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August Films

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This month with The Simpsons Movie, Daria, Death Proof, Vanishing Point, Dinner Rush, Azuloscurocasinegro and more.

The Simpsons Movie

Although I’m not truly obsessed with The Simpsons, it’s safe to say that I saw sufficiently many episodes of the series in my life to leave no way around seeing The Simpsons Movie. And just like your average Simpsons episode it was funny, twisted your head and still managed to be somewhat forgettable.

Perhaps the feature film length (which probably works out to be around four episodes) doesn’t work too well for the series and the typical pace of a twenty minute episode couldn’t be kept up for a whole film. Perhaps it’s harder to stretch a ridiculous and/or non-existing story over more than twenty minutes. But end the end it was still a good laugh, complete with somewhat current references to other media.

What I mainly didn’t like was the 3D-ness of the whole thing. I’m not the biggest fan of the 3D stuff they do in the more recent Simpsons series. But the film just went much further than that and it didn’t feel particularly natural to me. Those yellow people need to be flat.

Hooray for Spiderpig!

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Daria

In my quest to rescue old video gems before dumping the tapes, I came across the late 1990s MTV-series Daria again. It certainly is one of my favourite cartoon series. And probably the only cartoon series whose protagonist’s character has been copied straight from my own. I.e. it’s just brilliant.

Daria is misanthropically cool, her family is hilariously broken, her friend Jane hot, the whole school environment brilliantly depicted (although this is probably all the funnier for people who actually went to an American school with extracurricular activities and quarterbacks and all that) and it’s an ongoing shame that she never goes out with Trent… Anyway, brilliant stuff. And also great for the music.

Val:: Daria, tell your dad what ‘EDGY’ is!
Daria: As far as I can make out, ‘edgy’ occurs when middle-brow middle-age profiteers are looking to suck the energy, not to mention the spending-money, out of the quote-unquote youth culture. So they come up with this fake concept of seeming to be dangerous when every move they make is the result of market research and a corporate master plan.

Anyone disagreeing with that choice quote?

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Death Proof

The Americans got Grindhouse, two films by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. And as far as I understand that bombed a bit at the box office and we get the two films separately here as a consequence. Tarantino’s Death Proof now, Rodriguez’ Planet Terror in autumn.

Death Proof’s reviews left mixed feelings. The whole low-fi violence thing seemed daunting and people quickly turned to discussing feminism topics appeared strange. But interestingly theses reviews weren’t so far off. And in a good way!

Jukebox vinyl in Death Proof

The first thing to say is that this film is so Tarantino. You get the music, you get the foot fetish, you get some violence, though not excessive amounts of it to be honest, and you get the hot girls with the cool dialogues (cool, but slightly awkward sounding at times in the German translation, although they made an effort and threw in a couple of cool expressions). Even if you didn’t know its director you’d spot very quickly that this is a Tarantino film.

And then there’s the ‘grindhouse’ thing which makes the film mock low-quality productions by using slightly imprecise cuts where it seems that a split second is missing or where the sound isn’t cut quite cleanly. Similarly colours are made to mock 70s style bad colours and the film includes a bit of film breakage like vertical lines over the screen (which I stopped finding particularly convincing about a second after first seeing that effect in QuickTime a decade ago).

Girl on car bonnet in Death Proof

Apart from all these technical issues there’s the story (guy kills girls, other girls kill guy) which is filled with plenty of hot girls. Girls who kick ass. And which you’ll start noticing a lack of in your neighbourhood. It’s just fun to watch and it’s over in a breeze. It’s also a film for car lovers.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Vanishing Point

I had heard about Vanishing Point a long time ago and meant to see it for a while. But after seeing Death Proof this became pretty much obligatory (at least once I had figured out that the German title ‘Fluchtpunkt San Francisco’ which they used in the German version of Death Proof refers to this film). And sure enough there’s the white 1970 whatever car and it’s a road movie possibly in the most literal sense of the word. As there’s the guy, Kowalski, driving the car from Colorado to California and that’s about it.

It isn’t quite it, perhaps, and we get a number of side-stories – particularly the one with the blind guy at the radio station who keeps commenting on Kowalski’s ride and escape from the police and even gets beaten up for that by a citizen who’ll no doubt consider himself law-abiding.

And while it’s not entirely clear what exactly drives Kowalski and why, it’s still fascinating to see how he is driven and just keeps going and going. Together with the side-stories this paints an interesting picture about the people and their time.

I don’t know anything about cars, but is the car he’s driving really a good one as the girl in Death Proof says. Or is it just a ‘cult’ car. From what it looked like in Vanishing Point it’s neither particularly fast nor does it drive particularly well or precisely. Looks more like the stereotypical soft American car to me.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Dinner Rush

Dinner Rush had been recommended to me as a film for food lovers (nothing as mouth watering as Eat Drink Man Woman or Tampopo) and sure enough up to very few scenes it plays in and around a restaurant in New York.

We see a bit of the proverbial kitchen stress and likewise we see annoying customers and a bit of Mafia play (the restaurant being Italian and one of the chefs having a bit of a gambling problem). And while this gives a bit of drama on different levels, I ultimately thought that it fails to tell a convincing or even outstanding story.

In addition I thought that it was a bit over-done in terms of filming. There’s only so much blurry/out-of-focus filming and there are only so many overaccentuated colours I can take. And Dinner Rush overdid in this respect. In a way I think that too many effects in the filming just suggest that they didn’t manage to make things good enough with proper focus and normal colours.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

azuloscurocasinegro

azuloscurocasinegro (dunkelblaufastschwarz in German, darkbluealmostblack in English) is a film with a strangely spaceless name (that separates words by their weight on the posters, though) which was touted as the next great Spanish thing in the papers, all of which didn’t fail to make a comparison to Almodóvar. And while, obviously, the film is Spanish and perhaps even has colour schemes that faintly reminded me of Almodóvar in some places, it’s quite a different beast, mainly because the film just doesn’t go as far as you’d expect an Almodóvar film to go.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it greatly reduces the danger of going too far and makes it much easier to relate to the characters on screen. And still, the film’s story is somewhat tragic. We meet Jorge who tries hard to satisfy expectations for no reason he understands and even gets a business diploma for it while looking after and caring for his ill father, working a housekeeper job, fancying his upper-class childhood friend and neighbour Natalia, hanging out with his friend Israel and forgetting about his selfish brother who is in jail.

Despite all this things start being lively all of a sudden. Jorge earns his degree. But despite his faible for dark business suits fails to score a job thanks to his ‘non-professional’ work before. He starts thinking that despite the relationship they established, he will never quite ‘arrive’ in Natalia’s world. He has to deal with Israel being shocked by spotting his father using the ‘services’ of a masseur while spying around the neighbourhood with his tele lens and then starting to visit that guy himself. And, most importantly, his brother, after being released from jail and trying to get at their dad’s money, asks him to impregnate his in-jail girlfriend because he himself is sterile and the motherhood ward is much better than ordinary jail.

And I guess it’s pretty apparent that mixing all this together creates enough drama and confusion to drive a film. Not hysterical drama, just Jorge trying to figure out how to live is life and how to bring all these different things together.

And, indeed, the film does that rather well.

film poster

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Other

Furthermore I was slightly amused by the silly comedy What’s New Pussycat which stars Woody Allen as an actor (and writer) in the time before he directed his own films. Gus van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get The Blues sounds so promising with a great director and even Uma Thurman in it. But somehow the film about a bunch of lesbian cowgirls doping up protected birds on a beauty farm fails to impress. The huge thumbs of Uma Thurman’s character Sissy may leave a bigger impression but possibly not the best one. Luckily, re-watching Luc Besson’s La femme Nikita left a much better impression and was rather enjoyable.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

September 3, 2007, 20:09

Tagged as azuloscurocasinegro, daniel sánchez arévalo, daria, death proof, dinner rush, even cowgirls get the bluse, film, grindhouse, gus van sant, luc besson, mtv, nikita, quentin tarantino, simpsons, spiderpig, uma thurman, vanishing point, what's new pussycat, woody allen.

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