Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chat: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Tracy:  I'm online and grading annotated bibliographies, and will be FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Or at least the next couple of hours if you want to chat that crap movie! :)
Natalie:  Ha! Happy to rescue you from grading --especially if it will take the rest of your life :)

Tracy:  Yay! Sadly, I can barely remember the title. Was it The Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors? The Ancestors of Our Forgotten Shadows? Forgetting Our Ancestral Shadows?

Natalie :  Um . . . . . quickly checks Netflix . . . Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

Tracy:  Right. So I guess this is in the vein of The Cow in which we need to see it because it chronicles this marginalized community, but my God, it was so aesthetically unpleasant.

Natalie:  Good God. The Cow and this one would make a suicide-inducing double feature. Yeah, marginalized community and whatnot, but I feel like the film made the culture stranger than it is with all of the extremely harsh sounds--not just the music--and the bizarre choices in color.

Tracy:  Yes! And the way it was filmed, especially in those early market scenes, with the garishly dressed and howling characters rushing into the camera. Maybe it was meant to replicate the child's confusion, but the child shouldn't be that confused, right? He grew up there! And I just could not take the constant droning folk dirges. I think the story was fine, if predictable and melodramatic, but put in that context, I couldn't even enjoy it.

Natalie:  Right! If the goal is to expose viewers to a culture that's being killed off, don't put the audience off immediately. The child didn't even seem that confused! The constant droning gave me a headache for like a week. And that can't be what the culture is like--they don't play music constantly. It seems like it would have been more effective for it to be almost silent--since they lived in a forest versus a city--and have some music pop up for emphasis. The story was fine; I just wish more attention had been paid to the actual story than making it more "artistic" with black&white portions, color saturated portions, bizarre over-acting, etc.

Tracy:  It's true. And that sorcery angle came out of nowhere. Are we supposed to think that magic is only possible in this "magical" community (insulting), or were we watching a fantasy movie the whole time (badly done)? I also didn't appreciate that one woman is some angle who saves sheep, and one woman is this fallen vixen. I could believe that an unhappy marriage made her like that, but the movie couldn't have been less interested in exploring the dynamics of being married to someone who's in love with a dead girl. I'm not sure it's something that I "must" see before I die.
 Sent at 9:23 AM on Thursday
 me:  I read the wikipedia summary before I watched so I expected the sorcery angle--which made it SUPER disappointing when it finally did pop up. But, yeah, make the story and characters more complicated, forget or enhance the magical aspect, and give us something to actually appreciate about the culture. Definitely not something I needed to see before I die.

Tracy:  I also didn't really understand the title. Bad translation? Maybe. But ugh. I say boot it. I would even keep The Cow over this.

 Natalie:  Is it to do with her ghost? Or is there something about all of the ghosts of the many people who die, maybe? In any case, not explained in the film. I agree with booting it AND The Cow.

Tracy:  Ah. Maybe so. Or maybe his father? But either way, I wish they had been a little MORE forgotten. In a better world, we wouldn't have had to watch this or The Cow. So next up is a tribute to Bardot's ass? I haven't watched it yet, but it's here. Maybe this afternoon or on ze plane.

Natalie:  Ha! Completely Forgotten Shadows of Ancestors, in which there is no film at all. Yep. Bardot's ass. Fair warning if you watch it on ze plane--it's just a naked Bardot talking to a dude in bed for the first five minutes. I still have to see if the replacement disc actually plays.

Tracy:  Hah! Good to know! Although maybe nobody will try to talk to me if they think I'm watching porn on the plane. 

 Natalie:  Ha! Unless you're next to a creepy dude like I was when I watched Somewhere on a plane. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

Apologies for the unscheduled break! Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is the first major film of Sergei Parajanov (based on a Ukrainian novel by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky) and was apparently acclaimed for costume, color, and such a detailed look into the Ukrainian Hutsul culture. His refusal to change the film to a then-conventional socialist-realist style earned him a place on the Soviet blacklist.

I remain wary.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chat: Three Kings

Tracy: So ready to chat Three Kings, a movie that both shows and tells?

Natalie: Ha! Yes. If I'd know we were supposed to do show and tell, I would have brought a cat or something. Before I watched this one, J described it as what war movies should be. I thought that was interesting.

Tracy: That is interesting. And I think that for me, for the first third or so in particular, I really agree. I like how the movie foregrounded and literalized the search for "treasure," and how the Iraqi people got marginalized and instrumentalized when they got in the way. But once they try to save people, I don't know, it started to feel a little preachy or fable-like for me.

Natalie: I agree. I was interested in the culture of these guys and the not-so-tense representation of extraordinarily tense situations. But then it just kind of devolved into a buddy road trip absurdist comedy with a lot of telling us what we should think. We talked about it being long yesterday and I think it would have benefited from some editing for length and content--the ideas were good but then they ran amok, like the guys in the desert.

Tracy: It's true! The movie got away from him a bit. And that torture scene was pretty much out of nowhere, though I liked the contrast between the dungeon he was in and his wife at home--it was another version of the disconnect between war and the homefront that I think was just as successful as Hurt Locker, but it was in the midst of this plot that I had lost interest in. I liked a lot of the particular scenes, but the plot itself towards the end, eh. The whole "let's sacrifice ourselves for these Iraqis," I don't know, I didn't care. I would have preferred these guys to remain who they were rather than become these more traditional "heroes." 

Natalie: The contrast between him and the wife at home was great. I also liked the tiny bits of humor--like the wife calling in his location. I think maybe it thought it could be a little more like O Brother and it failed with plot and tone inconsistencies. I was lost by the end so I didn't care what they did as long as it ended the film.

Tracy: Hah! Yeah, it dragged. And it's weird--it liked turned into this traditional war movie where the young innocent tragically dies. And it didn't start out as that sort of movie at all--it was almost deconstructing those stereotypes and then fell right into them. Do you think that was intentional in some way? Like with Adaptation? Even if so, I didn't like it one bit. (Didn't like it in adaptation either.)

Natalie: At least in Adaptation you knew it was coming--all of the cards were on the table with the genre and whatnot. If it was intentional, it needed more intent, if that makes sense at all.

Tracy: True. I did like the more unusual shots and such. I like David O. Russell as a rule, but this was just a bit of a mess. Did J say anymore about what he liked about it?

Natalie:I like him in general but he does tend to like to play with genre mashing in a way that isn't always successful. Silver Linings Playbook does it a bit with more success but, eh--it goes the same Hollywood ending way. J didn't say much about it since I hadn't seen it yet and then I forgot to ask him . . .

Tracy: That's interesting. Maybe he has an ending problem. This would be easier to ascertain if I could remember how Flirting with Disaster or Huckabees ended.

Natalie: I can't remember how anything else he did ends. I only remember Silver Linings because I just saw it and we were just talking about the end in the office. But, yeah, if he has a problem with endings that could explain all of the problems.

Tracy: And he's psycho. We can't forget that. So do we think it should be included? I'm on the fence with this one.

Natalie: HA! Psycho does cause a variety of issues. Eh. I'm on the fence. I don't hate it but I don't want to watch it again and I can't imagine why we needed to see it.

Tracy: I can't either. It's not like it was a masterpiece enough or influential enough. I'm going to say no. 

Natalie: That's true--definitely not a masterpiece and I'm not immediately thinking of anything it influenced. So, me too for a no.

Tracy: I wonder if we watch any others of his. And not only do I not have the book with me, I left it in the Fort. Duh.

Natalie: I thought you might have. I meant to look last night but totally failed. I'll look when I get home and then we can discuss via e-mail to add it. I'm not sure about others. Maybe Fighter was added?

Tracy: Oh, I forgot about Fighter! I think I did like that one all the way through, ending included, as I recall. But yes, maybe fighter. I'd put Huckabees in there, but I'm not sure if the editors did.

Natalie: I have the list in my e-mail . . . no Huckabees or Fighter

Tracy: Well, there you go! So I bet we're done with Russell . . . for now.

Natalie: Yep! I'm not sure why they didn't add Fighter but whatever, especially given their Oscar hard-on.

Tracy: Ack! Have to get to class. We can definitely chat more via email when we hear what the almighty editors say. Hee to Oscar hard-on. :)

Note: I've completely failed repeatedly to look in the book that sits beside my bed to see why the editors wanted us to watch this film. So, in the interest of actually continuing the blog, I'm just posting this now--seems we never agree with the reasons and/or there aren't real reasons anyway.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three Kings (1999)

There has been a lot of talk (at least there was, post Hurt Locker) about the dearth of good Iraq War films. And usually, people mean the second one. The first (Hey, remember the 90s?) has its pinnacle in David O. Russell's Three Kings. George Clooney, joined by a "hey, he can act!" Mark Wahlberg and a "hey, he's not embarrassing himself!" Ice Cube, goes searching for gold in the midst of an uprising against Saddam Hussein. The movie is funny, action-packed, and politically astute.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chat: The Hills Have Eyes

Natalie: And, now for one I refused to watch . . . another facial deformity movie.

Tracy: Ugh. All sorts of deformities. And screaming. Lots and lots of shrill screaming.

Natalie: Ahhh. So, I'd mentioned to Joel that this one was next on the list and he said emphatically, "you don't want to watch that movie." Normally that would send me to watch it immediately but I'm not on board with violent rape scenes in any movie. Sounded more like torture porn to me--is that accurate?

Tracy: Well, I think it's where torture porn comes from, and apparently the remake had a much more graphic rape scene, according to 1hJ. You hear it and see a bit of the start of it, but it's not exploitative. The movie had more of a slasher feel to me--the most violent stuff they actually show is a gutted dog (very briefly), a gross injury from a dog bite, and a dude getting a hatchet in the back. It's more suggestion and the freakishness of the cannibals that are unsettling.

Natalie: Ok. so maybe not as terrible as I thought but still not anything I want to voluntarily subject myself to. Is there anything redeeming or is it just a rollercoaster thrill sort of watch?

Tracy: It's really annoying to watch, interspersed with moments of grossness. The book has this big argument about how it's an economic metaphor--that the Carter family is meant to stand for bourgeoise (sp?) Judeo-Christian values, and the cannibals are the oppressed group speaking truth to power or some nonsense. The only problem with that, is that the cannibals are absolutely exploited by the movie. They look gross, they're stupid, and they dress like The Flintstones. I can see how it was influential for horror--especially the fast editing and such--but story-wise, it did nothing for me. And I also hated the Carter family, because they WOULDN'T SHUT UP.

Natalie: Huh. And that doesn't really work since people speaking truth to power shouldn't EAT other people! Is it a keeper? I'd vote no, of course, since I didn't choose to watch it this time.

Tracy: The only reason I would say yes is because it's Wes Craven and the influence thing. And maybe it's a bit culty. But not for any intrinsic value, certainly.

Natalie: Ok, I'll give it that I suppose. And I guess it achieved it's goal unlike Eyes without a Face

Tracy: That's true. I just wish its goal hadn't been so gross.

Natalie: Yeah. Me, too.

Tracy: So onwards and upwards from the Eye horror movies! Any idea what's next?

Natalie: Three Kings and then . . .Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors . . .

Tracy: Ah! Three Kings. That'll be a nice switch. Haven't seen that in years and years and I don't think I got it the first time.

Natalie: I've never seen it but meant to so that will be good!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Well, we have Wes Craven to thank for this one. The undisputed horror auteur put out this cult classic in the year of my birth, and it has since spawned a couple of sequels and a gritt(ier?) re-boot. The plot follows a middle-class family during an ill-fated road trip that lands them in redneck cannibal country. The film is often described as "exploitation-horror," which means not so much your subtle psychological thriller and more your gory grossness. Sigh. Almost makes you nostalgic for the French horror movie with "eyes" in the title.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chat: Eyes Without a Face

Tracy: So did you want to chat the creatively titled Eyes Without a Face?

Natalie: Sure! My first comment: how does one have eyes without a face? I understand the skin was supposedly gone but . . . And, second comment: how does one lose all of the skin off of one's face in a car accident without damaging the eyes?
Or breaking her nose or cheekbones or something.

Tracy: Or any other part of her body, presumably! And was I the only one who thought she looked like Mia Farrow on Botox in that mask? I have to say, I was (unpleasantly) surprised by the gruesomeness of the surgery scene.

Natalie: Right?! And, nope, she looked just like Mia Farrow on Botox in the mask, especially with the short hair and the swingy nightgowns. At first I was ok with the surgery scene, thinking that the scalpel was just a pen but when they started cutting muscle . . . ugh.

Tracy: Yeah, it was cringe-worthy. What do we think of the assistant/former face-transplant recipient? What happened to her? And is she meant to be evidence of the thrall of the creeptastic surgeon? Also, poor dogs.

Natalie: I'm not sure what to think of her. She seemed a little automaton like but with glimpses of free will. I think my main complaint with this one is the lack of character development. I can guess the wacko motivation of the surgeon but we get next to nothing on the assistant, daughter, daughter's fiance, the cops, the girl the cops almost got killed . . .

Tracy: I agree. I could see a feminist version of this movie, where it's all about the surgeon dad pretending to be altruistic but really just furthering his own self-aggrandizment (best surgeon ever!), but it doesn't really let you get there, because for a movie that's allegedly so horrifying, it's remarkably low-key in performance and filming. I think it's actually pretty mean to the girl who almost gets killed. She seems like such a moron through the whole thing.

Natalie: It doesn't really let you get anywhere. It's very systematic in its not-quite horror. It's a step in the right direction from the other French horror we've seen but without the character development and without more investment in the characters and the plot, I wasn't really interested in what happened. I didn't care about the faceless girl so I really didn't care if she never got a face. And they didn't play up the sci-fi aspect enough for that to grab me (besides the fact that doctors totally do face transplants now).

Tracy: And the mask wasn't really that bad! Here's what the book says: They seem to read it as a mad scientist/monster movie, which is actually sort of interesting. But then ends up saying "This is what gives the film its meaning: we are the 'monster' for whom Doctor Genessier commits his horrible crimes." Not so sure how that works. Also says it's a mixture of high and low cultural tastes. Eh.

Natalie: The mask worked out just fine. I'm sure it would be a tad creepy but grow some bangs and toss on a hat and you're good to go. As a mad scientist/monster movie I would have been more interested in the whole thing. But I needed more. And, no, there is nothing to suggest that we are the monster. If they added how society would have or did shun her, we could be the monster. But it seems he just locked her away and started skinning girls. Eh. I don't hate it but I'm not in love. I'd happily keep it if we can ditch most of the other French horror/suspense.

Tracy: Yeah, I didn't hate it. There was a sort of Grand Guignol creepiness about it. Seemed more like a short story than a movie. I'd keep it too, if only because it seems like it's the only horror film this studio made.

Natalie: It WAS more like a short story! Good comparison. So, ok, a "sure why not" keeper.

Tracy: Yeah, a lukewarm keeper.