Friday Night Activities – Movie Night

dissock | | Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I love movies. Few art forms have the power to move like film does, in my opinion. My tastes tend to be a little eclectic – for example, I loved MEMENTO, CUBE, and Pi, but also have a soft spot and appreciate the visual verve of Brian De Palma’s earlier stuff, like SISTERS, THE FURY, and DRESSED TO KILL.

Here on this page, I’ll discuss some of my favorite movies.

DRESSED TO KILL

Angie Dickinson is one of the US’ most underrated actresses. Hard to believe, since she’s most known for her television career. But see this film, De Palma’s direct homage to PSYCHO, and check out Dickinson’s star turn. A protracted, wordless 22-minute sequence (starting with Dickinson’s visit to an art musuem, her attraction to and ultimate seduction by a handsome stranger, and all of its ugly aftermath) is amazing in the amount of information that’s purely visually telegraphed. It’s brilliant, and Dickinson is brilliant in her role as a dissatisfied housewife. The film itself is a guilty pleasure loaded with visual fireworks, more than a few director flourishes, enough sleaze to keep things interesting, and Michael Caine (an amazing actor – see below in CHILDREN OF MEN review). What made this movie even more enjoyable for me was the scene in which the main character’s dog entered the house using an automatic dog door – it happens in the background, but I noticed it immediately.

I need to make a quick aside about these pet doors that permit your pet to enter the house when they want to, via an RFID collar that unlocks the entry/exit upon proximity. I purchased one from Americas-Pet-Store.com and it’s the best purchase I’ve ever made for my pet beagles. It’s such a convenience NOT to have to open the door (I am not a pet doorman) whenever they want to come inside. So yes, I’m an automated dog doors fan and seeing them in the movies is just the cat’s meow! Now if I could only find the automated pet clean up robot… That one could even become a star in the movies I review!

CHILDREN OF MEN

It’s all about the detail. This film’s narrative is set in the near future (2027, specifically), in the middle of a chaotic world where humans can no longer procreate. Clive Owens plays a former activist who’s recruited by his ex (a fantastic-as-usual Julianne Moore) to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary, where the birth of her child might help scientists save the future. The trick is getting there.

Here’s an example of the amazing attention to detail that I mentioned in a haunting scene that details an act of terrorist which takes place early in the film: Clive Owen’s character, Theo, goes into a pub/cafe, where he along with the bar’s soon-to-be-grief-stricken denizens learns that the world’s youngest man, has died. Finding his place at the head of the bar, Theo nudges past a women in front. Theo leaves the bar, and as he walks away with the bar fading into the background behind him, the bar explodes, killing and/or injuring those that still remained. And here’s where the detail comes into play – and sadly, many people that I’ve actually talked to miss this moment – the woman that Theo nudged earlier is one of the injured victims that we see for only a fleeting second or two fleeing the bar in the bomb’s wake. She now has one arm, and is holding her other one in her good hand.

This detail underscores what works for this film – its greatest strength is its realism (cameras are set in at eye level at all times) and it almost feels like it plays out in real time (and that’s because some sequences, like the brilliant “feels like you’re there” car chase, actually do play out in real time). Director Alphonso Cuaron does an amazing job directing, and the acting across the board is stellar. Special mention out to Michael Caine who, it must be said, is pure genius in the role of “Jasper”.

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