal standpoint I wasn’t as interested in Schultz and his younger brother Mark (whose memoir provides the basis of the film) as I was in du Pont. That’s entirely on me, though.

A scene from THE GENERAL.

The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926)

I always shied away from reviewing silent movies for Forced Viewing; I like silents just fine, but I’ve always felt that my sensibilities are too modernist and I’m too far removed from the cultural norms of their era to fairly judge them. (I did end up reviewing a couple of silents for FV, but I was always nervous when I had to do so.) So please keep that in mind when reading this capsule review and the next.

I guess The General is considered one of the greatest silent comedies of all time, but it didn’t really do it for me. There were some funny bits and I admired the staging and direction, but overall, I never really engaged with it. I think I prefer the broader strains of silent comedy, and Buster Keaton is subtler and more understated. Give me Charlie Chaplin, honestly. Better yet, give me a Marx Brothers movie, preferably one with Zeppo. Duck Soup will do nicely, thank you.

Also, honestly, the fact that Keaton’s character is on the side of the Confederacy (and that the Union is the villain of the piece) really bugged me. Yes, I understand I’m wrong for that.

A scene from SUNRISE.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)

If The General didn’t do anything for me, Sunrise actively annoyed me. Yes, it’s #5 on the Sight & Sound poll. Sight & Sound can keep it, as far as I’m concerned.

The story is over-simplistic, hokey, and more than a little ridiculous. (It’s the story of an unhappy married couple who rekindle the spark in their romance after the husband tries and fails to drown the wife at the behest of his mistress. Now, I could imagine a very good black comedy being made around that premise, but such a movie would be entirely unlike Sunrise.) And there’s no plot: the structure is a textbook case of what I like to call “one damn thing follows another until the screenwriter runs out of ideas.”

In its defense, it is very pretty, the bit with the drunken pig was pretty funny, and overall it was probably technically groundbreaking for 1927.

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