Remote Access

with George

Category: 2000s

Man with the Movie Camera -1929- Old Joy -2006-

Film is a universal language? Maybe. But I think storytelling is the language and film is the dialect.


Somebody on Flixster called Man with the Movie Camera “Communist propaganda.” I missed that part. I didn’t see any communism here. I just saw a day in the life of the streets in the Soviet Union.

I understand why this movie is important. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, because I did, but I could never love it. That’s because I love narrative, and this didn’t have enough of it. It shouldn’t have had more, though. I’m glad that someone did something this different.

It took awhile, but I warned up for this film. At first, I thought this would be a “one night stand” movie (top 10 list coming soon, I hope)… a film I only saw once. But now, I might see it again, and I’ll probably enjoy it even more the second time. (Still no love, though.)

I will never love Old Joy either, but that’s for another reason: it wasn’t a good film. Spoiler alert: nothing happens. The last five minutes is, for me, the only rewarding part. If I may hate on C-SPAN for just a moment, an hour of Old Joy is equal to an hour and a half in C-SPAN time.

Man with the Movie Camera: there are worse ways to spend an hour. ***

Old Joy: there are worse ways to spend an hour, but that doesn’t mean you should watch this movie. **

Notes:

  • How about that pre-Claymation in Camera?
  • Both of these films are available now on Netflix Instant, but Man with the Movie Camera will expire on November 1.
  • If you see and find beauty in Man with the Movie Camera, I suggest you see My Winnipeg.
  • Coming soon: October Recap and the final 70s poll.

Lymelife (2008)

**½

Lymelife is a movie about deer killing, pool tables, and very, very awkward love-making scenes.

Alec Baldwin plays Mickey, a father of two living in rural New York. Mickey is a man who probably never says sorry, even when he means it. Scott, his youngest son, is having bully and girl troubles. Jimmy, his grown-up son who is apparently in the Army, has come home for awhile, and I don’t really know why his character is in this movie. Charlie Bragg, the Bartletts’ neighbor, has recently contracted lyme disease, and is distant because of it. His wife, losing interest, sleeps with Mickey. Everything starts going wrong when everyone finds out.

Lymelife would have benefited from a bit more backstory to its characters. Show, don’t tell. This movie doesn’t show, it just tells. It tries to show suburban life, but this isn’t suburbia (despite what “Jimmy” tells us). Why are these characters doing the things they’re doing? Only so much can be blamed on acting. And it tries to be funny, but the humor is usually too dark, too hit-or-miss, or too steeped in sad dramatic irony for it to work.

Timothy Hutton’s speech in the 51st minute was one of the most powerful of the film, but I was drawn out because of the poor delivery and performance. These words (are supposed to) mean more to this man than Scott can imagine, yet he’s just blurting them out without any emotion. He has another supposed-to-be-strong scene later in the film, with Alec Baldwin. It’s better, but it still falls a bit flat, and I think I have to blame that on Baldwin, one of my favorites.

I never really bought Adrianna or the storyline between her and Scott. I understand why it has to be in the movie, but better acting and better writing in one or two scenes alone would have made this film substantially better. The scene in which the bully gets beat up, though, is shot beautifully. We only see what’s happening through the reflection on the car window. The 1970s atmosphere is very believable. The vomit scene interestingly shot, with no words… only emotion (finally).

The movie picks up (albeit rather late) when Baldwin’s character is kicked out of his own house because his wife, portrayed by a very good Jill Hennessy, can’t stand his cheating anymore. Scott and his father reunite one night, though, smoking together. That’s one of the scenes that is heartfelt and works. It gains momentum from there, benefiting from being about just the three central Bartletts. They actually feel like a real, struggling family at this point. I found interesting that on his confirmation day, Scott is forced to wear a robe that has his father’s name on it.

Lymelife is interesting… mostly during the last half hour, though. If you want to see a better version of this movie, please check out The Squid and the Whale.

Notes:

  • Why do their kids look like that? Why did they cast the Culkin brothers? Rory can’t seem to act during the first half of the movie.
  • Scott and Ralphie from A Christmas Story fight very similarly.
  • “Nice shirt there, big guy.”
  • “I’m not like Radar, okay! I just do what he does on the show!”
  • “The inside of a jelly donut.”

The Life of Reilly (2006)

***½

Charles Nelson Reilly was born in the Bronx. January 13th. I hadn’t heard of him before watching this documentary. He was very, very excited to tell me his story, though.

Reilly’s appeared in many plays and TV shows, but is, according to Wikipedia, most famous for being a panelist on a game show called “Match Game.” The Life of Reilly is actually his comedy act, and in the film, he is performing it for the very last time. His good luck sign, according to him is rain. He noted that it was raining the night this documentary was taped… the final night of his show. The night in which he would recap his entire life’s story.

He seems to be improvising his entire act. He starts off at one point, goes on from memory, then just says whatever he recalls about the subject. But everything word he utters is filled with emotion. His act isn’t all comedy. He talks about his father being institutionalized, his aunt getting a lobotomy, as well as his uncle’s “active social life.” And when his audience reacts negatively to something “surprising” he says, Reilly quickly exclaims “well, it’s that kind of show!” From joy to sorrow, it’s all here, in this show.

He has a rather lonely childhood, but describes his first encounter with a theater very warmly. That is where he belongs. This entire movie is staged within a stage. I think that touch was fitting, since so much of his life was hoping to be, wanting to be, and then, finally, being onstage. His mother always told him to “save it for the stage.” And he did.

Stray notes:

  • The end scene, in which he is talking to the pelican, is the best. Very heartwarming.
  • Reilly reminds me of numerous relatives. Many of them are insane.
  • “My mother didn’t know whether to s*** or go blind. That’s an old french theater term.”

Paranoid Park (2008)

***

This movie is not a blockbuster. It’s a movie made up, not of big monsters or explosions, but of fragmented memories and guilt. It is neither decidedly sad nor happy. It just studies a boy who makes a tragic mistake.

The boy’s name is Alex, and he accidentally kills a man near a scary skating park called Paranoid Park.

The early scene in which Alex talks to the detective is especially interesting. The camera focuses on him. He knows all the right answers. He never hesitates. He never blinks. The camera does the same thing when he’s interrogated by his mother, and also when he talks to his father. The focus of the movie is him. The focus of certain scenes, however, may not be him. When he breaks up with his girlfriend, later, the moment isn’t about him, as it means way more to her.

I’m not into skating. Or stickers of middle fingers. Or wearing hats indoors. And I hate “scream-o.” When I saw what Alex did (spoiler alert: the man gets cut in half, and they show him crawling around with only half his body), my initial reaction was one devoid of forgiveness. But the beauty of this film is how it got me to sympathize with him. He didn’t know what he was doing. He is scared. There is now a loud load of strange bird noises pushing down on his entire body.

The movie had faults and weaknesses, but its emotions were so strong and real that it doesn’t matter.