Notes on films #1

For some reason I’ve been watching an above average number of films this week. I’m no film critic, but here are some brief notes and observations from them in order of appearance:

Zombieland (Sunday night/Monday morning)

Zombieland was great. It was so great, actually, that instead of going to sleep at a reasonable time like I was meant to on Sunday, I stayed up far later than I should have, even as as I needed to get up early the following morning. I got about four and a half hours sleep.

The main character reminded me of a slightly older Michael Cera and it is obvious the film was obviously targeting a young-adult male audience (hey – it is a zombie movie after all). The story is pretty much wish fulfilment for every young boy – when everyone else is dead you can enjoy the best the world has to offer – but there’s also a boy meets girl plot, and Emma Stone becomes the object of male desire. Yeah, little bit of a celebrity crush right there.

A cool visual effect that ran throughout the whole film places bits of text (the protagonists ‘rules’ for surviving Zombieland) inside the world. Only the audience sees it and it serves to underscore the points being made by the continuous narration provided by the main protagonist. How he is speaking to us, or from where, is never really specified, but it gives the film a sort of ‘documentary’ feel and as an abstract layer it helps keeps the film’s tone light. In this capacity, the narration forms an integral part of keeping the audience distracted and not-too-worried about the logical inconsistencies in the world of Zombieland. For instance, why did no one respond to the zombie threat when it became apparent what was happening? Why also is the power still on in so many places apparently bereft of anyone living?

The answer is of course ‘who cares!’ and it maintains this assertion proudly and deliberately. Never is this more evident than in the scenes where Bill Murray makes a cameo. Murray’s accidental death (he was pretending to be a zombie) is visible from miles ahead but it’s easy to accept because we acknowledge that it is just the end of his cameo. Even Murray himself makes light his own death as it’s happening and Emma Stone’s character struggles to keep a straight face at his passing antics.

There Will Be Blood (Monday night/Tuesday night)

I knew I wasn’t going to get through all of TWBB when I put it on late on Monday night, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Falling asleep as I was, I didn’t think I’d get more than five or ten minutes into it before succumbing to sleep. I was quite wrong, however, as very quickly the musical score (by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame, no less) and the introduction completely devoid of dialogue captured my attention and brought me a renewed sense of wakefulness.

I stopped a bit shy of the half-way mark, right at the point where the son, HW Plainview, gets a blast full of gas and has his hearing destroyed. It was fitting because so much of the film is about the main character, Daniel Plainview and his relationship with his (adopted) son HW. The movie is deeply unsettling, on many levels, with the oftentimes abusive nature of the father/son relationship becoming truly heartbreaking. Daniel Plainviews dealings with the religious fanatic Eli Sunday was also personally confronting as it brought up memories of certain experiences of my own past that, in the cold clear view of hindsight are just as disturbing. Daniel Plainview often manages to turn the rhetoric of the ecstatic preacher Eli back against him, showing off the persuasive power of passionate fervour and the desperate disillusionment of Plainview himself.

Superbad (Tuesday night)

What compelled me to watch Superbad of all possible films? I think after the heavy There Will Be Blood I needed something of a palette cleanser, and while it certainly wasn’t cleansing in any other sense of the word, it certainly did lighten the tone.

Superbad also featured both Michael Cera (hello, a connection!) and Emma Stone, who played only a small part, but a part nonetheless (hello another connection). She has very sexy eyes – I think that’s what I like about her. It’s funny, when the guys finally read the party I kind of assumed that Cera would end up with Stone’s character and the drunk friend, played by Jonah Hill, would end up with Cera’s initial love interest, who was also horribly drunk and only interested in performing sex acts. But they decided that was not to be and the get together scene was left till the last in the mall. Oh well, you weren’t really expecting complexity were you?

While Superbad was full of questionable jokes of varying vulgarity there was one scene that seemed… well… borderline racist, is about the only way to describe it. I’m not sure whether we were supposed to be laughing at, or with the idiotic white male police as they struggled to ask the black female cashier who had just been robbed whether the assailant was African American or Caucasian. Continual depictions of the ineptitude and corruption of the two police officers also proved mildly surprising – I wondered how they got away with it, until I remembered that this was an unrated version of the film and considered that might have an impact.

I’m finished.