29 June-5 July 2009

July 14 2009 at 12:06 pm (The list)

gummoGummo (1997)

I was just about to sit down and watch The Visitor (which I eventually did watch – see below) when I had a phone call inviting me to watch Gummo. I’d heard the name but knew nothing about it, so I thought it might be fun. It turns out that in watching it, I’d ticked another film off the shame list – it appears in The Guardian’s 1,000 films to watch before you die. Writer/director Harmony Korine (a guy) shows a warts-and-all picture of life in Xenia, Ohio, a poor town that has never fully recovered from a tornado in the 1970s. Virtually plotless, it’s made up of a series of gritty and often surreal vignettes (a couple of youths make money by killing cats, an adolescent boy runs around wearing only shorts and pink rabbit ears, two teenage girls practice becoming strippers) that make for quite uncomfortable viewing. Although the characters are fictionalised, the grubby houses in which Korine shoots are left untreated. With brutal realism, he shows the weirdness and alienation of one of the poorest parts of America.

Rating: 3/5 

 

sunset_boulevard_posterSunset Boulevard (1950)

While escaping from creditors, struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) finds himself at the rundown mansion of has-been silent movie star Norma Desmond (a demonic Gloria Swanson) who keeps him in the lap of luxury so that he can rewrite her screenplay, but it comes at the expense of his freedom. Scathing and bitter, but it also contains real heart as Joe desperately tries to get out of his situation and Norma just as desperately tries to make him stay. Sunset Boulevard is one of the best movies about the movies – a masterpiece in which screenplay, direction, acting and plot are all pitched perfectly. I could go on and on about how great it is, but I won’t. Instead, I plan to watch All About Eve very soon – if there was a film released in the same year as Sunset Boulevard that beat it to the Best Picture Oscar, I need to see it.

Rating: 5/5 

 

Shame list total: 1,207

 

TheVisitorPosterThe Visitor (2008)

Thomas McCarthy is a prolific if not a particularly famous actor. He’s also starting to carve himself a nice little career as a writer and director of intelligent, heartfelt films about loneliness, belonging and the human need to connect to others. He followed the extraordinary The Station Agent with this, the tale of lonely Connecticut college professor Walter Vale who travels to his second home in New York that he hasn’t been to in a long time only to find refugees Tarek and Zainab (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira) living there. Taking pity on them he decides to let them stay for a while and becomes friends with them. But American foreign policy soon turns things nasty when Tarek gets arrested and Walter tries to help his new friend. Richard Jenkins has long been a terrific character actor but here he excels himself, giving Walter real heart as he opens his home to these strangers. While more depressing than The Station Agent, this is a wonderful film about reaching out to others when you both need it most.

Rating: 4/5

 

I also watched Jaws for probably the first time since I was a child. It’s amazing how well I remembered it but also how much of it was a surprise – having probably never seen it through adult eyes, I actually paid attention to the plot rather than just the shark scenes and found it more rewarding than ever before. Spielberg’s direction is superb – the fact that you don’t even see the threat until half way through underlines the fact that it’s not about a shark at all, but a tale of obsession and fear, in which one man tries to make a difference. Plus Richard Dreyfuss is awesome, just for that crazy nasal laugh of his.

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