Quick Takes – 10.23.11

American Movie (1999)

Grade: B | 1st Viewing

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was very skeptical about the reality of this documentary during a first viewing. After some research, I will now admit that Mark Borchardt and the cast of incredibly colorful characters from Northwest Milwaukee are genuine human beings. For those unfamiliar, American Movie is a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of “Coven,” a low-budget short horror movie. Borchardt, the hopeful director at the center of the film, is willing to give up everything in his life just to make his movie a reality including his non-existent relationship with his children and any opportunity for an actual career. The reason the film is hard to believe is because it is packed with individuals who are so bizarre and unique that they seem more likely to appear in a quirky indie comedy than a non-fiction film.

It had to be difficult for director Chris Smith to restrain himself from making fun of the people his camera was pointed at. Instead he just lets their stories unfold organically, which turns into a cautionary tale about dreams coming before responsibilities. Often times the camera is left to roll for too long to the point where a scene goes from humorous to obnoxious. However, it is certainly worthwhile viewing for anybody who dreams to be great.

Win Win (2011)

Grade: B+ | 1st Viewing

Tom McCarthy’s Win Win is one of the most current movies of the year. By that I mean it reflects the current sentiment of middle class American families better than just about anything else I have seen this year. It is hopeful, but also realistic; funny, but also poignant. Paul Giamatti once again manages to portray a character who could very easily come across sleazy as very sympathetic and Amy Ryan gives one of the best supporting turns of the year. Newcomer Alex Shaffer gives one of the most authentic teenage boy performances in years.

It’s easy to compare Win Win to Moneyball because both in theme and content they are quite similar. However, where Moneyball succeeds slightly more is in its stronger focus on one man’s story as a microcosm for a larger sentiment. Win Win occasionally gets distracted by its fascination with the sport of wrestling whereas Moneyball never let’s baseball get in the way. Still, both are well worth a look as undoubtedly the two greatest sports movies of the year.

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Grade: B+ | 3rd Viewing

In the dozens of Iraq war movies that have been released in the last decade, there is none the portrays the modern soldier experience nearly as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 Best Picture winner. Feelings of fear, frustration, and confusion seep out of the screen making the conflict in the Middle East seem depressingly hopeless and inspiring true sympathy for the soldiers involved. How is one supposed to differentiate between a suicide bomber and a vendor selling used DVDs when both look and act the same?

On my third viewing of this film I thought it was a little longer than it needed to be and the scene where James leads his two comrades on a late-night manhunt after an explosion felt redundant. However, the film will likely always be suspenseful and fascinating, no matter how many viewings.

What movies did you see this weekend?

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  • Jose

    First Viewing
    I loved it! Really sad that its not a big hit at the box office but hopefully a lot of people will catch it on DVD. And usually I hate Seth Rogen, but there was a scene in the movie where he actually brought me to tears.

    Paranormal Activity 3.
    I’ve loved the series and I’ve even defended the second film that gets too much hate in my opinion, but the latest entry in the franchise just didn’t agree with me. The first film felt fresh and exciting, but in here it feels like its wearing thin, it didn’t offer anything new and there were too many “jump scares” and too few authentic scares (which were actually great, there just wasn’t enough of them though), and I hated the use of CG in the film, it felt off compared to how the first two didn’t use that. Overall it felt more like a lame set-up for Paranormal Activity 4 instead of a stand alone feature that raised more questions instead of answering them. And since I want to see how the franchise ends I’m going to see part 4.

    1st Viewing
    Currently watching it, not done with it, I’m really loving it so far though.

    • I’m very excited to hear your thoughts on the film that I find to be Fritz Lang’s masterpiece.

  • Agreed with Alex: “M” is fantastic.

    Did not see anything this week, aside from “Cougar Town’s” first season, which gets a solid A-. Some of the early episodes are a little weak, but after that the show becomes one of the best sitcoms on TV. Currently well into season 2, which is even better.

    After I’m done with that, I’ll be getting back into movies. Not sure what films yet, though. Need to check out “Bridesmaids”, as well as “Tree of Life” (though that won’t be available on Netflix until early November).

  • Brandon Cooley

    The King’s Speech (2nd viewing): A
    I watched this and then saw half an hour of The Soical Network right after on TV and I’ve decided that while King’s Speech deserved Best Picture, David Fincher deserved to win Best Director.

    John Adams part 5: A
    Reading the book and watching the movie. Of course it’s great as always.

    Nightmare Before Christmas: B+
    It’s much more loud and obnoxious than what I had remembered, but it still looks great.

  • – Secrets and Lies – A+
    (My most favortie movie of 1996 right now, Brenda Blethyn should have been given Best Actress Oscar and according to me one of the best performances i have ever seen in my life. a truly spectacular movie in every way. i am now a big Mike Leigh fan)
    – Beginners – B+
    (Heart breaking and heart touching at the same time, it had some terrific moments and a good performance by both Plummer and McGregor).

    – Beautiful Boy – C+
    (i saw it just because of the review of CASEY on We Need To Talk About Kevin since he said it has the same type of story. i liked it somehow it is mainly based on what happened after … well i appreciate the performances but it was dull in many parts.)

    – Nosferatu – B+
    (a pretty good horror movie that kind of led the foundation for Dracula movies, it wasn’t very scary but the story was creepy. i thought it was great film making and to take subject like that in that time the way they did was just awsome.)

    – Vampyr – A-
    (i saw it as a double bill with Nosferatu and i liked this one far more. it was very slow but extremely creepy and far more atmospheric and eerie)

    – Red State – C-
    (a friend of mine forced me to watch this movie. it wasn’t like horror but those religious persons were scary. i thought it was quite below average and i am not a Kevin Smith fan)

    • and among the movies Alex saw ….

      The Hurt Locker gets an A+ (i love this movie so much it as a fantastic and different film making that i appreciate but don’t know why people hate this movie).

      Win Win gets an A (i thought this was one of the best Indie movies of the year quite inspiring and just excellent, i wish it gets a Screenplay nod).

      and i haven’t seen The American movie :)

    • @Asif – Glad you checked out Beautiful Boy. When you see “Kevin” you will see some similarities, but its pretty great how the two are about the same event occurring – yet two very different movies. I did prefer WNTTAK, however I did enjoy elements of Beautiful Boy – especially Maria Bello’s performance.

      – And for the record I LOVED American Movie! – B+

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