Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Month In Review: March 2012

In a new, hopefully regular feature here, I'll be briefly writing about things I've seen over the past month but didn't get a chance to discuss in longer form. Here's what I watched in March.

Pina, the Oscar-nominated doc from Wim Wenders, hit theaters here just a couple of weeks after the Academy Awards ceremony. This is the second high-profile 3D documentary to come out in the past year (after Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams) and it proves that the format can be used for something other than loud summer fare. As integral 3D was to that earlier film, it's probably even more important to the documentary about the late Pina Bausch, the famous German dance choreographer. Less about the person than about the artist, Pina is as elemental as her dances. It focuses squarely on the art, recreating her most famous choreographed pieces. Fred Astaire was famous for insisting his dance numbers be filmed in one take in a long shot, so the audience could see everything his body was doing. Pina goes even further by literally giving you that extra dimension. A thoroughly beautiful film.

Michael Fassbender appeared in 87 movies last year*, no more noteworthy than his role as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's Shame. Fassbender turns in a terrific performance, as does Carey Mulligan, who plays his sister. But the film fails to interrogate in any deep way what it is (or even what it means) to have a sexual addiction.

*not really

You can read about my mixed thoughts on Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the fourth movie from the Duplass brothers here. In a nutshell, I enjoyed the acting and most of the story a good bit. But I was also pretty put off by the incessantly shaky camera.

You can also read about my attending of the 70th anniversary screening of Casablanca and my love for the great "La Marseillaise" scene. I've seen that movie more times than I can count, but it never gets old for me. Some classics don't age particularly well, but this one remains truly one of the great American movies.

I saw the highly anticipated The Hunger Games twice during its first week. First, in a sold out IMAX screening at noon on the opening Saturday, then at a much less crowded regular screening on the following Friday afternoon. Part of wanting to watch it a second time was to see if the blurry handheld camerawork was actually there or just a function of sitting too close to an IMAX screen. Turns out certain moments were indeed too blurry--and in my opinion, needlessly so in most cases. But upon second viewing, what really struck me was the performance by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. A lot of chatter around her performance suggests that this will be her breakout role. While I disagree with that (Hello? Winter's Bone), what I think it does show is that, despite all the bells and whistles that accompany a big Hollywood blockbuster (especially one that hopes to build a franchise), a movie often lives and dies around the capabilities of its lead. Lawrence carries the movie, fully adept as an action heroine, as she is emotionally rendering what it must feel to be a teenager providing for her poor rural family, then being thrown into the insane gauntlet of life and death.

Raunchy, sophomoric comedies tend to run either hot or cold for me. Sometimes I really love them or I really hate them. Since there weren't too many movies out in the theaters this weekend that I wanted to see, I decided to take a chance on 21 Jump Street, loosely based on the 80s TV show about undercover cops posing as high school students. I have only vague recollections of that original show, which is fine, since it really just uses the premise as a jumping off point. I like Jonah Hill in most anything, but I found myself really liking Channing Tatum, whose appeal had until now always escaped me. The film is silly and crude, but also in its own unassuming way, smart and witty. And, more importantly, consistently funny.

In non-film news, I was overwhelmingly excited for the return of NBC's "Community" and the three episodes so far have not disappointed. (And apparently the ratings for said episodes have been very good, which bodes well for the future status of the show.) The best was last week's, which had a battle between Abed's pillow fort and Troy's blanket fort. It's one of the show's strengths: taking silly, innocuous moments (making a pillow fort, playing paintball, having a housewarming party) and escalating them into absurdist epics. As Abed would say, "Cool. Cool cool cool."


VT said...

I like this! Can totally hear you going through each one on a radio show or a podcast...
Please sir, can I have some more? (Next month?)

Jason said...

Yes, I certainly hope this to be a monthly feature and I would love for it to eventually turn into some sort of podcast.

I'm also working on a couple of other features that will also be hopefully posted on some sort of regular basis.

VT said...