This Great Evil

Category: Feature Films

Fincher trailers

There’s a delicate art to creating a trailer. Films already tread an uneasy line between art and commodity, so it’s no surprise that their advertisements occupy even more nebulous terrain. A trailer that is an absolute work of art could be a complete disaster if it fails to sell the movie. On the other hand, an utterly trashy, lazy trailer (cough Adam Sandler unconvincing cough) can be a tremendous success if it leads to more butts in seats.

In this context, the trailers for David Fincher’s films are curious artifacts. While most trailers seek to convey the essence of a movie in as literal and plain terms as possible, the trailers for The Social Network and Gone Girl lean closer to music videos. You “get” what each movie may be about, but you’d be hard pressed to tell your buddy the actual story of each film.

Of the two, The Social Network‘s trailer is the least representative of the actual film. It smothers Sorkin’s snappy, funny dialogue in an eerie choir based cover of Radiohead’s Creep. The song sucks the comedy out of the trailer but adds an interesting emotional undercurrent to the film. It’s right in the fucking titles: Creep and The Social Network. The trailer ends up working like a statement of intent; that is this is how the filmmakers see Zuckerberg and Facebook, and this is how the origin story of Facebook relates to the age of social media.

Gone Girl‘s trailer bears some superficial resemblance to The Social Network trailer: they’re both largely music driven, they both feature a choral (at least in part) arrangement of a fairly popular song and they both rely on the song to provide added context to the footage.

The difference is that the cover of She in the trailer plays in bitter contrast to the scenes of martial strife and the search for the missing wife. In that sense, it feels like the trailer is trying more to convey the general tone of the movie, rather than suggest theses or contentions made by the filmmakers. The effect is achieved quite successfully – the trailer is a hauntingly ironic, nasty piece of work that feels like it’s selling a movie in the same vein.

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viewing log continued

I’ve actually taken a brief break from movies (~3 weeks), until now.

Blue Ruin: It’s a really, really pretty movie. Like fucking seriously, god damn. Didn’t care for much else, especially the script’s inability to fully commit to the whole genre deconstruction business (among other things, why didn’t the Clelands get weirded out by a car stalking them for the better part of a day?).

Chungking Express: Rewatched it because we got a new TV, and I wanted to see WKW’s masterpiece in glorious 1080p. It was pretty sweet.

Upcoming (but probably not): Herzog, Herzog, Herzog. One of my housemates told me to watch Guardians of the Galaxy ASAPYFA (as soon as possible you fucking asshole).

viewing log

The Congress: Awful, awful, awful script. Gets better in its second half when the barrage of hallucinogenic images begins, but that little sudden cut from animation to live action trick only works once, Ari Folman.

The Zero Theorem: Watching Brazil immediately afterwards lessened my appreciation of this one. The Zero Theorem often feels like a less good, slightly updated rehash of Brazil. Maybe that’s the point of the it, though – Gilliam’s trying to suggest how society and film have devolved since? Still, eminently watchable, if only to watch Christoph Waltz struggle to maintain his dignity throughout.

Brazil: Brrrrraziiiiiilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll! Best adaptation of 1984 ever filmed. Pretty much a masterpiece, except when it occasionally drags in the middle. I’m curious about the Love Conquers All cut, as I can’t see a happy ending making sense in any edit of Brazil.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: I was surprised by how much I liked it, coming in as a hater of both Oldboy and Stoker. I still didn’t get the feeling Park Chan-wook had anything particularly interesting or cohesive tying together the scattershot story, though, in this case, that might have been my lack of knowledge w.r.t turn of the century South Korea. Plays out kinda like a humanist’s take on Fargo. A humanist who watched a few too many Brian de Palma films, but still.

JSA Joint Security Area: More Park Chan-wooooooooooook. Hated the opening framing device, not the least of which because the lead actress’s English was appalling. She was supposed to be playing a character who was born in Switzerland, mind you. Basically Park Chan-wook does CSI for the opening bits until we hit an extended flashback. It embraces a lot of cliche, to be sure, and Park Chan-wook’s obsessive style isn’t quite so polished here as in later films, but the middle stretch of the film is genuinely affecting.

The Signal: It looks very, very good. Like seriously good. Its aesthetics would be the envy of a movie working with one hundred times its budget. Unfortunately, the movie’s also a terribly flimsy, quarter-baked mishmash of maybe a dozen or so different movies. Also not a movie where the visuals fully create and support the tonal, thematic or narrative content (a la Gravity). The ending also sucks, like really really really hard. I thought I was being punk’d.

Memories of Murder: Stray observations: I’m on a bit of a Song Kang-ho binge of late. The title kinda sucks. It sorta fits the story, but it’s unwieldy and inelegant. It doesn’t roll off the tongue. Sounds like the title of some cheapo airport novel. Everything else about the movie is great, though. Almost plays like a Korean version of Zodiac, though Bong Joon-ho’s sensibilities are way different than David Fincher’s. Zodiac’s characters are also far less motivated by moral indignity than the leads of Memories of Murder. A lot of fairly explicit subtext about Korean politics circa late 1980s (i.e. the last days before a democratic South Korea).

Aguirre, the Wrath of God: Less impressed with Apocalypse Now having finally seen this. Very, very effective and potent distillation of madness. Reading about the behind the scenes of the movie is almost as entertaining. Immensely impressive use of a limited budget.

When does a blog die?

Does it require a conscious act on the part of its writer? Does it result from the accumulated neglect of its writers? Or is a blog dead simply if its writer stops writing?

Long story short, I don’t consider this blog to be dead. I’ve just not had a lot to write about these past couple of months. Most of my output has been directed either towards The Diamondback or personal creative endeavors. This Great Evil has always been more of an unfiltered outlet than a curated project, at least in my mind. So, in the past couple of months where I felt I’ve said what I want to say elsewhere, this space has been barren.

Now? Now, when I’m no longer responsible for two stories a week and in the middle of a summer lull…now I’m back on board.

But enough of this contemplative crap. So, movies.

I haven’t watched as many movies this year as I have in previous years. I could blame it on a number of factors – a hesitancy to go through my annual re-calibration, a desire to see more Diamondback writers contribute movie reviews, a generally lackluster year, a new found appreciation for video games – but really it’s all because of one reason. As I find myself in a transitional period of my life, I’ve lost the urge to seek out everything new. While I’m still the cinema-going equivalent of an omnivore, I am far less inclined to pick out a new, probably awful movie while my film and video game backlog is so large.

Thus, I can’t claim to have a particularly accurate barometer for this year thus in cinema. But I have watched a good number of new movies this year, enough to compile some form of a list at the very least.

The following don’t necessarily represent the best or the worst of this year half-gone. They’re the standouts, for better or for worse, the movies that have still lingered long after the credits rolled.

The Lego Movie: Like a shotgun filled with childish joy shot point blank at the audience, The Lego Movie is a film whose surface-level charms are nigh-impossible to resist. And, at the same time, it’s one of the most unsettlingly effective pieces of propaganda ever released as a mass market film. Even more so than Toy Story, The Lego Movie’s form and themes all point back to the eponymous toy brick. At what point does a movie become an advertisement?

Under the Skin: Sometimes a movie doesn’t necessarily have to say anything or be about anything to be great. Sometimes a movie just has to completely and utterly unnerve you, provide some kind of a terrifying, out-of-body experience to be great. I don’t know with any certainty what Jonathan Glazer was trying to do with Under the Skin, I just know I can’t fucking scrub it out of my brain.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Fuck comic books, fuck CG, fuck Bryan Singer and fuck this movie. Not sure why this mostly rote exercise pissed me off to such an extent, but I loathed the shit out of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I wasn’t a big fan of X-Men: First Class, but this anonymous, contrived, bloated and obnoxiously impressed with itself dross makes even First Class look like the work of an auteur. I will admit to liking the Quick Silver sequence.

Noah: I’m not so sure Darren Aronofsky is well suited to these big spectacle projects. Aronofsky is a bombastic as fuck filmmaker, which suits all of his hallucinogenic mind-fucks well, but his stylistic excess robs Noah of credibility. As a result, it’s hard to suspend disbelief for much of the Biblical shit happening on screen. While I liked his reinterpretation of this Biblical tale and several imaginative sequences, the film as a whole wasn’t good.

Boyhood: What else is there to say about Boyhood? Serious question. I have a review due Tuesday, and I’m out of fucking ideas. You should probably see it if you haven’t already.

Locke: Something about Locke just works. I expected some kind of dry exercise used to show off Steven Knight’s technique, but Locke proved to be much, much more compelling than that. Yes, it sometimes becomes too theatrical for its own good, and yes it often does feel like a film school thesis project, but the sum of Locke’s part is so incredibly rich. This is a movie and a main character that will stick with me for years to come.

Here come the fucking Oscars

For posterity’s sake:

Best Picture – Prediction: Gravity

Should win: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director – Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron

Should win: David O. Russell, because he really, really needs to just get it out of his system and fuck Jennifer Lawrence win an Oscar already.

Best Actor – Prediction: Matthew McConaughey

Should win: Anyone, really, except Christian Bale.

Best Actress – Prediction: Cate Blanchett

Should win: Either her or Amy Adams. But FFS, in a year with Adele Exarchopoulos, Brie Larson and Julie Delpy, they go for Streep and Dench? Fucking embarrassment.

Best Supporting Actor – Prediction: Jared Leto

Should win: Bradley Cooper

Best Supporting Actress – Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o

Should win: Eh. Anyone.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Prediction: 12 Years a Slave

Should win: The emperor of Fucksville. I mean, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Original Screenplay – Prediction: Her

Should win: Her, I guess, since they really hated Inside Llewyn Davis, evidently.

Best Cinematography – Prediction: Gravity

Should win: Gravity or Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Costume Design – Prediction: American Hustle

Should win: I was quite partial to costumes from The Grandmaster, but all of them are pretty deserving here.

Best Film Editing – Prediction: Captain Phillips

Should win: NOT American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club

Should win: Have you seen Bad Grandpa? No? Well, I guess I don’t blame you.

Best Original Score – Prediction: Gravity

Should win: Ugh, Her, I guess? Weak field, weak year. Hans Zimmer probably deserves another trophy for his William Tell mix from The Lone Ranger.

Best Original Song – Prediction: “Let It Go” from Frozen

Should win: Anything else

Best Production Design – Prediction: The Great Gatsby

Should win: Her, by a country mile

Best Sound Editing – Prediction and should win: Gravity

Best Sound Mixing – Prediction: Gravity

Should win: Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Visual Effects – Is this even a question? Gravity

Best Animated Film – Prediction: Frozen

Should win: See comments regarding Original Song

Best Documentary Feature – Prediction: 20 Feet from Stardom

Best Foreign Language Film – Prediction: The Great Beauty

Best Animated Short Film – Prediction: Mr. Hublot

Best Documentary Short – Prediction: The Lady in Number 6

Best Live Action Short Film – Prediction: The Voorman Problem (aka the only English one)