Sunday, July 24, 2011

July- Official Depressing & Violent Movie Month

July is Official Depressing & Violent Movie Month, and I have therefore done my unflinching part by renting only the most gut-wrenching flicks known to modern man- wait, what's that you say??? July is NOT Official Violent & Depressing Movie Month??? WHAT have I been watching??!??

Correction: July is NOT Official Depressing & Violent Movie Month, but it may feel that way on the Olwell family's Netflix queue. As a family, our movie taste is a little offbeat, and seems to run in patterns, though I'm not sure whats motivating this particular run of films.

Perhaps its the brutal July heat. Perhaps we're subconsciously attempting to keep cool by shedding many tears. Maybe we're trying to remind ourselves that things could be much worse in our lives, ("Yes, there may be sweat dripping into my eyes after a mere walk to the mailbox, but at least I've never had to use my body weight as leverage against a rock in order to break my own arm...")

Here's some reviews in order to help you create or avoid a similar string of movies as you choose. I'm aware none of you may WANT to see any of these movies, but in case you do, watch for spoilers.

1) The Stoning of Soraya M.
It is a testament to my sanitized Western upbringing that I somehow believed this movie was referring to a METAPHORICAL stoning. Not the case. Based on a true story, the title character is stoned to death in a 20 minute long bloodbath after being falsely convicted of adultery. I have never seen anything so disturbing in my entire life. My mother and I were both physically nauseated for two days.

The graphic violence should be no surprise, seeing as the creative crew behind The Passion of The Christ is primarily responsible for this film, but I actually found Stoning harder to watch. If you watch The Passion as a Christian, you can find the meaning behind the gore; Stoning is a depiction of sheer evil and nothing else.

Soraya Manutchehri was stoned in 1986, the execution as depicted is supposedly true to practice. But I have a hard time discerning where the line should be in portraying truth versus glorifying violence. I wonder whether a documentary might have been more respectful than a dramatized rendition of this story, (which wraps up with a Hollywood cliche near-escape car chase? Really?) However, documentary doesn't always pack the punch needed to shock people into caring about an issue. I'm not offering an answer, just advice- don't watch if you've recently eaten.

2) 127 Hours
Danny Boyle, you're my new favorite.

How he manages to take what should be a one-man horrorshow and infuse it with humor, pathos and hope is beyond me. James Franco is awesome- no need to belabor that point.

If I had to criticize anything, I almost feel like Boyle makes this story too accessible. He softens the experience of being trapped alone in a crevice with upbeat music, edgy cuts, and artistic flashbacks. There's a scene where Franco pretends to "interview himself" while berating the choices that led him to be stuck alone in the desert unbeknownst to anyone else in the world. Its a funny scene- (overlayed with a studio audience-inspired laugh track) but while I laughed along, I couldn't help but thinking: "Um, NONE of this is funny. I highly doubt Aron Ralston found one moment of this situation even remotely funny. If this ever happened to me, I would probably never laugh again..."

Even still, I'm eternally grateful to the Passion of the Christ crew for sitting this one out.

3) Another Year
I am typically not a fan of so called "character-based movies". I like plot. I like for things to change and resolve and for lessons to be learned by all. That's, of course, never the way life goes. We do after all watch movies to escape from reality.

Another Year looks at an isolated slice of life among the friends and relatives of one middle-aged married couple in England. I don't know whether to credit superb acting or writing, but the characters crafted in this movie are at a caliber of authenticity not often achieved. You KNOW people like this, you're probably related to some of them. You might not return some of their phonecalls, or wince when they invite you out for drinks. You've maybe given up trying to change them and can only sit back and hope for the best.

The ending is one of those painful cop-outs that makes you want to throw pillows at the screen in betrayal asking the filmmakers WHY in the world they would spend an hour and a half making you care about these people only to leave you so unsure and unsatisfied.

True to life.

4) I Am Number 4
Its pretty depressing that this got made.

5) Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
By the time this one showed up in our mailbox, we'd sort of noted the pattern. And sort of revolted. Both those comments were made:

"You're right, a concentration camp movie would be so appropriate right about now."

"What's this now, the Stoning of Sophie S.?"

Sophie Scholl turned out NOT to be a concentration camp movie, but a film about The White Rose- a movement of German University students who secretly wrote and distributed Anti-Nazi propaganda. The film takes you through the interrogation process of a 21 year old woman arrested a few weeks before the Allies liberated Germany from the Third Reich. Not a whole lot of action here, but plenty of ideas to chew on.

Another true story, it heavily emphasizes the importance of free speech, the value of ideas, and the danger a country puts itself in when it violates those rights. Sophie, her brother Hans, and another friend are interrogated, sentenced and executed within a few days.

Of course.

Which month did you think it was?

Some quick takes:

7) The Lincoln Lawyer
Kinda meh. On the slow, predictable, "I don't really care what happens to these characters" side. I've never really bought what McConaghey's selling, even less so now. Have yet to see Ryan Phillippe in a movie where he DOESN'T play a whiny, rich, jerk.

8) The Fighter
Loved it. Christian Bale in the first hour is almost unrecognizable. It was fun to see Amy Adams in a tough-girl role. And Mark Wahlberg is as always, completely natural as the unassuming, blue-collar, small-town nice guy.

In other news, I plan on making August Official Hilarious & Uplifting Movie Month. Feel free to send me suggestions.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coldplay's New Vid.

I feel a battling sense of wonder and anxiety over what it must have taken to make this video... I was so taken in by the visuals, I'm not even totally sure what the song itself is like, haha. I think it merits another watch, though. Enjoy. :)