12 Monkeys (1996)

12 Monkeys
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples based on Chris Marker’s film La Jetee
(number 466)

I first watched this movie at the movies in 1996/7 (whenever it got released in NZ) with a bunch of my friends. I remember that we saw it at Midcity cinemas and I can’t remember why we went to go see it but it blew our minds. Once the credits started rolling we started arguing about what had actually happened. We eventually left the cinema but had to stop again at the top of the escalators. We realised we were in people’s way and went down the escalator before arguing again at the bottom! It’s one of those films.

This time round I watched it on a sick day when I had to keep going to the bathroom and had a nap halfway through. It was a really good nap.

The opening music and iconography in this film are killer. The weird red monkeys spiralling away, the insistent and mysterious tones of the music. Then it goes into a strange dream sequence and am even stranger reality where Bruce Willis is a captive who is forced to go into a post-apocalyptic frozen Earth to retrieve living specimens.

I very much enjoy this film but I can’t quite get away from the director’s quirks: so much detail in almost every shot, so much evil bureaucracy and weird torture/bondage whenever it can be justified. Once I notice a director’s quirks like this (when I don’t appreciate them) I find them a bit too obvious and therefore distracting.

Madeline Stowe is a psychologist in ‘the present’ where James Cole has been returned to. And she fulfills her role as a very beautiful therapist who makes a connection with James. He sweeps her up in his story later on because he didn’t know what else to do when he had no money. She goes from thinking he’s totally crazy to seeing evidence that he really is a time traveller. In the same moment he becomes convinced that she was right and he is totally crazy, meaning she has to convince him that the stuff he’s said previously was true. It’s a clever narrative switch which is the kind of thing I think is necessary in time travel movies because it’s so easy to have the same ‘avoid the paradox’ kind of plot. The smarter the better when it comes to time travel scripts.

Brad Pitt plays a delightfully nutty dude who James encounters a couple of times and he’s a brilliant kook to assign the guilt of the end of the world plot too.

Creepy voice character who follows James around is a specially terrifying touch. Can he be trusted? Who is he really? Is he on James’ side or does he want to help him? I remember it was the first time surround sound in a cinema really freaked me out, because when the voice is speaking to James for the first time in the cell the voice kept coming from a different single speaker, moving about the space of the theatre.

Does it make me love the people? I guess so. It’s not a deep riveting examination of the human soul but you can see these characters wanting to do what’s right – in their unique flawed definitions of right – and you do feel for them.

Bechdel test: Madeline Stowe’s Kathryn speaks to the woman cabbie and the ticket agent but sadly ‘woman cabbie’ and ‘ticket agent’ is how they’re credited so it doesn’t pass. Jones is the only other woman character with a name and significant lines but they never speak to each other.

Best line:
I really like James Cole: All I see are dead people. – on account of the 5th element pre-reference that happened.

But I think the actual best line is: Oh, wouldn’t it be great if I *was* crazy? Then the world would be okay.

State of Mind: I remember this movie packing a huge punch when I first saw it. I think it’s lost its impact on repeated viewings. That said there’s lots of neat bits and cool lines, and I ultimately think it’s a great film and worth seeing. Just maybe not too often.

… I wonder if I should track down the TV show they’ve made of it?

Watched movie count

Snatch (2000)

Snatch
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie
(number 467)

I believe I’ve actually only watched this once before and it was back in like, 2001 and I was pretty sick with a fever so my experience of it was definitely tainted by being sort of high with fever and convinced I could understand everything Brad Pitt said. Also I had to pause the movie part way through and have like, a two hour fever nap. Mostly I remembered this film as the not as fun, more violent successor to Lock Stock. I found, watching it again that I remembered barely anything about the story or the characters.

Brad Pitt is awesome. he vanishes into the characters he’s cast as and it’s so very well done in this film, where he plays the fast, unintelligible brogue of a ‘pikey’ or Gypsy/Romany. He’s funny and roguish and damn charismatic. Plus he looks great with his shirt off and fake tats so that doesn’t hurt.

This whole movie is funny, roguish and charismatic actually. Mr Madonna’s follow up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels didn’t do as well as the former, as I recall. The movie is a quick jump into a stylised seedy underbelly of London with very little scene or character setting. It’s full of men, fast talking swearing men doing crimes and backstabbing each other over some diamonds and a boxing match.

It’s a good film for actors before they were real big, like Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. Benicio Del Toro doesn’t often get a lead role so it’s nice for him too.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno, it’s a movie about style, not really about real people. I appreciate the movie because it’s the forerunner of films like ‘In Bruges’ which I really love. But I don’t know, the characters are cool and stupid and not just hard to empathise with but kind of repulsive. So, I’d say that’s a no.

Bechdel test: there are a couple of vaguely named women but they talk to the men, and generally about other men. I didn’t notice them ever talking to each other, it’s such a man centric film.

Best line:
Avi: I’m gettin’ heartburn. Tony, do something terrible.

State of Mind: That movie was not as fun as I remembered and actually pretty violent and the story was much less involving. It’s too scattered and not enough time is given to who the characters are, it’s so hard to care about them and what’s going on. I guess it’s the style choice, like ADD story of dudes who are bad at crime but I just didn’t enjoy watching it very much.

Watched movie count

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Written by Andrew Dominik based on the novel by Ron Hansen
(number 401)

Brad Pitt headed slow artsy movie about wild West outlaws, Jesse being a bit past his prime but oozing cool in every scene. It’s beautifully shot, reminds me some of True Grit or other modern Westerns, very lyrical in the way they’re filmed. Lots of scenery and sharp lighting. Lots of orange and teal.

Robert Ford is played by Casey Affleck with a goofy charm, a fan boy to Pitt’s James, wanting so much to be with him and also be cool about it. I thought it was odd that Jesse sent Robert away so early in the movie, the story didn’t exactly flow for me. But then, maybe it’s meant to be more about the atmosphere and the characters than the story.. it did feel rather episodic.

Sam Rockwell was very good as Jesse’s slightly dim brother, I enjoyed his performance.

Look I love a good Western but I’m not sure I can classify this as a good one. I am used to them being slow, and full of stoic people, but somehow this one didn’t gel. Maybe it’s to do with it being self consciously made to be slow and sparse to be like the Leone movies instead of using the pace and the silence of its characters to mean something.

Does it make me love the people? Well this is hard to answer to be honest. Everyone’s a slow drawling cool person who likes to stare a lot. I found it a bit tough to connect to them as humans. I guess I do feel for Jesse and Robert, I think I’d care a lot more if they made it more about a gay obsession than just a messed up hero worship. It would be easier to connect to.

I know people complain about the multiple endings of Return of the King but jeeze, it seemed like this movie had seven thousand false endings. I was very ready for it to be over!

Bechdel test: there are barely women in it. There’s like, one woman and she has maybe two scenes where she talks. This movie is allllll about the menfolks. Zooey Deschenal gets a couple of words at the end. Really not a women movie.

Best line:

Jesse James: [Bob walks in on Jesse in the bath] Go away.
Robert Ford: Used to be nobody could sneak up on Jesse James.
Jesse James: Now you think otherwise?
Robert Ford: I ain’t never seen you without your guns, neither.
[Jesse removes a towel, revealing his gun]
Jesse James: [pause] Can’t figure it out: do you want to be like me or do you want to BE me?
Robert Ford: [defeated] I’m just making fun is all.

State of Mind: I think my favourite bit was Nick Cave’s cameo. Oh and seeing Zooey Deschenal playing a bit more sombre than normal.

Watched movie count

Oceans Eleven

Number 500 on the list.

A heist movie. Remake of a brat pack movie and a definitely vehicle for George Clooney, Brad Pitt and to a lesser extent Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts to be terribly cool.

Blair pointed out that Brad Pitt is almost always eating, which was pretty funny. He looked so young! And Matt Damon’s Linus was adorably goofy, especially when he had to wear a suit and be suave.

Overall it was a funny, fun movie.

I dunno if it’s one of the 500 best movies I’ve ever seen. It made me want to watch similar films like The Italian Job, Blues Bothers or Mission Impossible or something.

It’s hard not to be charmed though. I enjoyed it, I laughed, I was rooting for them. I just kinda feel like, it’s a bit forgettable. Maybe there’s been too many movies of this kind, maybe it was too self conscious of how cool it was?

Good start to the project though, it was cute, and I may watch it again some day. Maybe.