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.

15 July 2008

Chapter 27, dir. J.P. Schaefer (2007)

NIKKI says:
This is one of those movies centering on an ugly topic that likes to think its edgy and daring. There's an element of daring to it, but only in that Jared Leto went to such extreme lengths to resemble Mark Chapman, and that much of it is filmed outside the Dakota building where Chapman shot John Lennon. It's a portrait of a disquieted mind, of a man who resented what he believed to be the "phoniness" inherent in Lennon's celebrity lifestyle that he convinced himself that killing the singer was absolutely necessary. The problem is, if you've read Jack Jones's book, Let Me Take You Down, or know anything really at all about Chapman, this movie doesn't cover any new ground. All it does is put us beside a visual representation of the man in the three days leading up to his horrible actions. I'm challenging myself to come up with a point for that, a reason for the film to exist?

It's the stuff of legend, is it not, that Chapman waited outside the Dakota for Lennon to emerge, to get his autograph? And when Lennon did emerge, he signed Chapman's record and went on his way, only to return with Chapman still there, this time primed to shoot? I believe most people are aware of the bits and pieces found in Chapman's apartment, and that he equated himself with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. So, Chapter 27 is simply a visual representation of these very famous facts.

In the beginning of the movie, Leto as Chapman says he could tell us about his family life, but he just didn't want to. Yet, for me, that's where the story is. We all know what happened, I was interested in finding out why. We don't know much about Chapman at the end of this movie. We know he's damaged, but how did a respected, world-travelling aid worker residing in Hawaii get to this point in his life? Why did Salinger's book impact him so deeply? Where did his obsession with Lennon come from? Was his madness recognisable to anyone else in his life, his wife, his friends?

I feel like the film took the wrong focus. I commend Jared Leto on a brilliant performance, but I wonder to what end have his efforts led? I have no greater understanding of this act. I'm still aware Chapman was a bit mental, but I knew that going in and that's all I'm taking away.


Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Director's Cut, dir. Steven Spielberg (1977)

NIKKI says:
Very happy to take a second look at this movie in its new Director's Cut edition. I like the movie. I get caught up in whimsy and the adventure of the whole thing, as I'm sure I'm supposed to. I really enjoy Richard Dreyfuss in all-out manic mode as the man who knows something is out there. But I found watching the movie for only the second time, that I felt bad to Dreyfuss's family who were really just abandoned while he went on his quest into the unknown. I can understand him perhaps leaving his wife behind, she who didn't fully support him in this thing he was going through. But his children?

The scene where Dreyfuss is in the bath, just losing his mind -- those kids really experience something there. That is a tragic moment for them as much as it is for their dad. I feel like Spielberg really did something great there, letting us see how this whole business was affecting the kids. But then the kids just leave and Dreyfuss never gives them a second thought.

I really struggled to fully be with Dreyfuss in those final moments where the aliens take him away. I know I was meant to feel good for him, and happy that his journey was about to take its inevitable next step. But I just sat there thinking -- what about the kids? If this whole thing was just so big that it blocked everything else out of his thinking, then the movie should have let us in on that. Or simply done away with the kids in the first place.

The other thing that bothers me -- why doesn't Dreyfuss take the mud and trees in through the door? Why doesn't he build the thing outside?

Ignoring those issues, it's a good movie. I don't know how much the original cut differs from the director's version, but this one we watched was well-paced and gripping when it needed to be, it had that glittery Spielberg innocence, and some dashes of great humour. It's Spielberg back when he was trying to tell stories instead of trying to change the world.