Monday January 23, 2012 19:32

Movies #0048, #0049, #0050, #0051 – Mad Max, The Thin Red Line, The Red Shoes, E.T., The Thing

Posted by Michael

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been a bit busy. Plus, I’m lazy. Okay, it’s mostly the lazy thing.

I think it’s time for me to revisit the Essentials Project. But before I get started in earnest, here’s a quick round-up of the movies from The List that I just so happened to have watched over the last few months.

Mad Max (1979)
Directed by: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne
First Viewing

It’s kind of odd watching Mad Max for the first time, because it was obviously shot on an exceptionally low budget, and actually has very little of what you’d expect from a Mad Max film (the monstrous, souped-up cars, the outlandish costumes, etc.). In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to describe the setting as post-apocalyptic at all, which is odd considering that this film is considered to be of the essential films in that genre. I think that everything that Mad Max has become known for, aesthetically speaking, actually comes from the sequels — I also watched Mad Max 2, and it’s all there: the desolate wasteland and the memorable cars and costumes. But what about the film at hand? It wasn’t bad. It drags a bit, but it definitely has its moments.

The Thin Red Line (1998)
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte
First Viewing

Thus far, my experience with the films of Terrence Malick has been one of admiration, but little more. I liked Badlands and I liked Days of Heaven, but aside from the gorgeous visuals, they weren’t films that stuck with me for very long after the credits rolled. Imagine my surprise, then, that between this, Badlands and Days of Heaven, this was my favourite film by far, despite the fact that it is probably the least regarded of the three. It feels like this material is pretty much a perfect compliment for Malick’s style, which is not necessarily something I’d say about Badlands or Days of Heaven (it’s been ages since I’ve seen Badlands, so another viewing is probably in order, but in Heaven, it’s pretty clear that the fairly routine love triangle is the least interesting thing about that film). Malick isn’t particularly interested in telling straight-forward stories; in his first two films he tried to do that, and in this one he didn’t bother. I think this film is better off because of it. It’s completely plotless, and yet it is absolutely compelling throughout, thanks to Malick’s poetic, oddly hypnotic direction. The same can be said for Malick’s recent The Tree of Life, of which I am also a pretty big fan.

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The Red Shoes (1948)
Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring
First Viewing

An exceptionally well directed film. Though it’s a little slow in parts, seeing the inner workings of the ballet company is kind of fascinating, and directors Powell and Pressburger do a really good job of developing the characters and making them compelling — even side characters we don’t necessarily spend much time with. All of the performances are quite good, though special mention must go to Anton Walbrook as the leader of the company; he’s pretty mesmerizing in the role. The film also looks very, very good, with top-notch direction and glorious Technicolor cinematography (the pristine Criterion Blu-ray probably helps in this regard). Highlights include a hypnotic dance sequence in the middle of the film, and a supremely memorable ending, which has to rank up there as one of the best endings ever.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace
Second or Third Viewing

What can I say about this movie? It’s a classic, obviously. Many consider it to be Spielberg’s best film, and obviously the man does not have a shortage of great films to choose from. To me, Raiders of the Lost Ark is — and will always be — Spielberg’s best movie, but E.T. is definitely a strong contender. It’s funny, exciting, touching, and downright entertaining; it’s pretty much everything you want out of a movie like this. It also features top-notch direction from Spielberg, and some really great cinematography from Allen Daviau.

The Thing (1982)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley
Second Viewing

This is a stunningly good movie. I remembered this being very good; it’s even better than I remembered. Featuring perfect direction from John Carpenter (this is definitely among his best films), the film always looks good and does a pretty astounding job of building and maintaining tension. It’s also really well acted, and the dynamic between all the characters is always really well done (both before and after shit gets real, and everybody starts questioning who’s still human). Ennio Morricone’s score also suits the material perfectly. Honestly, I’m having a hard time thinking of any flaws in this movie.

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