Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 Watch-A-Thon: Day 6

[Rambling on movies I've hit as part of this year's Brattle Theatre Movie Watch-A-Thon. For the running count of 'thon films with titles, sans commentary, look here]

    trailer | website
    A supercool, irreverant, and kind of joyous buddy cop/fish-out-of-water/Irish Western with a rocking cast including Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, LOST's (as far as I'm concerned =) Fionnula Flanagan, and a half dozen others whom I don't know by name but who nevertheless shine, as bungling and malevolent cops, merciless but philosophical criminals, white hats, black hats, and simple townsfolk (aka kindly prostitutes and kid CIs).

    Right from the start, I *know* it's going to be good...

    *** SPOILER ***

    A quick-ish recollection of the opening scene of the film...

    We see a car full of kids racing recklessly down a two-lane seaside/country road, music blasting, drink and drugs passed around, car weaving across the center line (and in Ireland, so reversed from the U.S. =). We zip ahead to a Garda police car on the side of the road and then see the car zing by. The police car doesn't move. Doesn't even flinch. Off screen: the kids' car comes to an abrupt, crunchy, stop. The police officer, with title "Garda" sewn into his jacket, walks to the wreckage, makes his way from body to body, checking for a pulse and then items in their pockets, relieving them of anything that might compromise their good reputations, including a little baggie of pills and smiley-faced tabs. The officer, Sargeant Boyle, played by Brendan Gleeson, drops one of the tabs on his tongue and stands up to face the rising sun over the ocean. "Gonna be a beautiful day." THE GUARD.

    Right? Totally know it's gonna be good, right?

    And it only gets better. A new recruit from Dublin, joins Boyle's force later that day, just in time to check out the murder of a John Doe, stylized to appear like an occult, ritual killing. When Boyle is directed to report to central command, he learns from FBI agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle---

    "Behavioral sciences unit?"

    ---that his John Doe is connected to a drug trafficking ring suspected of moving five hundred million - "That's half a billion..." - in drugs into Ireland in the next few days. And so, agent Wendell "straight-laced" Everett joins unconventional sergeant Gerry "feckin wichya" Boyle in his small Irish town hoping to bust this ring wide open. Wacky fun ensues, leading to a pretty wonderful and badass HIGH NOON scenario.

    Snappy dialogue, quirky characters, kickass soundtrack. I will be first in line for writer-director John Michael McDonagh's next films. He's the brother of IN BRUGES writer-director Mark McDonagh, and y'know, frankly, this film reminded me of that one in tone and attitude. Helluva gene pool there.

    Actually, the only weak bit, looking back, is the one that told me how good it would be - the opening scene. Maybe I missed it in some line that dripped overly heavily in an Irish brogue, but I would've liked for the situation with the reckless kids to have been connected somehow to the drug traffickers. Maybe the kids were blowing money or drugs that they were paid to help the ring in a very low-level way... Or something. But no, it was "just" a really great intro establishing Gleeson's Boyle's nature and the character of the film. =)

    trailer | website | Harvard Film Archive
    Okay, let's see if I can explain this. There's a scandalous mystery involving a lovely May ingenue and a September politician. There's a report of the mystery that gets adapted into a screenplay. There's a director who falls in love w the story and casts a young unknown as the ingenue and an anchorman veteran actor as the politico. This movie tells the story of the actual mystery as well as the story of the shooting of the film based on the mystery and isn't careful about cluing you in as to which bit of storytelling you're watching in any given scene.

    So, it's kind of a puzzlebox, and pretty clever in concept, but less than perfect in execution, at least, for my taste. It seems a little more "experimental" than it needs to be, but, having caught the first 15 minutes of post-screening Q&A w the director, it seems that that's most of what he wanted out of this film and filmmaking experience. O well.

    I kind of LOVE the basic idea, and the plot of the scandal, but I do wish it had been edited a bit better, and the meta-plot resolved more... deliberately. You'll hafta watch it to see what I mean.

    Oh, given that the plot was rather Hitchcockian, I thought it was cute that the anchorman actor's name was Cary Stewart. Of course, it helped that I'd just seen NXNW and VERTIGO, heh. =)
    [HFA blurb]
    With Shannyn Sossamon, Tygh Runyan, Cliff De Young
    USA 2010, digital video, color, 101 min

    Hellman's bold new film is a moody neo-noir that revolves simultaneously around an unsolved murder mystery and a daring film-within-a-film mirror game. An elliptical and seductive meditation on cinematic illusionism and story telling, Road to Nowhere reveals Hellman's ardent love of the cinema through its thoughtful allusions to Sam Fuller, Victor Erice and Alfred Hitchcock, among others. The gorgeous Shannyn Sossamon casts a bewitching spell on the film as a changeling starlet weaving enigmatically through the intertwined stories, sparking obsessive desires along the way. The first American feature shot using a handheld digital still camera, Road to Nowhere makes clear Hellman's remarkable gift for visual narrative through the haunting imagery that gives the film the floating quality of a waking dream.

    trailer | Brattle
    [Brattle blurb]
    (1982) dir Amy Heckerling w/Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Ray Walston [90 min]

    This classic coming-of-age film is not only a hilarious comedy and touchingly human-scale story, but also a remarkable time-capsule of California in the early ‘80s. A clear template for Judd Apatow’s comedy blockbusters of today.

Keep on keepin on~

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