what i watched last week
Monday, June 09, 2014
Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990). This was Wong’s second feature as director, and his first collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle. It certainly feels like a Wong Kar-wai movie … it’s no surprise that his next film was Chungking Express. It isn’t up to the standards set by his classic, In the Mood for Love, but that’s not a fair comparison, and it’s better than Fallen Angels. A dream cast (Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Jacky Cheung, even, briefly, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) led to hopes of a big success at the box office, which didn’t happen. The film’s reputation remains stellar. #400 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. Match this up with another Wong Kar-wai movie, and you’ve got a fine double bill (perhaps Chungking Express). (I should note that I watched a subpar print, especially damaging when it comes to Doyle’s work. This one deserves another shot under better conditions.)
World Without End (Edward Bernds, 1956). A title that could suggest a lot of things … choose “1950s sci-fi B-movie” and you’ll have the right suggestion. A lot of my writing about these movies boils down to trivia lists, because it’s not always worth it to examine the movie in great detail (which doesn’t stop me from watching them, of course). World Without End has a plot you’ve seen before … maybe this was the first time we got the “astronauts return from mission and mysterious things occur” plot, although I doubt it. It was billed, incorrectly, as “CinemaScope’s First Science-Fiction Thriller”, and it was in Technicolor. It featured one of Rod Taylor’s early roles. The costumes for the hot-cha babes were designed by Vargas of pin-up painting fame. And it’s mostly junk. The special effects aren’t any good, even in the context of B-movies. The set design is initially interesting, but the novelty wears off. For comparison, check out Forbidden Planet.
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014). New Godzilla movies demand superlatives. Is this Gareth Edwards best movie? (It’s only his second feature, after his fine cheapie, Monsters.) Is this the best Godzilla movie ever? (I’d say its only real competition is the 1954 original.) Is it better than Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s top-notch monster blockbuster of last year? (I think they’re about equally strong.) This one has a nice structure, where the setup builds, we get a monster, we get some nuclear claptrap, we get visionary, misunderstood scientists, and then about halfway through, Godzilla himself finally shows up. And he’s impressive … Edwards and his crew have done a great job of working with visual perspective, so we know how big the monsters are compared to humans, and there isn’t the kind of now-he’s-bigger, now-he’s-smaller problem that affects cheaper productions. The 3D was interesting, as well. There weren’t many of the usual WOW moments, but Edwards played around with placing people close to us while big battles played farther away. It was distracting in a good way … I kept thinking someone in the theater was walking in front of me, and afterwards, I realized it was a bit like watching MST3K with the guys sitting in front of the screen. Godzilla is an honest attempt to continue the tradition of the original, using a big budget not to knock us on our asses a la Michael Bay but instead to make a better film. It should be obvious what to watch with this: the original Gojira, and/or Pacific Rim.