But first things first. Please welcome Cindy Spires’ movie blog, Cinematophiliac, to the blogroll. Holla, Cindy!
What follows is week two in the recent movie meme thread.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg 1982)
Before Sunrise (Linklater 1995)
Tonight’s theme: “Brief Encounters” (inspired by Lacey’s mention of the Lean/Coward flick). Two films that always make me weepy. Yes, dangit, I start bawling when ET dies. I start sobbing uncontrollably when he comes back to life. And I’m an absolute wreck when he croaks his parting words to Elliott: “Be good.” Yes, I know ET is a bundle of latex, plastic, and wire, but the character is brought to life incredibly well, and I am always affected by this film. Sue me. I know it’s hip and chic to bag on Spielberg, but I like him bunches. I’d rather watch ET, Close Encounters, AI, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, The War of the Worlds, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, Jurassic Park, or any of the first three Indiana Jones movies than any film, for example, by that talentless wretch Todd Solondz (Look–everyone’s f-cking miserable all the time!).
Linklater–wtf? You had a pretty solid run from 1993 to, say, 2004, but now you’ve kind of lost the plot. Still, Sunrise (and it’s companion/sequel Before Sunset) are near masterpieces for romantic sots like me. Like the scene in the first one where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are sampling a record in a booth in Venice, and Jesse reaches out to touch Celine but withdraws his hand at the last moment (echoed by a similar scene in the later film, but with the roles reversed)–that’s a great scene. The whole film is solid, but that—that’s a great scene.
The Iron Giant (Bird 1999)
The Emperor’s New Groove (Dindal 2000)
The theme here, obviously, is the genre: animation. Well, really we should note that animation is a form or medium rather than a genre. There’s also the fact that both of these films kind of flopped on their initial releases, a fate which neither film really deserved. Giant is a favorite and a classic in my mind–the plot is something like “E.T., but with a 100-ft tall robot instead of an alien.” That sounds dismissive and makes the film seem like a retread of the Spielberg flick, but the actual film is a sweet-natured, funny, warm-hearted fable about friendship and destiny. Or something. I like it. So should you. Brad Bird’s work here prefigures his later successes at Pixar with their great films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
I am pleased that Groove does seem to have developed something of a fanbase in its post-theatrical life. It deserves one. it shows that Disney can benefit from doing something other than musical comedy animation-by-the-numbers. here, they jettison the songs and make an all-out comedy that doesn’t pander to a grade-schooler’s sense of humor. There’s absurd laughs throughout (“We didn’t order a trampoline;” “What’s with the monkey and the bug;” “Is there anything on this menu that isn’t swimming in gravy;” “Squeak squeak squeakin’ squeaker.”) and the humor is more akin to something like Seinfeld or even my beloved Arrested Development–not as complex, but drawn from characterization and sharp dialogue more than easy pratfalls or fart jokes.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella 1999)
La Belle et la Bete [The Beauty and the Beast] (Cocteau 1946)
The Elephant Man (Lynch 1980)
I’m cheating a little here, but I like these films all complement one another. They’re all, obviously, about characters who feel isolated from others, who want what they cannot have: Tom wants Dickie (or at least Dickie’s life), the Beast wants his humanity and his dignity restored, and Merrick wants to accepted as human, as something more than a back-alley freak. None of them succeed, of course: Tom grows increasingly isolated as his lies unravel and he’s forced to murder those closest to him; the Beast only wins his humanity as he lies dying in Belle’s arms; Merric, desipte his friendship with a member of the royal line, is hounded as a freak throughout the city and dies alone in bed (while trying to sleep lying down, as normal people do).
I’ll leave it to others to guess why I close this series of films with these three picks. I do note, though, that this kind of brings the list full circle: the Cocteau film here was shot by the great Henri Alekan, who also lensed the Wenders film that started the list.