Monday, June 18, 2007

Movie-a-Day Challenge, Week 1

Day One -- THURSDAY, JUNE 7th
Movie: Various online shorts

My first day on the challenge was somewhat difficult. I had to juggle taking care of my crying babe while trying to squeeze in movie watching which I haven't done much of in a while. Added to that, I didn't have any Netflix or anything on hand. I decided I would start with a series of online shorts. These proved to be a challenge in of themselves just to find! It's so easy to publish your videos online anymore, that it's difficult to find the "real" shorts, whatever that means. Most of what you see is just YouTube viral video crap. The best of which is likely to be something like that crazy bride hoax. That isn't a short film. At best it's a scene from one. And if this is among the best of what you see on all the online video sources (iFilm & Atom Films included), how hard that makes it to find the real deal! Well I watched one or two films on Atom films before finding other sources. Unfortunately, Firefox crashed on me before I could grab all the names of the films and their sources. I saw some interesting things though, that ranged from kids screaming in SloMo (an experimental film) to a weird animation with a monkey that had a balloon for a head. Mostly it just made me angry at myself for not making my own films. I had planned to revisit them to write more specifically about each film, but like I said... Firefox. Such is the internet I guess.

Day two -- FRIDAY, JUNE 8TH
Movie: Pan's Labyrinth (del Toro, 2006)

I was really excited to see this movie. In the previews, it seemed weird and fantastical. They advertise it as a fairy tale for grown ups. And this was pretty accurate. It was darker than the darkest from the Brother's Grimm or H.C. Anderson, yet followed this young girl on a course that took her through a magical maze, and introduced her to fairies and a faun. It amazed me though just how very dark it was. I was at times reminded of such movies as Irreversible or the Hellraiser series. They really mean it when they give this movie an 'R.' In fact it's more than dark, at times it's a little twisted. But enough about the fact that this movie could almost belong on the horror shelf at Blockbuster, what about the fairytale story? It was all right, pretty decent in fact. But I'm not sure if it was worthy of all the effort and money put into the special effects. I spent much of the movie being largely consumed by the question: "What is WRONG with that guy?" 'That guy' being the (evil) stepfather of the little girl. I just had a hard time getting past his unbelievable cruelty. It's because of that and the rest of the movie's deep depression that I can't enjoy any kind of whimsy this movie tries to create, dark or otherwise.

Movie: Ladies Man (Hudlin, 2000)

Holy crap this is a bad movie! I was surprised that the hubby had rented it, but I'll watch almost anything, so I was game. But we weren't more than 30 seconds in before we realized how incredibly bad this movie is. I wasn't surprised by that at all. I mean come on, check out the preview. It looks dreadful, and it is. Hubby swears that he'd gotten it mixed up with another movie he'd meant to rent. Either way. Yichhh. One can forgive the overwhelming cheese of it if only it were funny. Well, it wasn't. Not even a smidge. It was turned off by about 5 minutes in.

By the way, being how hard it is to squeeze in movies when I have a baby begging for my attention around the clock, I'm going to go ahead and count movie viewing attempts like this one. Why bother finishing it. We know it'll continue to be just as bad throughout.

Day three -- SATURDAY, JUNE 9TH
Movie: Billy Elliot (Daldry, 2000)

What a sweet movie. Joyous and fun. A working class young boy in northern England decides he's much more drawn to the movement and expression of ballet classes versus the 'manly' boxing classes his father is paying for, so he takes the dancing lessons on the sly. Soon Papa finds out, and boy is he ticked off until he learns what kind of talent this boy really has. It's no Whale Rider, but it's got enough heart and comedy to bring you plenty of smiles and maybe even a tear or two. Be warned though, the dialog is nearly impossible to decipher without subtitles. The accent is difficult for even me, and I grew up in England.

Day four -- SUNDAY, JUNE 10TH
Movie: Man of the Year (Levinson, 2006)

Robin Williams is a comedian with a political talk show (a la Bill Maher) who decides to run for presidency himself. Guess what? He wins! Guess what else? He shouldn't have! His win was a glitch. So now what do we do? An interesting satire, and in my mind, perhaps not so far off from what may really have happened in the last election. Definitely a little more humor was expected here, given the cast, well, really just given Williams. Some of the humor is also missed because dialog is a little too fast at times.

Day five -- MONDAY, JUNE 11TH
Movie: Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922)

Here I thought I was bending the rules or making an exception for this movie because I thought I'd already seen it. Turns out, I haven't! Phew! 28 (let's stay optimistic) new movies for my 28-day long Movie-a-Day Challenge. I guess between having seen Murnau's Sunrise, and having talked/read a lot about Nosferatu, I just thought I'd seen it. Well now I have. And I have to say I'm really kind of in love with this movie, as far as my love for silent movies goes. It's so fascinating to see the little nugget from whence sprung an entire genre of movie-making. Nosferatu is to horror as Metropolis is to sci-fi. Yeah, ok, it's filled with silent movie schtick that comes off corny now, but it also has some fantastic, dramatic shots. And with movies like this, you have to wonder how they achieved special effects, back when that happened with a little more ingenuity than a few flicks of the computer mouse. One shot especially is one you've perhaps all seen. When Orlok rises out of his casket. This shot was redone (as a kind of tribute to the original) in Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's at about 1:22 on the trailer. Also, the make up on Orlok is perfection. Love it. Why do we not see vampires with this look in later movies? Actually, we did see it a little in Dracula. Oh I feel like watching that again now. Overall, this movie is well worth a look, but perhaps only actually enjoyable to real, hardcore movie buffs.

Interestingly, Nosferatu is viewable in its entirety on YouTube since it is in public domain. You can also see the shot I was talking about at about 49:13. Oddly, the characters have been renamed to be the same as the characters in the Bram Stoker novel rather than the actual original character names in Nosferatu. Some people are even using it for their own experiments, re-edits, & adding their own soundtracks since it's in public domain. Maybe they're on to something. Might try something like that myself soon.

By the way, even though you can see it on YouTube, if you're going to watch it, you should still rent it. The one I got from Netflix was more similar to the original complete with color tinting and the original character names, etc..

Day six -- TUESDAY, JUNE 12th
Movie: Goodbye, Lenin! (Becker, 2003)

I became interested in the topic of people waking up from comas recently after reading a couple of stories of men waking up after pushing 20 years of sleep. Seems like a great movie waiting to happen. Then I saw a preview for this movie on Netflix and thought I'd check it out. A mother falls into a coma in East Germany right before the fall of the Berlin wall. She wakes up 8 months later and her entire world has changed, only her son, having been advised by her doctor that any shock could kill her, does everything in his power to make it seem to her as if everything is the same. Nifty idea. So I watched it. It wasn't bad, but I felt a little gypped. I mean, the preview made it seem like there was significant comedy in the son's extreme efforts to reconstruct his mother's reality. But in truth, this movie wasn't really trying to be all that comedic. Too bad. Not that it should have been, but my expectations were way off base. Still, it was a decent movie, and a great one for practicing my German!

Day seven -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13th
Movie: none

You wouldn't believe how hard it is to do this challenge. Life, and especially babies, get in the way. And next week proves to look even more challenging as I have an out-of-town video job.

Days of challenge complete: 7
Movies watched: 7

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