Saturday, November 17, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: Once the pigs tasted blood... No one could control their hunger!!

The Farthest (2017): I had heard great things about Emer Reynolds’s documentary about the Voyager mission. Actually having seen it, I find myself mostly annoyed by it. In theory, there’s an incredible richness of material in here, interviews with a bunch of intelligent and important women and men who were involved in one of the great achievements of human history, but what the film does with this is pretty pitiful. Because its assumed audience are apparently idiots who can’t follow a thought that’s longer than ten words, it turns these highly intelligent people into talking heads out of a shitty “TV’s Stupidest Awards” show, dispensing sound bites instead of thoughts. Add pretty pictures, a cloying soundtrack, and a nearly desperate drive to entertain instead of to enlighten, and you have your award-winning documentary right there.

Proof (2005): As John Madden’s adaptation of David Auburn’s play proves, you can make things more accessible without making them painfully stupid. Madden also mostly manages to turn the stage play into a movie while neither ignoring the roots of the piece nor having the visual elements be pure, functionless flim-flam. This features Gwyneth Paltrow (before her unfortunate contemporary career turn into hawking crap to the gullible), Jake Gyllenhaal, and Anthony Hopkins (actually acting instead of doing the shtick he has frequently fallen back on after Silence of the Lambs) at their best, working through the film’s complicated emotional and intellectual turns, bringing its thoughts about family, mental illness, “Great Men” and their daughters, and quite a bit more to life. Sure, from time to time things are a bit mid-brow, please give us an Oscar, Hollywood (there’s an inadvertently hilarious montage full of chin-stroking mathematicians you gotta see to believe), Madden can’t get away from completely even in his best movies (let’s not speak about that thing with Nicholas Cage), but the film’s stretching far inside of these genre structures.

Summer Wars aka サマーウォーズ (2009): Because I am apparently a curmudgeon today, turns out I’m also not quite as fond of this anime by Mamoru Hosoda about a traditional, if crazy, Japanese family saving the world as the rest of said world apparently is. It’s not that the animation isn’t beautiful, or the character design doesn’t breathe warmth and love for these characters, nor am I complaining about a lack of clever ideas. It’s just that this thing is so incessantly emotionally manipulative, doing its damndest to squeeze the last possible tear drop out of its audience that it rubs me all wrong, nearly becoming a satire of the things it praises by the pure power of laying everything on so thick and then ladling tears and good cheer on top. Honestly, I felt slightly nauseated by it.

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