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politics, and taking a leak

what i watched last week

Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga, 2011). You can’t make a movie of Jane Eyre without everyone knowing you’re dealing with a classic, but as much as possible, Fukunaga makes this just another movie, and I mean that as a compliment. Yes, it is as dark and mysterious as Jane Eyre should be, and no, it isn’t played as some awful modernization. But it does seem fresh. The actress who plays Jane is usually too old and too pretty; at least Mia Wasikowska is the right age, and she gives the impression of someone who is old for her years instead of older than she should be. 8/10.

A Safe Place (Henry Jaglom, 1971). After writing about Drive, He Said last week, I suppose I can admit that one of my Xmas presents was the BBS box set. I think this was my first Jaglom film, and I’m not exactly looking forward to my second. A Safe Place is pretentious and insular (Anaïs Nin liked it) … my guess is it means nothing to anyone but Jaglom, so David Lynch fans would probably like it. It does make me nostalgic for that period of American movies, and its experimental nature is worth praising. But I could barely stay awake when I had to actually watch it. Tuesday Weld made this just before Play It As It Lays, and she gives herself to the role in ways she didn’t manage in that movie. It’s not her fault she’s swimming in quicksand. The best things about the movie are the trivial ones. Jack Nicholson agreed to be in it without pay, as long as they gave him a color TV. Orson Welles keeps popping up. Gwen Welles (no relation) makes her movie debut and has one strong scene. And Philip Proctor of Firesign Theatre fame (and father of Kristin Proctor of Wire fame) is the male lead. None of which helps. 3/10.

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001). I wrote about this one in the early days of this blog, and here I am ten years later seeing if I like it any more than I did then. Nope. I preened a bit over the line “It's not a movie about people with quirks; it's a movie about quirks masquerading as people.” It was one of the best lines I wrote for this blog in its first couple of months. And it’s still true. The Royal Tenenbaums isn’t like any other movie, which is to say it’s standard Wes Anderson. Anderson’s desire for originality deserves praise, but by itself such desires don’t guarantee a good movie. Just ask Henry Jaglom. Since first seeing Tenenbaums, I’ve seen a couple of newer Anderson movies, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. All three of these get 6/10 from me. The only Wes Anderson movie I ever actually liked was Rushmore, and even that is balanced out by Bottle Rocket, which was every bit as mediocre as Rushmore was good.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Roger Corman, 1963). This week’s Creature Feature. Roger Corman obviously has his hands all over this new “what i watched tradition” … this is the 6th film in the series, and Corman directed three of them. It’s worth noting in this context that Corman had some influence on the BBS crowd, mostly through Jack Nicholson. And while Corman never made anything remotely as good as Five Easy Pieces or The Last Picture Show, I’d much rather watch X for the tenth time than sit through A Safe Place again. Whatever else they were, Roger Corman movies were not pretentious. This time he gets an Oscar winner (Ray Milland) for the lead, finds room for the inevitable Dick Miller, spends less than $300,000, and gets the whole thing done in three weeks. This one has a more philosophical bent than the usual Corman movie, and it has a final scene that burned itself on my brain when I was a kid and which is just as amazing today. 6/10.

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