What I watched in January

  • Whiplash
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (rewatched)
  • American Sniper [1]
  • White Bird in a Blizzard
  • Big Hero 6
  • Inherent Vice (1/2)
  • Inherent Vice
  • Inherent Vice [2]
  • John Wick
  • Blackhat [3]
  • Lucy
  • Miami Vice (Director’s Cut)
  • Miami Vice (Theatrical Cut) [4]
  • U Turn [5]
  • Collateral (rewatched) [6]
  • Zero Dark Thirty (rewatched)
  • Manhunter
  • Ali (1/2) [7]
  • Berberian Sound Studio [8]
  • Heat (rewatched)
  • Conversations with Other Women

Notes:

[1] – Is it possible to think that American Sniper is both a deeply anti-war movie and also kind of shit? I don’t particularly understand the argument that the film is some propaganda pic (a la Inglorious Basterds‘s movie within a movie) nor do I see the particular greatness within the film. For what it’s worth, I thought Eastwood covered similar terrain with far more eloquence in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.

[2] – First time I watched Inherent Vice, I shut it off halfway through. Second time, I watched it in chunks of ~15 minutes. Third time immediately followed the second time, and I sat through it from start to end.

[3] – Blackhat kicked off a bit of a Michael Mann binge. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the reviews have made it out to be, though it is shockingly technically inept for a Mann film. Ending soured my opinion of the film a bit, but the rest of it absolutely worked. Despite being pretty accurate as far as hacking in Hollywood goes, Blackhat doesn’t really concern itself with technology as much it does globalism. It’s easy to draw a comparison between Hemsworth’s hacker and the big bad with any of the cops/crims pairings in Mann’s filmography. So easy that Mann doesn’t really bother getting into the psyche of a hacker beyond that analogy.

[4] – Rare example of a movie that works as a whole in spite of wonky components. I almost want to call Miami Vice a masterpiece, but some of the music cues really do suck (even assuming that the shittiness was the point). I didn’t really notice the difference between the two versions, with the exception of the theatrical cut’s much, much better opening.

[5] – What the fuck? Like seriously. What the fuck? Brought back uneasy memories of The Paperboy, though I think I might have actually liked U Turn.

[6] – Flip side to Miami ViceCollateral is made up of fantastic parts (Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, the jazz club scene, the club scene, the rollover scene, the entire concept) but fails to cohere as a whole. The pairing of Foxx’s mousy, meek taxi driver with Cruise’s fatalistic, excessively alpha assassin was a good idea, but their conversations end up being too on the nose and too obvious, leading to a finale that felt more predestined than earned. Also Foxx’s romance…thing with Jada Pinkett Smith was even worse than Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Miami Vice.

[7] – Confession: I watched Ali on fast forward. After a fantastic opening, the movie turned into kinda of a drag. Pretty much what you’d expect out of an Eric Roth biopic with a handful of standout moments thanks to Mann.

[8] –  It’s weird that most people are willing to extend some leeway to action movies for being pretty shitty if there were some decent action scenes, but they wouldn’t extend similar courtesy to, say, something like Berberian Sound Studio. I watched the film with a friend who had negative opinions about the whole of the film because of an admittedly problematic last 20 minutes despite being engaged by the rest of it. I submit that Berberian Sound Studio is a worthwhile pic because of the astonishing mood and texture captured/conveyed throughout, even if the movie couldn’t stick the ending. In other words, I liked Berberian Sound Studio despite its inability to ultimately articulate anything particularly insightful because it was such a weirdly enthralling and involving experience up until the ending.

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