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Pretentious Movie Alert: August, 2008

Alert! It's time to do a run-down of the pretentious movies that have or will be hitting your local arthouse movie theater! After catching The Dark Knight at our local arthouse movie theater (cuz, you know, Batman=Art), I realized that although mega-blockbusters, especially ones as awesome as TDK are great, I really must be utilizing the nearby pretentious house to see pretentious movies more often. Clearly, the Blogulator's definition of the word "pretentious" may differ from Webster's Dictionary version. We loves the arty stuff here! Recently, I was able to see a few of these said pretentious-like movies.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
It's become a yearly ritual for a new Woody Allen movie to be declared to be a "return to form", but Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the first new Woody Allen movie in my memory that has actually lived up to those heavy words. Naturally, I believe that stems from the fact that this movie is a return to Allen's strengths as a writer / director -- relationship films that have comedy and emotional depth. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is no exception -- it is a more clear descendent of his best films like Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan, and Annie Hall (probably the most similar to Hannah) than his awkwardly constructed recent screwball comedies like Scoop and too-serious chamber dramas like Match Point and Cassandra's Dream. This movie has just about everything working in favor of it -- the script is smart, the acting is top-notch, and the cinematography is at times jaw-dropping.

Of course, one could say Allen's scripts are only as good as the actors performances, and in this movie, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are outstanding. Every time they are on-screen together, you are left wanting more scenes with them together. Scarlett Johannson also gives a decent performance as well, aided by her role as a more realistic person than any of the other roles given to her by Allen. And Rebecca Hall as Vicky portrays a typical Allen female, more of the Mia Farrow ilk than Diane Keaton, and does the job admirably. The biggest "star", though, was Barcelona and the beautiful scenery and settings. The film practically works solely as a Spain tourism commercial; I want to visit Spain now more than ever, especially if I'm visiting relatives who live in a totally sweet house, like Vicky and Cristina do.

Overall, Allen's made his most fully satisfying movie since 1992's Husbands and Wives by treading territory he's previously mastered but giving it an emotional depth that hasn't been seen in any of his movies in years. His better output in the past fifteen years has still had its share of awkward, half-baked moments (2004's underrated Melinda and Melinda could have been great had it been more tightly developed) and his better period films like Sweet and Lowdown and Bullets Over Broadway were fun but didn't have much below the surface. Suffice it to say, it's nice to see that once in a while, Woody Allen can still pull out a great film. Having him around consistently churning out a movie a year is at times frustrating, but when the results work, it is totally inspiring.

Funny Games
Yeeeeesh, where do I start? Michael Haneke's shot-by-shot remake of his 1998 Austrian-made film of the same name has wormed into my head the same way the the intruder characters, Peter and Paul (played by Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt, respectively). The basic idea of this movie is this -- we as audience members are being punished for our desire for the thriller / horror genre by being subjected to a thriller / horror with nearly all of the violence off-screen, characters making frustrating decisions, and characters winking at the camera. Is it possible to give a movie a high rating for pushing all of the audiences buttons in disturbing us and making us feel bad? In this case, yes. Technically, this film is flawlessly made and acted (Pitt and Corbet will no doubt linger in my brain and disturb me more than any movie villians I can think of, and Naomi Watts was, as usual, outstanding). And if Haneke's purpose for making the film was to make audiences have a reaction, then he was totally succesful.

But, I would argue that his film, almost certainly intended to be an "intellectual" way of condemning the audience, was anti-intellectual. The movie prompted heated discussion amongst the Blogulator staff that, ultimately, proved what? That we all felt gross for having watched it? If Haneke's purpose for making (or, in this case, re-making) the film was to generate a reaction, perhaps a guilty reaction, what good, productive, original kind of reaction does that prompt? In short, I loved this movie, and hated it. No doubt, Haneke is somewhere smiling, or the equivilant to slowly folding his fingers together in a "Yes, yes I am very pleased" kind of way. Like I said, yeeeeeeeesh.

Pretentious Movie
From the guys who brought you Epic Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, and the upcoming Disaster Movie, the Blogulator has uncovered a script excerpt* of their newest project Pretentious Movie. Featuring hilarious spoofs of movies like There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and Pan's Labyrinth, as well as other classics like Fellini's 8 1/2 and Bergman's The Seventh Seal (with a hilarious cameo by Leslie Nielsen as Death), this sure-fire blockbuster hit is slated to hit theaters in December, just in time for awards movie season. I smell an Oscar nom for Carmen Electra.

Shot of Daniel Plainview's shoes, walking quickly and purposefully down
a hallway. When the camera zooms out, it is revealed that he is walking down the hall of a nursing home, alongside H.W. Plainview, toward the nursing home's cafeteria, where he plans to give a presentation.

Daniel Plainview Lookalike: Ladies and gentleman, my name is Daniel
Plainview. This is my partner and son, H.W. I'm an oilman.

Shot of hot babe, definitely Carmen Electra, walking into room holding a can of black oil, pouring the oil generously over her ample bosom.

Carmen Electra: Did somebody say...oil?

Shot of old guy in the back with an erection. Also, he's probably got a super hairy chest or something gross like that.

Surely, this will be a smash hit. My full review will come later when this hits the theaters.**

*By script excerpt, the Blogulator concedes that this is a fictional excerpt.
**By hitting the theaters, the Blogulator means, not hitting the theaters, since it's not real. Sorry.

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  1. Blogger Sean | 12:21 AM |  

    Manhattan, good? It was a pile of crap.

    And Melinda and Melinda? Utter garbage, I couldn't even finish that one.

    I do like Woody Allen, though, and this Barcelona jive looks pretty cool.

  2. Blogger qualler | 9:01 AM |  

    Bogus, bro -- Manhattan is fantastic, if only for the gorgeous photography of the burrough itself. As a bonus, it also features Diane Keaton's anti-Annie Hall performance and a lot of Woody Allen-isms that he ends up recyclying throughout his career.

    What are your favorites, though, by Woody?

  3. Blogger qualler | 9:04 AM |  

    p.s. That photo at the top, I = Javier Bardem, Brigitte = Penelope Cruz, and Lady Amy = Scarlett Johannson.

  4. Blogger Brigitte | 9:45 AM |  

    score! i get to be penelope cruz!

  5. Blogger Brigitte | 9:45 AM |  

    also, i hated manhattan the first time i saw it, but after watching it a couple more times it became one of my favorites...

  6. Blogger Brigitte | 10:18 AM |  

    also, i hate to admit it, but the more i think about Funny Games the more i "like" it, though it did make me feel really icky, and i'd never want to see it again. i would have to call it a successful film, though, since it did get us all talking in a way that films don't usually do, and a couple days later i'm still thinking about it and trying to analyze it for myself.

  7. Blogger Sean | 11:35 AM |  

    my fav woody allen films.

    annie hall, match point, everyone (everydbody?) says i love you.

    the gorgeous photography is enough to save it? come on. that's a terrible reason to love a film about relationships.

    "ooh, that heist movie made no sense at all but they played a cool song, so i love it."

  8. Blogger Lady Amy | 11:48 AM |  

    Yes! I'm Scar Jo! She's soooooo hotttttt!

  9. Blogger qualler | 12:45 PM |  

    I agree with you in theory, Seanerino, but in this case, to me, the plot is secondary to the photography. The movie is supposed to function as an ode to Manhattan -- the Gershwin score, the numerous Manhattan landmarks featured ever-so-beautifully into scenes, etc. It also has great, memorable, funny scenes -- Diane Keaton and Woody Allen trading snobbish art criticism comes to mind. Just the dialogue itself is full of more great Woody Allen dialogue per capita than many of his movies.


    The plot is secondary to the dialogue and the photography. Of course, Woody Allen himself agrees with your assessment, Sean:


    I also liked Everybody Says I Love You and like Match Point better than a lot of people do, but find that one a little derivative of his better movie involving murder, Crimes & Misdemeanors. In fact, if I had to rank his movies, I'd do it this way...:

    1. Annie Hall
    2. Crimes & Misdemeanors
    3. Hannah & Her Sisters
    4. Manhattan
    5. Zelig

  10. Blogger qualler | 12:47 PM |  

    Oh yeah, actually Stardust Memories is tied with Zelig.

  11. Blogger qualler | 12:50 PM |  

    While I'm obsessively at it, here are his worst movies (in my opinion):

    Mighty Aphrodite
    Anything Else

    Really, though, just Anything Else is a terrible movie.

  12. Blogger Brigitte | 1:23 PM |  

    yikes, someone's in love with woody allen...why don't you marry woody allen, qualler?

    I really like Love and War and Shadows and Fog. those are two of my favorites. and I really did like Vicky Christina Barcelona. it was much better than i thought it would be, and I agree that Scarlett's acting seemed much better than usual.

  13. Blogger chris | 5:51 PM |  

    I hate Match Point SO MUCH. I can't handle so much melodrama. I like pretentiousness as much as the next guy, but the acting, plot twists, and overly dramatic camera work (not to mention the whole forced tennis metaphor) was just too much.

    Vicky Cristina Barcelona was great. Definitely in my top 5 of his films. I was talking to Qualler about this: when Woody wants to do a movie without comedy, he thinks the solution is to just add more drama. No, that's bad. Real bad. Cruz's character turned a mediocre movie with beautiful photography and clever dialogue into a fantastically fierce and funny movie.

    Only saw Manhattan once, but was bored to tears. Maybe I'll give it another go.

    My other faves: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Husbands and Wives. Annie Hall too of course.

    Curse of the Jade Scorpion is also practically intolerable.

  14. Blogger qualler | 6:05 PM |  

    Haha yeah I have thankfully not seen Curse of the Jade Scorpion, but I have seen both Small Time Crooks and Hollywood Ending in the theaters for some reason...Small Time Crooks was actually my first Woody Allen movie. Sorta funny, but as a 17 year old, it just seemed kind of weird. I'd definitely recommend Manhattan again, the first time I watched it I was expecting another Annie Hall...it's darker in tone and not as personally affecting, but to me it's his most cinematic movie.

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