Friday, December 4, 2009

Film Noir

I sat down to write some insightful and/or funny post on some topic that I had not yet decided on when my wife pinged me on Messenger. It was horrible news:

"The Road" was not released to any theaters in Las Vegas.

A small tragedy, indeed--I slipped through all five phases of grief within about ninety seconds, all expressed in tweet form. Heartbreaking. Well, OK, not heartbreaking. But a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing it more than any movie this year since probably Order of the Phoenix.It was supposed to be the movie that balanced against Wolverine on my internal movie karma scale.

And if the hype holds up, this would have probably been the first time I had actually seen a movie nominated for an Oscar before the actual award ceremony.

I checked a few movie sites. I searched a few random zip codes on Fandango--nothing. I checked had the word "Limited" right by the release date. Jeremy Kelly tweeted that it wasn't in Atlanta, either.


I blame myself. And you. I blame you, too. I blame us.

Last summer, I took the kids to see Pixar's "Up". In line to buy tickets, they saw the poster for the Will Ferrell live action poo sculpture "Land of the Lost". They wanted to switch movies. We debated. They won. It cost me $25 plus a few ounces of my ever-dwindling soul.

In the Spring, we saw Wolverine. I literally can't remember a single plot point or interesting bit of dialogue. I think there was a talking beaver and an evil ice queen in the beginning; the ending is just as hazy, but I'm pretty sure the little boy--young Logan, I presume--found his golden train ticket in enough time to save Christmas for Cory Feldman and the kid from Malcolm in the Middle.

It seems like I wait to see the good movies until they come out on DVD. Mostly because of the kids, I guess.

And I now you're there with me--well, some of you. It's our fault. We are the market. We pay to watch schlock with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta and anybody from Saturday Night Live and the bald guy from Moonlighting.

The good news, I guess, is that it makes books even more attractive.

A few years back, my wife and I discovered the splendor of Netflix. One of the biggest criticisms of Netflix has always been that they don't carry many popular movies, and are overstacked with TV shows, classics, and independent movies that nobody has heard of. We aren't big TV watchers, but we have gotten brave enough to check out some of the independent flicks on there (via mailed DVDs and, our absolute favorite distribution system in the universe, Watch It Now). Now, the heavy catalog of unpopular fare has become, for us, the greatest part of Netflix.

Here are a few good ones we've found...feel free to add your own:

Adam's Æbler (Adam's Apple). My wife spent several months going through the Danish-language catalog, mostly because of Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen (of Casino Royale fame). The Danes have a national film board that produces many (all?) of their movies, so you find a lot of the same actors working together. They really put out some good ones, and Mads seems to have been in every one. Anyway, Adam's Apple was my favorite--the story of a pre-release convict trying hard not to be reformed while he watches the people around him contort under their own emotional loads. Very well done, and the subtitles are not as distracting as you may think.

Primer. I found this movie in a reference in an xkcd comic. It  was good--not fantastic, but I defy you to find a solid, well-written sci-fi movie with fewer (or no) special effects that is half as believable. It's a time-travel movie that is more thought-provocation than action, but that's good. It's a movie for people who like to think. It's also cool to see all of the credits fit on one or two pages, and only like five names, including the catering, which was probably someone's mom. Be prepared to watch it several times, or take notes. See the xkcd comic for details on that.

Run, Lola, Run. This was an artsy movie. My wife loved it, I thought it was pretty good--a very refreshing alternative to what we usually see. I think we liked it for different reasons--she liked the story, I liked the arsty-fartsy quality, how the characters and scenarios were kind of caricatures of reality. German with subtitles.

Idiocracy. From the creative team behind Office Space, a horrifyingly prophetic look at the future of mankind. A little bit ha-ha funny, but mostly oh-my-god funny.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A Jimmy Stewart classic featuring an amazing performance by Jean Arthur. Frank Capra obviously doesn't qualify as indie, but if you're looking for a good rental, don't neglect the oldies (my wife now almost exclusively watches B&W movies).

I am far from a film snob, I guess I just don't like being played to like I was a high-fiving, spiky-haired, bluetooth-headset rube. I don't mind being made to think a little bit for my entertainment, as, I suspect, doesn't most of the world. But, as always, the only way to change it is to vote with your pocketbook. Or make your own movies.

In any case, I will be protesting this year by not wearing my best clothes to watch the Oscars on TV. In fact, I may not even wear pants. That'll show 'em.


Aaron Polson said...

May I suggest Touch of Evil? Yeah, Charlton Heston doesn't sound or really look like a Mexican, but the first four minutes are some of best cinema from the '50s. Great flick. (not indie either, but hey...who watches movies in B & W anymore)

Natalie L. Sin said...

Netflix rocks my world : ) Lots of great foreign movies, and 80s stuff I loved as a kid! Since we can't afford the theater, renting this way has become well worth the money.

Cate Gardner said...

Since we're on the subject of Jimmy Stewart (almost), have you seen Harvey? Love that movie. And of course, you could always follow it up with Donnie Darko and have a rabbitfest.

Jamie Eyberg said...

The original 3:10 to Yuma (1959) excellent movie. Especially if you like westerns. I watched an indie movie the other night that was very good and I'll be damned if I can remember the name of it. If it comes up again on IFC I will let you know (550 on directv)

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Aaron: who doesn't like Charlton Heston? Orson Welles was in that too, wasn't he? I re-watched Citizen Kane this summer on BluRay. That's going on the list...thanks!

Nat: did you get a Roku? We're hooked. That thing gets more play than our satellite receiver. We'll go for weeks without even watching the actual disks we get, and just stream everything (High Plains Drifter has been sitting on my table since mid-November).

Cate: Haven't seen Harvey, but I love Stewart. Putting it on the list. I just saw Donnie Darko a few months ago, that was a great movie. (watched Heathers for the first time the night before, had a weird teen angst weekend).

Jamie: huh, didn't know that the Russell Crow one was a remake. I do like some westerns, we just watched The Outlaw Josey Wales recently, liked that a lot.

Thanks for the recommends, everyone!

katey said...

I love Jimmy Stewart-- I will watch literally anything with him in it. Also, Run Lola Run is one of my all time favorites, I think. The first time I saw that it kinda blew my mind.

Definitely beats the crap at the theaters these days. There's a winner now and then, but for the most part-- ha! Your descriptions cracked me up with their accuracy.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Stewart is great...I don't think I've missed a holiday season without seeing It's a Wonderful Life in fifteen years. I need to explore more of his stuff. I was blown away by Mr Smith Goes to Washington, though. Vertigo was good, too.

Natalie L. Sin said...

Had no clue what a Roku was...I thought you were talking about some Japanese movie! *lol*

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Nat: funny...yeah, check it out at $100 and works with any Netflix account (even the single disk account gets you unlimited streaming). Some bluray players and I think the Xbox stream too. Addictive.