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What We’ve Been Watching
2001: A Space Odyssey – Sometimes you just miss Kubrick, you know? This might just be my favorite of his films, tied with Dr. Strangelove, but this is infinitely more beautiful to look at. Every time I watch it I see something new, the images coupling together in alternate ways. Once time I see a statement against violence in humanity, the next I see a commentary on the process of evolution, and after that I see an experimental piece revolving around the one-point perspective and it’s statements about consciousness. Kubrick’s vision clashed a bit with that of Arthur C. Clark’s while they were working on the novel and script simultaneously, the differences stark, but I always appreciate seeing it onscreen. The whole of it contains such little amounts of dialog that it feels like a silent film through parts, but what dialog is there has been carefully selected for its key importance. Word selection was crucial to imagery. Kubrick himself never wanted to explain the film and so parts of it remain a mystery. While what happens is relatively straightforward, it’s what it means that complicates the interpretations.
House – Have you ever wanted to watch Scooby Doo with Japanese teenage girls and characters that actually die? How about a montage scene of an older woman dancing with a skeleton before a cat begins meowing the score on a piano? Perhaps disembodied legs that assault a cat painting? Then this is the film for you! One of the best things to come out of Japanese horror, the film received an American release nearly a decade ago and this boosted its popularity enough to become memorable. I still don’t completely know what to make of this, but I rarely have more fun watching a movie. Just the antics behind the filmmaking, with Obayashi using a story his daughter invented to make the movie or the fact that he sketched on the negatives to create aspects of the film’s special effects, is quite telling about how batshit insane this one is.
Naked – Do you own any clothes that you just haven’t worn yet? Maybe a suit, or a specific tie? Well I have movies like that, things I have on my shelf that I just haven’t had time for yet. One of them was Mike Leigh’s Naked, a brief odyssey through the uglier parts of London that stars David Thewlis in his breakout role. I kept hearing from a few people, from the internet, and from the Criterion Collection that I’d love this film. The plot seemed right up my alley so I picked up the blu-ray in 2015 and on my shelf it has sat for two years. Today I finally decided it was the day and popped it in. This is, without a doubt, one of the most bleak films I’ve ever sat through. It was sold to me as a black comedy but I had trouble finding most of the humor in it. Even what is there comes off as sad, as broken, and it’s rough to watch. The ending, that long and stumbling shot, is one of the hardest things to watch one could ask for. It’s desperate, hopeless, and broken. The film had a lot of accusations of misogyny levelled against it on its release but I just can’t get on-board with that. The film puts the abuse that couples can put each other through on display and while it shows women suffering or struggling it does not quite enter the realm of misogynistic leanings. The film is an epic, a grounded Greek tragedy that breaks someone’s heart.
Raw – What the hell did I just watch? A crazy coming of age story, that’s what I just watched! Raw is the story of Justine, who was a vegetarian by a tyrannical mother and a rather passive father. Her sister, Alexis, is a veterinary school and Justine is following suit. When she’s forced to eat raw rabbit kidney for a hazing ritual she develops a taste for meat, eventually having it escalate…well, about as far as it could go. This is gross but never too much, off-putting but never made me want to turn it off, funny but never made me laugh. This is one of the more bluntly metaphorical films I’ve ever seen and it works in its favor, the imagery easy and yet something we don’t talk about. Justine wants to seduce her homosexual friend, and as she realizes this we get a nice little run of blood that totally isn’t representative of anything else. The film is full of things like this and Julia Docournau is free with her visual representation, the rawness of her camera (puns, I know, and I’m so not sorry) is very much a part of the story. We get some bland colors, pastels and greys, but it accentuates the blood in the story and let’s it be at the forefront. The vet students are party animals (for some reason) and our heroine is knocked down for being an exceptional student instead of something more naturalistic. This is a girl breaking free of constraints from family, from peers, and from authority figures to do what she wants to do – get her cannibal on.
Tower – One of my most anticipated documentaries from last year just hit Netflix and it was worth the wait. Tower tells the story of the 1966 University of Texas tower shootings, claiming 16 lives, and injuring dozens more. Where this doc differs is its decision to focus on the story of the survivors rather than the perpetrator. It does so in a beautifully unique rotoscoped animation style, interviewing the real-life witnesses to that day, and then re-creating those interviews and dramatizations in animated form. This stylized choice is used effectively to ground you in the events as they unfold, and even more effectively used when the animation is not used, and the events are seen as they were recorded that day. It’s a documentary I highly recommend that reinforces the terror that seemingly random violent acts can create, and more importantly, our reactions to that terror with panic, confusion, cowardice, and hopefully bravery.