Monday, 4 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and friends

Thus begins the first post in a weekly series of movie reviews by Dallas Petersen. Helen wanted me to add some movie reviews to put a bit of variety on her blog. So, this will be a weekly segment, and all are free to make comments about my reviews, tell me I'm pretentious, or brilliant, or just plain crap. I can't promise all these reviews will be of current films. For those of you with children, you know how difficult it can be to get out to the movies, even for someone like me who used to see EVERYTHING. Nowadays, we just can't be bothered taking the trouble to go out. Isabel is great when we take her to movies, and she usually sits up in her seat and enjoys most of the film. But, taking a 1 year old anywhere is still a lot of work. And for Helen and I to go out alone involves finding a babysitter, which costs money, not to mention the fact that we actually have to TALK to someone to ask them to babysit Isabel.

This means that most of the films reviewed in this weekly segment will probably be movies we've rented instead of seen in the cinema. And sometimes I may just review some old classics just because I want to, because HEY... this is MY segment! Along with the weekly review will also be a series of movie lists. I'm NUTS about top 10 lists or top 5 lists about whatever movie genre you can think of. As I'm the type of person who can never pick a favorite movie (there's just too many good films to pick just one!) I love breaking down my favorites into various lists so that everyone can feel special!

I hope you enjoy reading these reviews as much as I love writing. And anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE talking film, so please feel free to start up a conversation on any of these reviews.

Top Five Pixar Feature Films

1. Finding Nemo

2. Toy Story 2

3. Toy Story


5. The Incredibles

*The Assassination of My Sleep by the Father of 28 Children, Brad Pitt*
a review by Dallas

Produced and starring Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an elegent vision of the final days in the life of the outlaw Jesse James. Assassination was written and directed by Andrew Dominik who's previous film was the  Australian made Chopper, which plays more like a sledgehammer to the brain and couldn't be more different to Assassination in mood and tone, though they both examine men who have become famous in their own time for thieving and murdering.

Assassination is a revisionist look at the American anti-hero, presenting James as a neurotic man very conscious, but not altogether comfortable with his own fame.  Pitt is superb as Jesse James. He brings a quiet complexity to the role, and his descents into paranoia flow easily with the rest of his characterization. But the standout performance, in a film of fine performances, is by Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. Affleck is unnerving as Robert Ford, and he dominates every scene that he's in, even stealing the show from Brad Pitt.

Watching Assassination is like reading an epic poem, or examining a vast oil painting; if patient, there is much to be enjoyed or savored. But the reverent tone of the film is at odds with the characters that inhabit the screen, who are mostly petty criminals. James himself is man that is shown lovingly engaging with his family in one scene, and shooting a friend in the back in another scene. The filmmakers have attempted to show Jesse James as a man, and not a mythic hero. But by presenting James amid the jaw dropping landscapes, hypnotic music, and long takes, there is an aura of reverence surrounding this character responsible for murdering seventeen men and robbing several banks and trains.

It is in this reverent tone that the filmmakers make their mistake. This is a gorgeously shot film by consummate cinematographer Roger Deakins, of Cohen Brothers fame. When watching this 2 1/2 hour 'piece of art', one is constantly aware of watching a film (especially if you're straining to keep your eyes open at midnight while watching it). There is never a moment when Assassination sweeps you away into just enjoying the story, and forgetting that you're watching such a gorgeous film. The filmmakers feel they are making a great movie, about a complex man, and they want the audience to know it.

*** Stars out of four.


fifi said...

yay! a gigantuously long post. that's what I like to see. I wish I could write like you dal. peace out

Melanie said...

Yeah, I'm not sure I'm 100% with you on the Pixar list... but that's just a matter of preference. & YAY for movie review weekly!

I am TOTALLY with you on Jesse James. I had to split my watching of it up into 2 nights because I couldn't keep my eyes open. It's so... quiet! As you say it's beautiful (and we know I love beautiful), and the acting is AMAZING. (Who knew Casey had that in him?) But it's so slow...

What is the deal with quiet movies these days? I don't get it. If I wanted that much time to think, I'd read. :)

Dal, Hel & Bel said...

Yep, that's exactly why I started with Pixar films. There are precious few of them to choose from, and people seem to be fiercely loyal to the ones that they like. So, I thought it would inspire people to comment about it.

I honestly don't think Pixar's made anything other than fabulous films, and they appear impervious to bad filmmaking. But I do feel strongly that Finding Nemo is, so far, their crowning acievement.
PS. Have you seen "Gone Baby Gone"? Casey delivers another brilliant performance. Who would have thought?

Melanie said...

yeah. It's true. Gone Baby gone is actually what inspired me to watch Jesse James. Casey was amazing in that, but in this he is SO far outside of himself and STILL so amazing that I found it even more impressive.

MY top 5 Pixar are as follows:
1. Finding Nemo
2. Toy Story 2
3. The Incredibles
4. Ratatouille
5. Monsters, INC.

Finding Nemo IS the best of the bunch in my opinion as well. But they can really do no wrong. There just a few I like a little less (like Cars and Bug's Life)

And now I'm going to stop monopolizing the comments. I should just email you. :)