September 25, 2005

Flight planning

So after missing the industry screening of Flightplan due to a scheduling conflict last week, I attended a regular screening on the studio’s gracious dime this afternoon with a semi-packed, rapt-until-the-end (at which time I heard more than a few angry mumbles) crowd at the local Cineplex. It’s going to do better than I expected this weekend, I think, because of a lack of real competition (Corpse Bride probably attracts exactly the opposite demographic) and because the flick touches on a few of our exposed nerves in such a way as to attract folks looking for answers or, failing that, at least the succor of a popular entertainment that all but guarantees a happy ending. There’s the bogey of airline travel, sure, but losing a kid, being thought insane, suspecting a conspiracy against you, wondering if your leadership is competent, wondering if the Arab guy in row 11 has a bomb in his shoe, and so on. As a film, independent of its time, I’d say that Flightplan is a sub-mediocre Mildred Pierce lioness/cubs melodrama – but just like last year’s The Forgotten (a film that’s almost as interesting and almost as failed), the fear of “losing” a child in a metaphysical and literal sense is just piggybacking on last year’s spate of memory-manipulation films – and now this year’s semi-spate of airplane soapers (including TV’s “Lost” in that) that result in character studies of scary ethnicities and homegrown terrorists.

The audience was the best that I’ve had the good fortune to experience since the last time I saw a “civilian” show (
A Sound of Thunder a couple of weeks ago) – giving credence to my idea that some people turn into jackholes when they’re given something for free – this audience all the more remarkable for its comparative size (about 200 people at 2:00pm in the afternoon). Not even a text-mailer, making me wonder if this film doesn’t skew “older” in respect to Foster’s audience and the subject matter. The ending though is going to be a problem for the flick’s longevity: I can’t see it lasting longer than four or five weeks of steadily-diminishing returns.
At home: in addition to the queue (“X-Files,” “Lost,” and a couple of Bruce Campbell flicks from Anchor Bay), watched four Robert Wise films on TCM including a fairly amazing Mitchum western called Blood on the Moon. In other news, Gilpin County’s great public library has hired me to do an October series. The theme? Ghost stories: The Innocents, Wise’s The Haunting, and The Sixth Sense, The Others, and A Tale of Two Sisters. If you’re in the area, they’re on Saturday afternoons: stay tuned.

In the pre-frontals: fascinated by Walter Salles’ Dark Water from this last summer, a film that I saw late and thus probably won’t review until/if we get a DVD to cover. Because I’m essentially an idiot – I mean “optimist” – I’m thinking that the fall season this year will be good enough to knock it off: but as of right this moment, Salles’ film is a dark horse for the end of year Top Ten list. I think it fits in here somewhere in discussions of this new cinema of the maternal that Quentin Tarantino started, maybe defined, with his Kill Bill pictures.

Do you suppose that it has something to do somehow (and how does it?) with our experiencing an attack on a civilian population? After all, the Japanese have been making films like this for almost six decades.


Jack_Sommersby said...

1. I go to a mainstream theatre maybe once every year. I just can't handle the noisy audiences, noisy popcron and wrappers, and also the shoddy presentation that is just about inherent in almost every one of these new stadium-seating -- you know, where the picture is way too soft and ill-focused in the center of the screen; and the picture running off both the sides and top and bottom of the screen. There's an art-house theatre here in downtown Missoula that's very old but wonderful: great sound system; a huge balcony section; and audiences who are respectful of one another.

2. I saw a Robert Mitchum film this weekend I hadn't seen before: 1978's The Big Sleep. Bad, lethargic film, but Mitchum still managed to inject some nice underplayed wit into his line readings ("She tried to sit on my lap -- while I was standing.")

3. The director of The Forgotten is Joseph Ruben, who's always been one of my favorite directors and whom I don't think has ever gotten enough credit. Dreamscape, The Stepfather, True Believer, Return to Paradise all first-rate, deliciously-crafted films. Heck, Ruben even managed to make something out of the mediocre screenplays for Sleeping With the Enemy and Money Train. It's a crying shame that The Forgotten (an initially intriguing but frustratingly dumb film in the end) was his first directing gig in 5 years.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Talking about "A tale of two sisters", the subtitles didn't work on my dvd. So frustrating.


I couldn't find time for "cure" but i absolutely loved "millenium Mambo". Absolutely my kind of film. I thought your review was more how the film felt, then what was in it. I don't think there is another way of reviewing this film. But what a beautiful looking film. Reminded me so much of Chungking Express and even Lost in Translation (even though there is some things I'm realizing about it that annoy me, especially those almost slapstick quips at japanese culture). A tone poem is the only way of describing a film like Millenium Mambo, "In the mood for love" falls into same category.

Kim ki-duk I still think is master of these kind of films, especially 3-iron. He just has this unique style that makes films lyrical while not becoming banal. Wong kar wai starts inserting poetic but overdone VOs, that take away from the rythm, while hou just leaves it alone which at time makes it vapid, kim hits the perfect rythm for peice like this although he too at times overplots his stuff. Don't get me wrong, I love Wong and kim and hou (atleast this one), but in comparison kim is my man.

p.s. is it just me or has anyone else noticed how these films seem extention of what altman and malick were doing in 70s ? or do lyrical films go even before that ? and what made asians reinvent lyrical cinema post 90s ?

Nate said...

Glad to hear you had a good theater-going experience. I just got back from "Lord of War" (I liked it - more than you did, anyway) and the audience was quiet, aside from one asshole cell-phone answerer. It makes me want to breathe fire.

It's nice hearing someone defending "Dark Water." I really loved it as well, and I think the main reason for its box office failure was the audience expectation that they were going to get a horror movie. Maybe it'll find life on DVD.

Anonymous said...


Interesting question, m'man. I don't really know though. I have to say that Kill Bill's maternal qualities were probably coincidental. It was released in 2004, so there's a fair amount of time for gestation in between 2001 and then, but it was also being discussed as early as the mid-'90s, I think. It could also be the type of material Foster gravitates towards (Panic Room, par example).

But these other films, hmmm. I don't see the relationship between an attack on a civilian population and maternalism. So I guess this was a long, drawn-out way of saying "I don't know." Sorry.

Walter_Chaw said...

Fan of Ruben's as well.

"Lee Hawwwwvey Awwwwws-wold". True Believer, besides being a nice showcase for James Woods' jittery demeanor, also has a kick-ass Brad Fiedel score - two years removed from his work on Terminator 2. A score that crops up about 90 times a year as stock illustration for action movie trailers. And Stepfather, of course, for all you "Lost" fans, is where we first fell in love with Terry O'Quinn.

As to The Big Sleep, the definitive interpretation of the material is still The Big Lebowski.

Glad that you liked MM, man. Agreed that Lost in Translation hurts itself when it does the hooker thing and the out-of-control treadmill gag. Out of place.

The question of lyrical films: I think we look back to guys like Tarkovsky a little - the 60s when foreign cinema was still a major draw and, consequently, allowed to redefine the definitions. Nice film called Siddartha, filmed by Sven Nyquist, swims to mind, too. Have you seen Woman in the Dunes? Good observation about Malick/Altman.

Did you end up at Just Like Heaven? What'd you think?

Anonymous said...

Just saw Corpse Bride. I have to admit I wasn't terribly impressed. There was a lot to love -- great hearing professional psychopath Richard E. Grant again -- but the whole of it seemed a tad inconsequential. Maybe I'm just burned out on dizzying visuals in animated films (I fear that it's all that a lot of these movies are relying on), and certainly it was miles better than most films this year, but it was a little too breezy for me. Though I must admit, Walter, I was with you on wishing that the Peter Lorre maggot did the trademark M whistling -- particularly when "In the Hall of the Mountain King" was used in the film's trailers!

-- Ian

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

True about Tarkovsky, now that I think about it. Solaris was pretty lyrical and so was Andre Rubelev, wlthough not the same extent to which we talk abourt lyrical films now. Not seen "Woman of the dunes", but will try to.

Nate said...

Did you end up at Just Like Heaven? What'd you think?

Fortunately, I dodged that bullet. My S.O. was somewhat deterred by the horrific reviews (and by the fact that there are at least four other movies playing right now that are actually worth seeing). It'll probably end up on my Netflix queue at some point, unbeknowst to me.