Short Reviews Backlog, Pt. 2: Films (a)

Almost Famous (2000): Although the film is good to very good in other respects, it must be said that the screenplay's really formulaic; it's even got a scene set inside an airplane which is on the verge of crashing and everyone starts saying things they later regret. Just goes to show that setting is a very important aspect of a film - underrated, really - and the early 1970s rock star scene works much better for me than most. (7.5/10)

Being There (1979): The cinematography is ugly, the tempo is glacial, the screenplay is going nowhere, and generally it's remindful of Harold & Maude, only much worse. (3/10)

Charley Varrick (1973): Walther Matthau plays a hardcase. Really. If you've ever seen an episode of The Fall Guy, that gives you a good idea of the film's general aesthetics. O.k., the film's a bit better than that. (5/10)

Double Indemnity (1944): What was Wilder thinking? It's an obvious mistake to give away the ending right at the beginning! Apart from that, a charming crime movie from the olden days. And another one of the "must-sees" off my list. (6.5/10)

Hollywoodland (2006): I have next to no recollection of this movie (read all about it at Wikipedia), but do remember that I didn't like it as little as that suggests. 6/10, I think.

Metroland (1997)/SuperTex (2003): Two films that manage to completely suck the charm out of the pretty good books they're based on. And I can't even tell you how they did it. (4.5/10 each)

No Country for Old Men (2007): The opposite phenomenon here. It's basically just a series of shootouts - I was surprised to learn it's based on a short novel - but, strangely enough, it works very well. Sure, the cinematography's great, but that alone can't explain it. Steve Sailer thinks that the films solves the problem of bringing the pleasures of the first-person shooter game to the big screen by, paradoxically, slowing the action down: "the plot winds up as anti-climactically as most video game plays, with the (male) viewer wanting to try it again so the hero won't make the same mistakes twice." Hm. (7.5/10)

Various 1990s action flicks with Harrison Ford: These are all very formulaic/mainstream/professional easy viewing products which are just the right thing when I'm too tired to digest a masterpiece. A collective 6.5/10. (In at least one of them he plays a CIA employee. One of them is called Firewall. There may or may not be overlap between those.)

Touch of Evil (1958): I think I remember a time when there was a law in Germany which said that when you talk about Im Zeichen des Bösen, as it was called over here, you must make fun of the fact that Charlton Heston was cast as a Mexican. A quick Google search, however, suggests that law was abolished before that whole internet thing took off. Internationally, Touch of Evil seems to enjoy a somewhat more positive recognition (e.g., #14 of the top rated 1950s titles at imdb.com). And it should. The story isn't all that important, but Welles creates an athmosphere which might best be described as Kafkaesque and splashes canvas after beautiful b/w canvas onto the screen. Also features one of those multi-minute, uncut opening scenes I am quite a sucker for. (8/10)

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