David’s Movie Journal 10/4/11
David Mamet possesses a fearsome talent as a writer. He also possesses a number of weird and dumb beliefs. Unfortunately, Edmond (written by Mamet and directed by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame) is weighted far more toward the latter.
William H. Macy plays an office employee of no specification named Edmond who departs work one Friday, goes home to tell his wife he’s leaving her and then spends an evening exploring the depths of the city and of his soul. Despite the fact that he behaves horrifically, there’s a sense that Mamet is using Edmond’s journey to strip away the emasculated and domesticated modern male and find the violent, sexist, racist and solipsistic man that he imagines is dormant beneath all of us. What’s insulting and, frankly, a little terrifying is the sense that Mamet seems to approve more of the base animal Edmond becomes than the civilized (if a little castrated) person he was at the beginning.
Gordon does a good job of bringing a seedy murkiness to the film’s world, as if the sins of the city’s inhabitants have congealed into a swampy morass. In every technical and utilitarian way, it’s a well-constructed film. Unfortunately, its message is so disagreeable and stupid, it’s an almost completely unpleasant viewing experience.
I can’t believe I waited this long to see Old Joy. This movie is a testament to the power of film as a singular art form, unique and removed from the storytelling, photographic and performing arts that make it up. It is very short and contains very little action and it has made one of the largest imprints on my mind of any film in years.
Mark and Kurt, two old friends, drive out to camp in the Oregon woods and visit some hot springs. They get lost, they eat breakfast, they take baths, there is a dog. That’s about as much as I can say about the plot itself. But the characters are drawn with such subtle yet deep brushstrokes, that’s all the plot one needs to become invested. Kurt is filled with wanderlust while Mark has settled down. A lesser film would have them see the attraction in each other’s lives but ultimately come to be content with their own places in the world. That’s not what Old Joy is about. Their paths have simply brushed back against one another after years apart, a situation familiar to anyone with old friends. They catch up and perhaps they learn a little from one another but they will return to their habits when the weekend is over.
If an object is on a straight and unobstructed path and then you change its direction by half a millimeter or so, you won’t immediately notice a difference in its movement. Yet, far enough down the road, it will be a long way from where it was headed before. Perhaps that’s the effect Mark and Kurt’s weekend will have on them. I think it may have been the effect Old Joy had on me.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
I’ve stated before that I’m unqualified to give this film a proper review. As a pretty devoted fan-boy of the source material, I’m too close to it to be anywhere near objective. I’d have to recuse myself. But this isn’t an official review so I’ll just tell you how much I liked it.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t the best Potter film. For my money, that prize goes to Order of the Phoenix, the fifth in the franchise and the first of the four David Yates would direct. Alfonso Cuaron’s game-changing third entry, Prisoner of Azkaban, would beat this one on my list as well. But as the culmination of a decade’s worth of cinematic buildup, I’m quite pleased with it.
The decision to keep Yates around for the entire second half of the franchise was a wise one, as J.K. Rowling’s books do treat the events starting with Order of the Phoenix as essentially one large story. Also because Yates has done a hell of a job deepening the world of Harry Potter and maturing the characters, themes and, along with the help of some extremely talented cinematographers, the look. If Deathly Hallows Part 1 was largely a meditative road movie punctuated by occasional danger and excitement, comparable to Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, Part 2 is a war movie. It’s Sands of Iwo Jima, it’s The Alamo (the good one that John Hancock directed) and it’s Henry V, except all with magic. The battle scenes are engulfing and thrilling and the film’s emotional and thematic climax is flooring because it carries the weight not only of the fatal final showdown but of all of the story that came before it. In the middle of the raging carnage, there is an extended period of stillness that allows you to reflect on every that has brought Harry and us to this point. Like only the best big-budget movie events, it is – in the true sense of the word – awesome.