ELECTRIC GRAPEVINE: Movies to remember and some to forget
Having had three weeks to digest what was 2011 I can begin my annual look at the best and worst films by examining the bookends which are Drive and The Tree Of Life.
In the awful words of The Rock in Fast Five, “You know I like my dessert first,” so I’ll start with Drive. Drive is perhaps one of the best films I have seen since 2000 and easily the best of the year as Ryan Gosling navigates Nicholas Winding Refns’ brilliant take on modern day Los Angeles tinted with hues from the 80’s.
From the slow build to the extremely violent scenes that pepper the second half, Drive is an exercise in building tension and pulled me into the Gosling camp faster than The Notebook hauled in 17-year-old girls. Gosling puts the film on his chiselled back and carries it as the unnamed lead who falls for his troubled neighbour played by the soon to be everywhere Carey Mulligan. Without giving too much away, Gosling and his shredded abs opt to help her ex-con husband and naturally things go awry but fast once the midway point of the film hits. The aforementioned violence comes in spurts and leaves an impact even for a blood ‘n guts junkie like myself. The look and feel of the film are a combination of Tarantinos’ daytime and Michael Manns’ night which for me couldn’t be any better as those two are my number one and two director influences. Apparently looking back at this column, though, my man crush has shifted to Mr. Gosling of late, “Oh my god, it’s like he’s photoshopped.” “Gimme the vegies,” says The Rock. Even the steamiest plate of brussel sprouts couldn’t compare with the excruciating experience that is The Tree Of Life, another coma inducing, cinematic nyquil from the massively overrated Terence Malick. This film stars one of my most hated actors, Sean Penn, who actually declared he had no idea what this film was about, after filming it. If that isn’t a sign that all the critics simply anointed this film one of the years’ best based on hype I don’t know what is. This film somehow goes from a velociraptor kicking another dinosaur in the mouth, to a shot of Sean Penn staring out a skyscraper blankly, while possibly contemplating hiring a new agent. If I was in a higher building I’d have jumped out 45 minutes into this overlong story that is apparently about growing up in middle class America 55 years ago. Aside from the deft cinematography and Brad Pitts’ rather good performance I see no reason to watch this film whatsoever. Heavy handed subtext about repeating a father’s sins are fine but simply do not need to be juxtaposed with ninja kicking dinosaurs. I joke about The Rock, but Fast Five was legitimately a better film than this art house travesty. One of Grand Forks most cool and collected teachers actually yelled out, “Oh no not again,” in the Gem Theatre when the film again veered off into an animated cosmos for no apparent reason towards the merciful end. Fast Five actually managed to deliver as promised even for middle of the road fare. Featuring a more mature plot and more of an Ocean Eleven feel, I felt Fast Five was well worth the 13 bucks. With such a long history and large gallery of characters director Justin Lin managed to balance history and the characters perfectly while filming some of the best practical stunts in recent memory. Sometimes you don’t need garbage exposition or dinosaurs battling it out, you just need Rock vs. Diesel and you have my money and attention for two hours. Another film worth mentioning is the sequel to Sherlock Holmes. I can’t say I was that excited to see it even though I recalled enjoying the first one I couldn’t say why. The sequel does suffer from a 20 minute lull that cripples the film pacing shortly before the excellent finish but largely it’s well worth a view. The best aspect is the constant back and forth between Holmes and the villain who is literally Holmes’ equal. Hanna also makes my list as one of the standout films with its unique look at the assassin genre as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Other than that I really haven’t even gotten to the other films that have been noteworthy though I’m most interested in Shame and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy.