Setter’s ‘Spectives: So Far, ‘Mud’ Rises From the Dirt

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Yes, it’s a strange title. But I’ve gotta admit: Mud is providing some highly decent viewing.

I’m about halfway through it at this juncture, and this Jeff Nichols-helmed tale of two boys who find a boat in a tree–as well as the no-goodnik (played by Matthew McConaughey) living in it–is definitely holding my attention. The script is surprisingly novelesque, with unusually crisp dialogue, and the acting feels natural. I’m not a huge fan of McConaughey’s performances in general, but he’s decent in this, a quality I must attribute in part to the direction. So … good show so far.

So far because I had to go to sleep midway through the picture owing to the lateness of the evening. To be continued, right? Right.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: I Love You, Orson, But Really!

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Ever see part of a movie so you never have to see any more of it again?

That’s what I did with Someone to Love, Henry Jaglom’s very, very (and I mean very) bad film about, basically, nothing and starring, of all people, Orson Welles and Sally Kellerman in poorly used roles. The story in part seemed to concern Jaglom’s character filming people talking about loneliness while contemplating their lives in an old Los Angeles theater, but instead of providing astute insights, it became a trying bore after only about 30 minutes. Poorly edited, too, with Welles interrupting the proceedings with strange reflections on the sexual revolution and the camera often focusing on irrelevant subjects before whisking itself away all too quickly and filming someone else.

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to turn it off.

I was wondering what Jaglom’s point was with all of this navel-gazing. There probably were interesting things to say, but they got swallowed up in a tempest of tedious talking. I’d never seen any of Jaglom’s other films, so perhaps I should’ve come prepared, but I still think a good movie should be accessible no matter where it falls in a director’s canon. And Someone to Love wasn’t.

This would definitely be in the “So Bad It’s Funny” category if I believed we should watch bad movies for laughs.

I don’t.

Skip’s Quips, Part II: ‘Minister’-ing to Movie Wounds

Blog Sketch 082813Well, I saw Bertrand Tavernier’s The French Minister yesterday at Manhattan’s Walter Reade Theater.

Some amusing bits. But it didn’t feel cohesive. Undeveloped characters ran rampant in this tale, the based-on-a-true-graphic-novel-story of a young Parisian speechwriter’s encounters with his blustery foreign minister. Once-funny jokes were repeated all too often, including a running gag in which papers fly each time the public serviceman enters a room and slams the door. Yes, it was too much of a good thing. Then there was the protagonist’s love interest, who remained just that: a love interest. There wasn’t much conflict or development in their relationship as the film proceeded.

Cinematography was conservative, save a few dashing shots and screen slice-ups. And the film was overlong; much of the door-slamming could’ve been cut. Overall a decent film, but not a special one. More appetizing was the fact that Tavernier showed up and took questions afterward. A tall, white-haired gentleman, the veteran director seemed very personable and interested in talking about his film. Sadly, the movie isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s definitely different from the rest of the cinematic fare being shown on Broadway.

If only it were better.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: How Glib Was My Movie

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Trying to watch Celeste & Jesse Forever is hard.

I don’t like movies like this. Glib, smug, self-conscious. Snarky, unfunny humor.

Tough flick to get through. Oh, and it’s something about a couple in the process of divorce who still behave like a married pair. What a concept. Bleah.

Too bad, too, because there’s talent involved in this Lee Toland Krieger film, including Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones as the not-so-doomed lovers. The components, however, just don’t seem to mesh, and they end up making for tiresome viewing. Too bad.

Is there a comedy in the house? Well, there is … once I decide to watch something better.

Skip’s Quips: ‘Nebraska,’ Montana, Ooh, I’m Gonna Pan Ya

Blog Sketch 082813Actually, I’m not, because I actually liked Alexander Payne’s intimate black-and-white film Nebraska. I just wanted to write a silly headline.

But seriously, folks. This was a pretty good movie. Bruce Dern as the aging, oft-confused, alcoholic father of electronics salesman Will Forte. June Squibb as Forte’s bitter mom. Stacy Keach (!) as Dern’s nemesis and onetime business partner. And they’re all part of a plot to recover a million bucks in winnings that Dern’s character thinks is owed him because he got a “You’ve just won $1 million” notice in the mail.

I think the movie should’ve been a lot more depressing, but Payne keeps the dialogue spare and the direction light. The action actually had movement, a place to go. And yes, there is an arc. So nice job. I’m not a fan of all of Payne’s flicks (I thought Election was particularly mean-spirited), but he’s definitely a filmmaker with destinations in mind and the ability to get there with economy. And although I don’t feel Nebraska is a masterpiece, it’s a smart, small film with a good tale to tell. It works. And it makes for a worthy evening.

On to the next movie.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Sometimes You Just Gotta Say, ‘Well, That Was a Horrible Movie’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613And that’s exactly what I thought after watching Drive, He Said, director Jack Nicholson’s not-good 1971 relic about a womanizing college-basketball star and his bizarre counterculture roommate.

How did this film make basketball boring? I wondered, as the film meandered through then-hip out-of-focus shots and slo-mo passages. I was shocked to find myself wishing I had watched curling in the Olympics over these scenes. Bad sign, movie.

Then there was the problem of the film not being able to decide what it was about. The struggle to avoid the draft? Hippie dippiness? Who was it about, anyway, the basketball fella or his roomie? The movie couldn’t seem to decide. In fact, it followed them both in equal amounts, despite them both being unlikable characters.

Yuck. Turn it off, he said.

I think sometimes you’ve got to watch a bad movie once in a while to desire good movies more. I mean, right now, I could watch any portion of The Seven Samurai and be cleansed of the lousy-film experience. Boy, do I need a Kurosawa bath right now.

Maybe a bit of ice cream will rid me of the taste in my mouth. Yes, sometimes you’ve got to watch a bad movie once in a while. But even once in a while doesn’t feel good.

Skip’s Quips: Awarding Myself the ‘Best-Avoided’ Medal

Blog Sketch 082813One day after the Oscars, and I still don’t think you need to watch them to be a film buff.

I sure didn’t. I’m just not keen on it. And I certainly don’t agree with the Academy’s choices much of the time, though it’s hard to quibble with the Best Picture winner this year, 12 Years a Slave.

It’s the forced banter and extended running time that wears on me. These days, I find it hard to stay up past eight o’clock at night, so a couple of hours added to that are sure to bring on the dream sheep.

I guess a question should be whether I need to be more invested in the program if I feel certain films nominated for Best Picture or other categories, such as Gravity, don’t deserve the awards. Perhaps. If that happens to me in the future, however, I hope I won’t be faulted for skipping past the musical numbers, comic asides or homages to selected genres.

That’s already, what, 70 percent of the program? Well, then.

Just give me a bullhorn, and I’ll be the first to yell “Cut!” at the TV.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Dude, Where’s My Movie?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Now I can finally say I’ve seen The Big Lebowski.

And what a big, sloppy movie it is. Kind of tedious, ultimately, too, though it has some bursts of funny dialogue.

Could’ve been a lot better, though. Seemed to miss a lot of opportunities. Still, you rarely see real, bona fide (OK, actors portraying real, bona fide) nihilists onscreen, so that’s a plus. A Big Lebowski plus. Hm.

Actually, what bothered me the most about this Coen Bros. film was the structure. Despite all the tying up of (really) loose ends, it felt like it was generated in a room at midnight over a couple of White Russian cocktails and tons of stale coffee. Perhaps that was the point. I’m not Big Lebowski big on that kind of point, though.

Yes, the cinematography was quite good. Especially the camera-in-the-bowling-ball shot as the orb rolled down the lane. Nice job on that, guys. It didn’t, however, define the movie, like some shots do. And great camerawork does not necessarily a great movie make.

Oh, well. I wish the Coens decided to be much sillier with the film, as it had so many wide-open targets: nutty artists, bowling aficionados, stoner, uh, no-goodniks. It just ended up being diverting, with a number of long stretches. I’m not Big Lebowski big on long stretches, either.

I just want a good-overall movie.

Skip’s Quips: Not Quite Lost on Cinema’s Battlefield

Blog Sketch 082813While watching Lewis Milestone’s 1930 World War I epic All Quiet on the Western Front last night on TCM, I had a revelation.

It went like this: “Wow, this movie’s pretty good.”

In particular, those brutal battle scenes. Great, great cinematography, especially those tracking shots showing the hordes of soldiers rushing to their death across enemy lines. They really captured the idiocy of this conflict, where men would kill to obtain just a few feet of barren real estate. And there was terrific editing, too, with quick cuts between shots of machine gunners cutting down waves of doomed soldiers.

This was startling, not stirring. It wasn’t supposed to be rah-rah-rah. This was as anti-war as you can get, with a focus on the impersonal modernity of conflict and its unsympathetic mechanization. These images will be hard to forget for me.

But there were other wonders, too. A scene where the infantrymen try to console a dying man whose legs have been amputated. Sequences with men shrieking madly within their bunkers. And a part where some of the soldiers ply three French women with food, suggesting the desperation felt at this time … not only for sustenance, but also for love.

A fine film. Some of the acting was a bit stilted, yet it was beautifully done overall. Not easy to get through, though. But like any great anti-war movie, it shouldn’t be.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: The Trying Is the Hardest Part

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Please, let me never need to watch any more of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? again.

I realize it’s vaunted. I understand people like it.

Here’s the truth: I don’t. And I sure as heck ain’t forcing myself to get through the rest of it.

That’s right, I didn’t finish the movie. I only started it recently because it was on and I realized this was one hallowed film I still hadn’t seen.

Too bad I didn’t let it remain that way.

Lots of screeching, via Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Not fun. There didn’t even seem to be a crescendo … just one wobbly plateau.

This just isn’t my shot of bourbon. If I want a flick about marital difficulties, I’ll choose Far From the Madding Crowd. Really.

And remain in the minority for all my moviegoing life. So be it.