Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"What I Watched" Wednesday - Shake Hands With Gonga!

Wise Blood: The latest selection for the Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest is a 1979 adaptation of a Flannery O'Connor novel about Hazel Motes, a disillusioned veteran who decides to proselytize his own brand of anti-religion, The Church of Christ Without Christ. As could be expected from a story by O'Connor -- queen of the Southern Gothic genre and its attendant grotesqueries -- the film is filled with morally ambiguous and socially off-putting characters engaging in morally ambiguous and socially off-putting behavior. Interesting seeing a young Brad Dourif as the film's protagonist; nice to see that even early in his career he gravitated towards the strange and unusual. Adding to the feeling of strangeness in the film was the fact that the main characters all felt like they had stepped out of O'Connor's 1952 novel in terms of speech and dress, but the setting and background extras are rooted firmly in the late 70s, causing some occasional anachronistic cognitive dissonance. My favorite parts of the movie were those dealing with Enoch Emory, the naive lad with a mild monkey-obsession who attaches himself to Hazel in an effort to make a friend in the "big city." The sequence where Emory goes through the line to shake hands with Gonga the Giant Ape multiple times was priceless. Of course, I could have done without the over-the-top vaudevillian background music that would play whenever Emory would embark on one of his misadventures, but to each his own.

The Brave One: Slow-moving drama about a woman (Jodie Foster) who becomes a gun-toting vigilante after she and her fiance are brutally attacked in a public park. Much more thoughtful film than I was expecting, with the focus being placed not on the visceral thrill of violent revenge, as in the Death Wish films, but on the psychological impact her vigilante actions are taking on Foster. Not exactly a nail-biter, but enjoyable on the whole.

Eastern Promises:
Director David Cronenberg and actor Viggo Mortenson follow up their successful collaboration on A History of Violence with this well done film about a midwife (Naomi Watts) who tries to track down the family of a Jane Doe who dies during childbirth, only to become mixed up in the world of the Russian mob. Great acting jobs all the way around combined with a solid, intelligent (and, yes, violent) story help make this a must see.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story:
Uneven satire of musician biopics (particularly Walk the Line) finds perennial second banana John C. Reilly finally taking the lead as the hard living musician whose life is formed by his accidental chopping of his brother in half during a machete fight at a young age. I wanted to like this, really I did, but outside of a couple of funny sequences, the bulk of the movie was a tad too forced for me. Which I know was part of the joke, but in the end, it didn't strike me as all that funny. My favorite sequence by far was when Dewey met The Beatles but outside of that, very rarely did anything in this make me laugh.

John From Cincinnati - The Complete Series:
I just wanted to take a second to say that I had a John From Cincinnati marathon this weekend, and that I'm now horribly depressed that we're never going to see the further adventures of John Monad, the Yosts, and the rest of the Imperial Beach Irregulars. A strange show, to be sure, and one that probably only those with Odd Squodd sensibilities could enjoy, but enjoy it I did. Between this, Deadwood, and NYPD Blue, I think creator David Milch has obtained the crown of "King of People Talking to Each in Agitated Tones of Voice While Trying to Communicate Using Subtext to Convey What They Really Mean, Which Can Sometimes Be Frustrating But More Often Entertaining." Honestly, if Milch didn't write the first episode of NYPD Blue I ever saw -- the one where Andy saying "Gay John did this" and "Gay John did that" until Fancy tells him that he's pretty sure everyone knows John is gay -- I would be incredibly surprised. Amazing that as far removed as those three shows are in terms of subject matter, there's still that core of character interaction that ties them together.