from email 3 Feb 2008
Recapping and adding to what we discussed yesterday, that is what I mentioned as far as movies to watch when you’re in the mood for something gripping, taut, exciting, when you are more interested in a thriller than Forrest Gump or The Sound of Music, though of course those are great films:
The Ring, 2002, Naomi Watts. A thriller/horror movie, though horror is not really the right word – this is nothing to do with Halloween or Friday the 13th, etc. enterprises. This movie genuinely scared me. I won’t be giving too much away to say that the premise is that there is a videotape with a short black and white film on it, that when watched, will lead to death of the viewer in one week. I was rather shaken by this movie, enough so that after I watched it I was just a little hesitant to watch the death sentence video – not shown in its entirety within the film itself – which is included as a separate feature on the DVD. I actually reasoned that it was a DVD, and that only a VHS tape could get me. The movie gets a little bogged down toward the end, but finished on a high note. A good, legitimately scary film.
On a similar note, Dark Water with Jennifer Connelly is an atmospheric, moody film which draws you in quite nicely. It is not as strong as The Ring, and for me ran out of gas in the final third or so, but still a very worthwhile viewing. Love Jennifer Connelly – if you like her too I suggest a very different type of drama, House of Sand and Fog, also with an excellent performance by Ben Kingsley. I actually own two copies of Dark Water, as I purchased the first one in London when I was leaving back for the U.S., to watch on my iBook. Can’t remember if it was at Liverpool train station or Gatwick airport. This was a version however incompatible on my home DVD player, and I did not finish watching it on the plane, so I bought a North American version to complete watching.
Both The Ring and Dark Water are based on Japanese novels by the same author, and I believe each is also a remake of a Japanese film. In the past, American remakes of foreign films (Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sky of August, Italian, 1974 – remade with Madonna, and really to the point, La Femme Nikita – if you haven’t seen this French masterpiece, do so – also a great drama/thriller, and wonderful story, remade with Bridget Fonda), as I was saying – haven’t been worth watching, but these two with Watts and Connelly are a big change of course from previous remake disappointments.
Bound, 1996, with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, is a delightful mob movie with a twist – the mobster, played uniquely with humor by Joe Pantoliano, becomes the target of a plot against him by his wife (Tilly) and Gershon. I saw this in the theater when it came out. It is the only movie I can think of where after about 10 minutes into the film, I was literally on the edge of my seat for the duration of the picture.
I expect you’ve seen Dead Calm, 1989, Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane, but if not, you must do so – great high drama upon the ocean. I used to have this on VHS and as such watched it a number of times in my late college years.
If you want a good monster movie, I suggest Alien: Resurrection. Darkly atmospheric and haunting in a way, directed by French director Jeunet, who with Caro made the wonderful French films Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. These are the movies I was telling Laura about. Of course the original Alien is an all-time great, a must-see sci-fi/space movie if you’re in the mood for such a thing.
Speaking of haunting, the original The Haunting (1963) is probably the quintessential haunted house movie, notwithstanding or I should say more accurately, perhaps with the exception of a couple critical Vincent Price works that I may not be familiar with. Good creepy fun, shot in widescreen, high-contrast B&W. Note to self: check out filmed versions of Poe stories – seems like there should be more out there. Possible project idea for me.
The Butterfly Effect, 2004 with Ashton Kutcher is another very engrossing personal thriller (I’m using this term ‘personal thriller’ – maybe I just coined a term – but to contrast it from what you generally think of as a thriller, i.e. Die Hard or True Lies, etc.). This movie had me going something like Bound – a very compelling story from start to finish. Does not hurt that it also stars the very cute Amy Smart.
I could easily spend the rest of the day writing about movies, which would not entirely be a bad thing. One of the things I would like to write is a listing of movies with more developed criticism and exploration of themes than I have presented here. This would not be big enough to stand on its own, I am now thinking, but would be part of a larger book perhaps with some of my wider philosophies, observations and thoughts on life.
We’ll just have to wait and see. As I mentioned too last night, I have been recording just brief sketches of some of my ‘seeds’ and ‘sprouts’ of story/movie ideas. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time developing these concepts, to the point that I can start sharing them. Right now they are just like pins on a map, disparate but with a magnetic potential about to draw them together. I’m still waiting for the big light bulb to go off, the ‘ah hah!’ moment when I’ve got the major plot point I’m after. I feel like I’m not far from it…
I’ll leave you for today to just mention one last movie, standing in great contrast to the movies I’ve written about above. I won’t say too much about it, but that Breaking the Waves (1996, Emily Watson) I saw in the movie theater and became physically drained from the experience. Not so much an entertainment as an exercise, but like a good work out, this one pays off. It is for the most part a quite bleak film, with these very colorful mini-intermissions – about six – spread through as sort of chapter markers. The film is a unique vision of the making of a saint, and through the bleakness emerges finally at the end great joy. It is, as I now think about it, and I’ve thought about it many times – one will never forget this one – an alternate (and I’ll say a very alternate, without elaborating how at this time) telling of the story of Christ. No more about this now, except perhaps to understand the mood of it a little, the theme music (only in the end credits) is Bach, Siciliano from Sonata for Flute & Harpsichord in E flat major, BWV 1031 – a melancholy rendering of that performance, that is, as compared to a more flamboyant or whimsical version as some I just sampled on iTunes. If you ever do watch it, to get the full experience try to do it in one sitting with no more than one pause or so, which should be done at a mini-intermission. As I said, an exercise to watch it, 159 minutes.