Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #70


End Of The Week Shorts #70

Today's shorts: Safe (1995), Om Shanti Om (2007), Bye Bye Love (1995), Zeta One (1969), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009), Bruce Almighty (2003), This Is The End (2013), White Men Can't Jump (1992)

This is a quietly challenging film for the fact that it is ambiguous in its judgement and about as neutral as one can be in its presentation of theme. Safe is about a woman who, due to something in her life - boredom, stagnation, the mundanity of a housewife's comfortable existence, stress, disgust - becomes sensitive to the environment around her. Before to her flabbergasted doctors, she develops very serious symptoms of a seemingly non-existent disease. Her husband and step-child become estranged. She leaves home to join a colony of those like her. Is her journey a positive or negative result of her lifestyle, of the society and family around her? Is she ever ill? Does she join a cult, or is this a positive movement? Is this film about an individual or society at large?
The strength of this movie lies in its ability to shine a light on its very specific subject matter. It is not a masterpiece, but holds a fascinating story told very well.

I know it's not great, but how bad it is I can't tell. Om Shanti Om is a film that projects Bollywood's undying fascination with itself. Vain, though not entirely insipid, this tells a tale about living up to be the hero you admire; this is about truth emerging only from an imitation of life, from narrative and acting put upon the real world. Whilst not necessarily profound, it is this sentiment that carries Om Shanti Om, that gives it heart and the melodrama weight. Formally, however, this is a mess. In short, this is successful with all its meta-isms and parody, but never establishes a real narrative space where everything doesn't feel ridiculously parodic. A line is then never drawn between making fun of Bollywood tropes and using them semi-seriously. This then chokes on its own sardonic post-modern words, selling the nonsense it tries to make fun of. Maybe there is greater wisdom in this that I'm not seeing - acceptance instead of hypocritical parody - but I still know that this not a great movie.

Bye Bye Love is a weirdly American--almost uncomfortably American--melodrama about divorced fathers struggling to sort their lives out and get on with their kids. It then depicts a dream-like vision of divorce and life in general, perturbing it ever so slightly, depicting lives that are just so 'messed up'. Suffice to say this is then highly fluffy and deeply sentimental.

Below the melodrama and the cheap jokes, there is some meaningful subject matter that sometimes resonates and affects, but, overall, this feels rather inane and empty. It's certainly watchable, but not particularly good.

Certainly trash, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

This is, in a way, a spoof James Bond film. However, Zeta One seemingly has its base in Greek myths about the Amazons and Theseus. The Amazons are represented here as a free, independent colony of warrior women in Angvia. Theseus is the James Bond rip-off. Here we have the basic contrast between the non-traditional female and male, both out of wedlock, chaotic forces of sexual allure and power. They are brought together by a tyrannous man who wants to control and own the women. Following this basic conflict satirically, this forms a loose commentary on sexual expression and some form of feminism via the hippy philosophy of free love, which is formalised by a deeper desire to see tits and ass, that ultimately see the non-traditional male and female find harmony in a primitive return to pleasure seeking. Not a particularly good hero narrative, but interesting enough.

P.S. If you didn't see it instantly Angvia is an anagram for Vagina. An incite into the great writing and world building.

Hitchcock has called this 'the work of a talented amateur'. Maybe that's apt enough of a description.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a short yet rather dull film that is drenched in a plot of little interested that just keeps going. The direction is not bad, yet it is never given much support from the sound design (considering this is 1934, this isn't too much of a surprise). With these formal elements clashing with a script that has a very poor conception and control of character and verisimilitude, this lacks above all else any sense of danger. Never do we then feel thrilled or on the edge of our seat, nor do we care or even question if characters will get through things. There is a charm about this film, however, that is in found in the irreverent Englishness projected through characters' reactions to and handling of trauma and strife. Alas, all in all, this is only worth the watch if you're particularly interested in Hitchcock career.

Seen as a straight fight film, this has to be called a minor masterpiece; not as good as the best fight films (The Raid being one), but goddamn excellent.

I love this movie most for its weapons system. Primary weapon: assault rifle. Secondary weapon: not a pistol, but an uzi (a small automatic weapon of sorts). Penultimate weapon: knife. Final weapon: take them down and punch them in the face until they're dead. Beyond this, it's great to see an actual fighter (Andrei Arlovsky - former UFC heavy weight champ) given a central role in which true fighting techniques (usually the more flashy ones) are used as the base of fight choreography. What's more, who can hate Van Damme and Lundgren's understated return to the series? All in all, this is light on character and plot - as this should be and benefits from - but heavy on fight spectacle. A whole heap of fun, competently brought to screen, so easily enjoyed. Recommended if you've not seen it.

Whilst Bruce Almighty is a fairly funny film, I can't help but feeling that it wastes a lot of opportunities to explore the new world that Bruce finds himself in as a god. I'm torn in suggesting this as Bruce Almighty does find a lot of unexpected pieces of drama in Bruce ascension - the email system being one of the best examples. However, having seen this many times, I can't help but feel like this is too simple, too small in scope and trying too hard to be a narrative with a message. This then feels a little too contrived and stiff for my liking. What's more, Jim Carrey's crazy man shtick feels a little tired outside of the 90s (I think his best comedic character is found in Liar Liar).

In the end, this makes me want to watch his next film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, more than anything. On the whole, I have to say I'm just lukewarm on this.

Self-aware, but not in an obnoxious way, This Is The End is brutally absurd and chaotic. When I think of watching this film - and I must have seen it at least three or four times now - I groan internally. When I actually watch it... it actually turns out to be pretty funny. And, on the whole, weighing the amount to jokes that do and do not land against one another, I have to say this is a solid comedy. It is at its best when it refuses to stop escalating the absurdity until everyone is screaming about cum and not rape. It's saying this aloud (or at least reading it as I write) that makes me think back and wonder how this is funny, but it works somehow. I suppose the nicest thing I could then say about this movie is that it has to be commend for not being above putting huge, floppy demon dicks on screen. The worst thing I could say is that this feels like we've been made privy to Rogen and co's private joke as I'm sure this is far more funny to the cast members than it is to anyone else in the world. Alas, not bad; I wonder how this will be in 25 years.

I haven't seen this in ages, but I've always really liked this movie, and I was never really sure why.

Today I can say that some of this is nostalgia, but not much; White Men Can't Jump is rather excellent. A very simple story about hubris and arrogance, this is a somewhat strange 90s 'back guy, white guy' film in that is only very subtly about race in America. It's major statement is made through basketball and bets; it suggests that opportunity is always there, and that anyone can reach out and grab it - the hardest thing to do is not fluff it all up once you have it. What this says about race, I'll leave to your own intuition. But, what really makes this movie work is the pacing and editing. Sharply put to screen with such a relaxed pace, this is a breeze to watch. And the performances--brilliant; Harrelson and Snipes bring their characters to the screen effortlessly and impactfully. In the end, this remains a solid picture and well worth the re-watch every now and then.

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