Friday, October 31, 2014

Short Notes on Whiplash, Birdman and Nightcrawler

Here are shorts reviews of the last three movies I watched.


I was not looking forward to this movie. Thought it would be a hyper masculine, "what it means to be a man"story. I was burned pretty bad by a few of those. Yes I'm looking at you Lone Survivor and Out of the Furnace. And yes it was exactly that, but I loved the shit ot of it, and that's mainly because of Miles Teller. What an actor; he grounds the story in a nakedly emotional place that is a joy to watch and react to. He's a student drummer trying to become great while being bullied by his profanity spewing teacher (J K Simmons). Teller, who was also great last year in The Spectacular Now, is going to have a long career.


I saw Birdman twice. First I wasn't impressed. I was too distracted by the intruding jazz score that I could not get into the story. I went back because I've liked every movie Alejandro G Innaritu has directed and because I suspected I might have missed something. Stories about actors are totally in my wheelhouse. And yes I liked it much better the second time around. Mainly a story of an actor in crisis about his position in the world and his legacy; its ideas about the pull between art and commerce are simplistic and nothing new. However the actors are great. And of course you've heard about the one take gimmick. That's pretty great too and definitely new and opens the story in spectacular ways allowing the scenes to breathe and the dialogue to settle. Michael Keaton in the lead is good and is matched mano a mano by an excellent Edward Norton as his nemesis. My two favorite scenes were when they both try to one up the other by showing what great actors they are. I wish the women had much to do. More women than men in this movie but they literally play : girlfriend, girfield, ex-wife, daughter and crazy old bitch critic. I enjoyed it more the second time once I accepted its heightened flights of fancy that were hard to swallow first time around. Fun but not profound.


Easily my favorite of the three. An insightful satire about the false American values of striving for success, it is also a hugely entertaining movie. The movie is bolstered by a bristiling committed performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as a man desperately needing success who finds work as a LA gonzo reporet specializing in videotaping crime scenes. He's matched by an on fire Rene Russo as a TV news reporter. They both come blazing at each other and a fantastic scene where they match wits is so good people will be talking about it after the movie ends. A lot of the drivel Gyllenhaal's character spews reminded me of many a nighmarish conversation I had in the hallways of corporate America. It sent a shiver down my spine. Nightcrawler brilliantly succeeds at what The Wolf of Wall Street tried to do last year; provide a biting critique of some of the values that make us lose our way. And in 2 hours no less; no excess with this movie.

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