Yes, it’a true–I am Obama’s veep nominee.
Nah, just kidding. Lacey‘s tagged me for a movie meme, and loyal blogger that I am, here’s my picks. Although, I’m not really sure I get this meme. There doesn’t appear to be a theme or gimmick to it, unlike other popular memes–it seems to boil down to “name 12 movies you like”. But research, beautiful research, leads me to the rules of the meme here:
1) Choose 12 Films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.
2) Explain why you chose the films.
3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so I can have hundreds of links and I can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them.
4) The people selected then have to turn around and select 5 more people.
So, here are my pics. The only rule I’m giving myself is that I can’t repeat any film that is used on someone else’s list. I also like the approach used here, which pairs the films in two-night programs. So, here goes:
Der Himmel Uber Berlin (Wenders 1987)
The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese 1988)
The first film here, known more popularly in English-speaking realms as Wings of Desire (the German title translates as “The Heaven Over Berlin”), I first saw probably 15 years ago on a late-night art film show on Canadian TV station TVO. I didn’t really get it, but was still impressed. When I saw it again seven or eight years ago, I fell in love with it. It’s a film that is deeply fascinated by faith and love; and these issues are explored with sincerity and sensitivity without ever descending into bathos. The Hollywood remake, City of Angels, is a passable little metaphysical weeper, but it doesn’t hold a torch to the original.
Scorsese’s film is as fascinated by faith and love but from a radically different perspective. Here, the emphasis is not on how humans might find solace in faith and love, but in the challenges and demands that are faced by taking them seriously. The test case for this, of course, is Christ (a strong performance by the nevertheless miscast Willem Dafoe), called to sacrifice himself for his fellow man on the word of a distant and confusing God. I don’t believe, anymore, but this film captures of something of what I think an authentic religious experience might be like: agonizing, terrifying, liberating.
Wonder Boys (Hanson 2000)
Adaptation (Jonze 2002)
As the oh-so-witty captions above suggest, both films are about writer’s block. I really hated Wonder Boys when I first saw it. Reeeeaaallyy hated it. It was only when it was rereleased to theaters in late 2000 (in ultimately fruitless hopes of getting Michael Douglas an Oscar nom) that I got it. It doesn’t really have much plot, really, but it’s a film that is more about character, tone, and mood than story. It’s aimless and wandering, sure, but that’s kind of the point here: all the characters find themselves at a crossroads and don’t know what way to turn. So they kind of stumble around until something happens. It’s funny as hell and touching to boot.
Adaptation I dug right away, but I admit that time has not been kind to the film. The central “meta” conceit–that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman writes himself into his adaptation of a difficult best seller (which was, you know, what really happened)–seems kind of weak to me now. But the things that still work for me remain incredibly strong: Cage’s dual performances as twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman (only one of whom really exists), Jonze’s direction, Kaufman’s frequently funny screenplay–plus it has Meryl Streep in it, always a plus (whose husband in the film, oddly enough, is played by Curtis Hanson, director of Wonder Boys).
Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht (Herzog 1979)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Coppola 1992)
Essentially, this is the same story told in two different ways. Herzog’s film is sparse, bare, and terrifying. Here, Dracula/Orlok is a parasite, an undead vermin leeching life from his victims rather than seducing them (as many vampire flicks have portrayed it). The film is anchored by Klaus Kinski’s performance as a . . . thing . . . who has enough memory of his humanity to be appalled by what he’s become, but still compelled to survive. Orlok finds himself attracted to Lucy (Adjani) but can you call it love? Can a parasite love? The film seems uncertain whether to condemn Orlok’s bloody fate or to pity him for it.
Coppola’s film falls resolutely on the side of pity. Here, Dracula is a Gothic romantic hero, an exotic, entrancing lover for Mina (although who wouldn’t be when your alternate is Keanu Reeves). The film is an almost antithetical response to Herzog’s film: lush, sumptuous, overblown, excessive in nearly every way. The film has no sense of subtlety, which does occasionally lead to silliness (“Winds! Winds!! Wiiiiinnnnds!!!”) but I love it passionately and always get a little misty when Mina kisses the dying Count at the end of the film–right before she lops off his head, of course.
Alright . . . I’ll finish this later. This is week one.