The weekend is lazy, and the reviews are lazy. But we've recently seen a couple that we might have missed, and were worth watching. That's pretty much my review criteria: Waste of Time or Worth Watching...unless it's exceptionally good, in a "The Usual Suspects" or "Godfather II" or "North By Northwest" kind of way, or exceptionally bad, in a "Meet The Fockers" or "Cemetery Man" kind of way.
First up, one I had to beg Alex to watch with me, but I think he was glad he did. "Elephant" is a Gus Van Sant film (written and directed), so it's no surprise I liked it. It's the story of a school shooting, told in a very spartan manner from several viewpoints, in a purely observational style. It's one of those films that makes you think, but I really liked looking at it as well. Things are often awash in a white or warm yellow light, which lends a beauty and optimish that is in direct conflict with the plot. There are no actors you'd recognize, except for Timothy Bottoms in a very small role. Some of the kids, especially this one, should get more work in the future, I'd hope. A simple little film like this illustrates what makes Gus Van Sant and Larry McMurtry such a compatible pair. There's no moral, no real "ending," no whys and wherefores, no closure. That ticks a lot of people off, but I've always been fond of the "voyeuristic" films, where no one is telling me what conclusions to draw.
And here was a surprise-- "Equilibrium," starring Christian Bale and Taye Diggs. I don't know how this one missed attention during its original run, but I'd kind of suspect it was due to some similarities with "The Matrix." It was kind of like "The Matrix," if "The Matrix" had been good, you know? Borrowing heavily from 1984, Brave New World, and Farenheit 451, among other "bleak future" tales with which we're all familiar, "Equilibrium" sets itself up on a pretty shaky premise: a future in which the population is forced to drug themselves in order to do away with all emotion...for a more orderly society and all that, don't you know. Of course, books, art, etc. are all illegal and "sense crime" is punishable by death.
The reason the whole no-emotion bit doesn't work is that people have to be able to feel something to drive them to accomplish even the most mundane menial tasks, even if it's only fear or anxiety of losing a job. And there are several times throughout the film when the "sense police" or whatever they're called are showing definite signs of such emotion as anger, pride, righteous indignation, and the like. But OK, get past all that, throw your suspension of disbelief into high gear, and you're in for a fun ride. No super-special-effects for the fighting, just really good choreography, and a yummy Christian Bale and Taye Diggs to look at, as well as the cool Hugh Ferris-inspired architecture and backgrounds.
If anyone wants to join our Netflix "friends" list to swap movie info and recommendations, drop me a line. It seems we find our best movies through word of mouth.