Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

10 July 2008

Sweet Smell of Success, dir. Alexander Mackendrick (1957)

NIKKI says:
Further proof that they don't make them like they used to. You know, we're supposed to think we live in the age of liberation, but watching a movie like this one, you realise things weren't so stilted and stale back in the day. So, they couldn't outright say bad words on screen, instead creativity came into play, and the evil words and callous thoughts and true reflections of the time had to be delivered smartly and less obviously. Well, this movie takes even that a step further. It's clever, but relatively free of innuendo here -- this is 1957 and Sidney Falco, press agent, chastises the naive young Susan Hunsecker:

"Start thinking with your head instead of your hips... By the way, I got nothing against women thinking with their hips. That's their nature. Just like it's a man's nature to go out and hustle and get the things he wants."

Wow, really? I often forget how progressive movies were back then if you just knew where to look. This is up there with the best crime drama and film noir in that it takes a harsh look at men, women, New York City, and society at large. We look at the way starlets and politicians and people in the public eye are made or broken by the press -- it feels like a new thing. But it's origins are old. This is the story of columnists and press agents and the tearing down of a young man's reputation based on the personal views and desires of the columnist himself, and the need for recognition by the press agent. The seedy pair come together and they don't care who's lives they destroy. And by the time one of them decides he has a conscience, it might just be too late.

This is a classic in every sense. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are on fire, trading jibes like racing tips. The writing is super-slick, the story builds expertly, and the fall out is devastating.

I said to Steve during that I just wanted to go live in old time-y New York where men wore suits all the time and the women were always coiffed, and there were cigarette girls and jazz clubs, and guys said things like "What me run a 50 yard dash with my legs cut off" instead of "watch me calm this guy down with my smooth, fast-talking". I miss the old days, especially the ones I only get to look at through some old filmmaker's lens.


Cactus, dir. Jasmine Yuen Carrucan (2008)

NIKKI says:
Tense and smart -- that's really all I was hoping for with this one. And it delivered. It's a road-movie in the grand old Aussie tradition of road-movies, with men on a mission through dust and desolation. No matter how much you isolate yourself, the movie tells us, threats abound both physical and psychological.

John kidnaps Eli and takes him on a dusty drive across country. Eli is not sure what he's done to deserve this treatment or just who it is John is delivering him to, but he seems to settle into the idea that someone has it in for him. And so, instead of wondering he starts to figure out a way to escape, His attempts are thwarted at every turn by John who Eli realises is not your average delivery man. John's car gives away the fact that he's a family man, so Eli begins to use that knowledge to get close to his kidnapper. The two begin to form a bizarre kind of kinship that plays itself out in deep conversations interspersed with incidences where John must remind Eli who's boss.

But the outback proves it's not hidden, that eyes are everywhere, and that as tough as you think you are, it's 10 times tougher. The plans of both men are soon thwarted, and shit really starts hitting the fan.

In the end, you just don't know who to root for. The movie plays with convention, screws with our conceptions of good guys and bad guys, and ups the ante as far as the whodunnits and whydunnits until the end. It's a decent little movie, with some amazing lead performances, great scenery, and clever writing. My favourite bit? You might think being bound and gagged in a dingy car in the middle of the Aussie outback is torture -- what if, at the same time, the Wiggles' "Hot Potato" is on the stereo ON REPEAT? Now what's torture?


STEVE says:
This was not the movie I expected it to be. I was hoping, I guess, for more of a
Hitcher or Road Games type thriller. Instead, I got psychological drama and character study.

That said, it wasn't a bad movie, and I'd like to see more of its type. It was well-written and well-made overall, but it was not what I was in the mood for, so I'm rating it on a curve.


Right at Your Door, dir. Chris Gorak (2006)

NIKKI says:
Oh man... it was like I was trapped in my house, too, and the slightest movement might send up dust fumes that would make me cough up blood, like poor Lexi in the movie. Oh, it was creepy. But, so well done.

A series of dirty bombs go off in downtown Los Angeles and the city is closed off. Brad's wife, Lexi, has just left for the city on her way to work. When the bomb goes off and he looks out the window to see LA on fire, Brad acts on instinct -- he goes to find her. But it's not that simple. Cops are blocking the roads. They don't want anyone heading into the city. The word comes down that everyone in the outlying suburbs should seal their homes away from the toxic fumes and wait.

Brad wants so badly to find his wife and have her be safe that he can't bring himself to seal off his front door. With no sign of Lexi, he gives in and does what the radio tells him to do. And then Lexi returns.

Oh god! It's so harrowing what these two go through. And it's difficult to say any more about the film without giving the good stuff away. It's a great comment on how we react in crises and who we choose to trust, to follow, and pin our hopes on. It's also a great comment on relationships and their strengths and weaknesses when faced with difficulties. It's about panic and fear, it's about resistance and truth.

A really decent movie with some great writing, some shocking effects, and a central idea that might once have seemed far fetched, but now feels somewhat inevitable. Steve and I instinctively answered this movie's big question at the same time, and then I spent the rest of it wondering it I had been truthful. What, the movie dares you to answer, would you do?