Movies watched, week of February 4-10, 2007
A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater, 2006
Probably the best film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel, to date. (Blade Runner is great but the clichéd voiceovers and happy ending tacked on by the studio kind of ruin it for me—luckily, the director's cut is now widely available.) It captures the darkly funny, drugged-out atmosphere, and the acting (for the most part) is spot-on. Keanu Reeves, unfortunately, seemed like a rather poor choice for the role—I couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic most of the time—but then, he may have been a poor choice for every role he's been cast in, with the exception of the Bill and Ted movies. (Ouch.)
My biggest issue with the film is the rotoscoping. I wouldn't have minded its being animated if it were actually drawn in an interesting style, but what's the point of filming actors and then transforming them into cartoons via computer? Why not just use the live-action shots? I suppose it was easier to portray the scramble suits this way, but it would have been more interesting and challenging to try and do this with real actors, perhaps using stop motion techniques, or fading shots of different people from one to the other.
The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach, 2005
I overheard a co-worker talking about how much he hated The Squid and the Whale, that it was one of the most depressing films he'd seen of late. While I don't think a dismal atmosphere inherently makes for a bad film, this eavesdropped snippet was cause enough for me to slip it into the DVD player when I got home. I found that my memory had not deceived me—I still like this film. All of the characters have their faults (some more than others) but that's life, no? Perhaps my co-worker did not bother to see it through to the finish, which ends on a redeeming note.
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, Thom Andersen, 1975
More on this later.
The Pink Panther, Shaun Levy, 2006
Steve Martin was amazing in The Jerk, but he has nothing on Peter Sellers, at least in the role of Inspector Clouseau. I'd only seen the original 1963 Pink Panther film, but I'll always remember one of the funniest moments occurring when Sellers walks into the room and accidentally kicks up the rug. None of the jokes in this recent addition to the Pink Panther dynasty are nearly as subtle.
An Unreasonable Man, Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, 2006
This intelligent, well-constructed documentary on Ralph Nader left me wanting to move to Canada. But then, I guess that's sort of missing the point, as Nader is one of the few politicans who really believes in the ideals of the American dream, and wants to see them put into practice. This may be one of the most appropriately titled films I've seen in awhile, referring to a George Bernard Shaw quote stating that "all progress depends on the unreasonable man."